Greenhouse Canada

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April 16, 2010  By Amanda Ryder

Spring has sprung, and for garden centre retailers, that means it’s time to dig in and get selling.

Spring has sprung, and for garden centre retailers, that means it’s time to dig in and get selling. As you ready your business for the return of seasoned gardeners and the arrival of new shoppers, you need to recognize that these two groups have different needs and prepare your staff ahead of time. You can’t treat every shopper the same – doing so will result in lost sales opportunities and customers.

Let’s start with the seasoned gardeners. These customers have spent the early months of 2010 flipping through consumer garden magazines, walking the isles of local home shows and tuning in to home and garden television shows to see what’s new in the world of gardening. By the time they arrive at your garden centre, they know what they want and how to grow it. But that doesn’t mean you may turn you back on them and leave them to peruse the plants on their own.


The experienced green thumbs are those who will visit every few weeks to see what’s new, and they know a quality plant when they see it. If they request a variety you don’t have, seek it out and give them a call when it arrives. When you order new products, give them a sneak peak at what’s to come, to generate some excitement, and allow them to try it out. Fulfil any special requests they have and offer them a freebie once in a while.

Knowledgeable gardeners can be a great resource for information. Ask them what you can do to improve their shopping experience. What products would they like to see more of? Passionate gardeners and hobbyists may also belong to horticulture groups and have friends with whom they talk plants. A great experience at your store will travel through the grapevine and drive more people to your centre.

As for inexperienced gardeners, this group didn’t spend the winter months dreaming of the days when they’d be knee deep in dirt in the garden. These plant rookies are waiting for you to show them what they need. Ease them into gardening – promote small beginner projects in your garden centre and give them great instructions for success. Build their confidence one bed or container at a time. Use your displays to show what the project looks like when it’s complete or how plants will look when they’ve matured. It’s difficult for a new shopper to look at a small sprout and see the big picture.

Many first-time gardeners dabbled in vegetable gardening last year and industry experts are predicting continued demand in this area. Some of those who attempted a veggie garden no doubt failed, so bring them back with education. Figure out what common problems the new gardeners struggled with, and provide a troubleshooting handout or host a seminar devoted solely to this topic. Just like the experienced gardener, these new gardeners also have a network of friends and family, many of whom also may be just starting out. They’ll be eager to show off any success they do achieve and their vegetable plots will be the envy of other non-gardeners.

The new gardener’s feedback is valuable too. Walking into a garden centre can be an intimidating experience if you don’t know anything about plants. Invite new customers to do a walk-through with you and ask them to tell you what they see. Look at how you can make the garden centre appeal to beginners.

These two groups certainly have different needs and preferences. The good news is that, as a garden centre, you have the perfect plants and a great team of knowledgeable staff members to cater to both groups, and everyone in between. After all, anytime people walk into your garden centre, they’re after the same thing: a great shopping experience and a beautiful garden.

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