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More Sales from Less Space

Online purchases and partnering with growers are all part of the process

June 8, 2016  By John Stanley

Essendon Garden Centre in Melbourne uses space to develop impulse sales.

If there is one department in the garden centre that will change in the next few years, it must be the plant retail area. Today’s consumers say they want ideas and solutions when they visit a garden centre, but many retailers are still offering them lines of plants and confusing the buying decisions.

Traditionally the plant area evolved out of a plant yard and the key to success was to offer as wide a range of plants as possible, hence plants were often placed in rows for easy management. Stock turn was not such a major issue as it is today. Consumers, who were not plant connoisseurs, often left the centre confused with the range on offer. The result for the retailer was that the average sale per customer was lower than it should be.

As garden centres evolved, plant growers took on the role of plant distributors to garden centres and took a step back for the consumer. But all this is now changing due to consumer acceptance of technology and the changing habits of shopping.


The consumer now starts the buying journey at home on a smartphone, laptop or other device – the plant selection is often made at home. They would still like to go to the garden centre to ask for advice, look at impulse lines and be inspired with ideas to help them on their garden journey. They do not want to see rows of plants and hence the range on show to the consumer can be considerably reduced. Today’s consumer does not want to shop every plant aisle like at a supermarket, therefore the size of the plant centre can be reduced to make shopping easier. A smaller plant retail area is easier to manage, increases the stock turn and can expose the consumer to more plant material.

This is an opportunity that may have not been possible a few years ago. Progressive growers are developing an online presence and some are selling directly to the consumer. The result is many garden centres miss the sale and, in my opinion, the consumer misses out on part of the garden experience.

An alternative is for the grower and retailer to form a partnership where everyone in the chain, including the consumer, is a winner. In a partnership arrangement the grower can offer the consumer a far larger range at any one time than the garden centre would have in stock. The consumer can browse the full range of plants at home at their leisure and as a result probably purchase more plants than they would have in the store. At the same time the retailer can stock a bigger range of “impulse lines” and less of a range of “purpose plants.”

Companies such as Monrovia, with a range of over 3,600 plant varieties, have launched “” Bower and Branch have provided a similar offer with trees. Consumers purchase plants directly from the supplier online and have their plants delivered to their local garden centre for an easy pick up.

Garden centres such as the Arboretum in Ireland excel at providing an online shopping and in-store shopping experience. This means they are open for business 24 hours a day, with many consumers wishing to buy plants late on a Thursday evening. This is when the children have gone to bed and the parents are planning their weekend activities.

Changing technology, new ways of buying, and Millennial consumers looking for an experience open the door for garden centres to provide a complete new look to their plant retail section, allowing them to show ideas and inspire the consumer.

The time to start the change is now; the consumer is already looking for those new experiences.

John Stanley is a retail business coach, consultant, speaker and author. His specialist areas are customer-focused layout, customer-focused merchandising, customer-focused marketing and branding, and customer-focused selling and service. Visit his website at

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