By Brandi Cowen
Another gardening season has come and gone.
Another gardening season has come and gone. Whether your garden centre is gearing up for the Christmas rush or winding down for a winter closure, now is the time to start planning for 2013.
|Mixing and matching merchandise can help customers visualize all the great ways to bring colour into their outdoor spaces.
Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery spent a busy summer attending some of the biggest trade shows for the garden centre sector and learning from industry leaders, digging up the dirt on next year’s hottest gardening trends. Read on to find out what your customers will be wanting in the new year.
A happy place
For many consumers, working in the garden is more than a must-do chore that improves the curb appeal of their homes. In 2013, the trend toward creating beautiful outdoor spaces to seek refuge from the hustle and bustle of the everyday will continue – especially as the economic recovery limps along.
“People have accepted that these economic conditions are the new norm and they are looking for and finding some satisfaction in other parts of their lives,” explains Susan McCoy of the Garden Media Group. “Finding that happy place in your own garden is going to be a huge trend that a garden centre can really capitalize on.”
The key is to help consumers shift how they think about those time-consuming tasks that are essential for a garden to thrive. Watering and weeding aren’t work; they’re opportunities for each of us to turn off our minds and travel to our happy place.
Food for thought
The local food movement is holding its ground heading into 2013, and edibles are helping a new generation get into gardening. During his keynote address at July’s OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, gardening guru and TV personality Joe Lamp’l pointed to the “grow your own food” category as a growth segment, especially among the 17- to 34-year-old age bracket. But it’s not just Millennials enjoying the fruits of their own labour.
|The OFA Short Course’s Retail Trend Spot showcased miniature gardens like this one, scaled down to offer fairies a fun hangout.
“There’s a big trend toward foraging,” McCoy confirms. “Instead of actually going out and foraging in the woods, you go out and forage amongst your berries and your herbs.”
Gardeners growing in small spaces are turning to containers to get into the “grow your own” trend. Help this group visualize how they can grow herbs, berries and fruit trees by making up edible containers and displaying them in your garden centre.
Finally, consider how this edible landscape affects other product categories in the garden centre. “People are not putting pesticides on their plants, which attracts wildlife and pollinators and adds value to the experience,” Lamp’l noted. Take a holistic approach to the edible landscape.
Introduce your customers to natural pest and disease solutions, and offer advice on eco-friendly ways to keep hungry neighbourhood critters from helping themselves to the goodies in the garden.
A cautious consumer
“Consumers are no longer just going out and spending money. Their values have changed and now they’re pausing before they purchase and they’re being more thoughtful about it,” says McCoy.
However, she adds, these shoppers aren’t delaying gratification in the garden. They want beautiful plants that will spruce up their space immediately; they don’t want to wait for a small leafy plant to burst into large, colourful blooms.
Help cautious spenders realize maximum value from their gardening dollars. Signage should point customers to the plants that match their lifestyles and habits, and in-store displays should inspire projects. The experience of tackling a project can add value to the purchase – especially among the next generation of gardeners.
“Millennials want to slow down. They want projects for downtime, so eliminate the low-maintenance philosophy to help them understand the self-expression and healthy aspects of gardening,” Lamp’l advised during his keynote.
Think local, buy local
This trend is a natural fit for any garden centre, but many are missing out on some obvious opportunities to market themselves as key players in the buy local movement.
“I don’t understand why more garden centres haven’t set up more farmers markets – and not on a weekend, because that’s when you’re busy,” says McCoy.
In Canada, farmers markets generate approximately $1.03 billion in sales each year. Partnering with fresh produce growers, local bakers, artisan cheese makers and other vendors in your community can drive traffic during slow periods. Farmers markets can also attract non-gardeners.
Getting these consumers through the door and slowly introducing them to your store and your staff is a first step in converting a non-gardener to a loyal customer.
In-store signage is another great tool to pump up the role your garden centre plays in the buy local movement. Let customers know which plants you and your staff grow yourselves. If growers on the outskirts of town help keep your shelves stocked, hang a sign that directs shoppers to these homegrown choices.
From the ground up
The average consumer knows most plants need dirt, but when it comes to choosing soil for a gardening project, selecting the right one can be daunting.
Capitalize on consumer enthusiasm for DIY projects and organize a seminar series to teach aspiring green thumbs how to grow from the ground up. McCoy suggests kicking off the gardening season with a seminar on “healthy” soil and teaching participants how to prepare their soil for planting. Don’t just tell them how to pick the right potting mix for their plants, teach them how to make their own mix.
“Gardeners are starving for information. They want to be successful, they want their yards to look beautiful, but they get frustrated because they don’t know what they’re doing,” says McCoy. Operate on the “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” principle and your garden centre will become the local go-to resource for gardening information.
Small is big
“Anything teeny tiny seems to be going like crazy,” advises McCoy. Small potted plants at the checkout can encourage impulse buys, while small terrariums offer a low-commitment gateway to gardening for newbies living in a small space.
This trend also captures fairy gardening – a category that’s already gangbusters in some garden centres. These small-scale gardens, populated with miniature plants, tiny furniture and other accessories, offer a cozy home to magical creatures and a fun project for kids. During the OFA Short Course, fairy gardens were featured in the Retail Trend Spot, called out as one of the top trends in the garden.
A kaleidoscope of colour
Gardening is a great opportunity for self-expression, and style-savvy shoppers are on the hunt for plants and other products in the season’s hottest shades.
According to the colour experts at Pantone, lush greens and bright hues of red, blue and yellow will dominate this spring. Vibrant oranges will also be in demand – a hold over from Pantone’s selection of Tangerine Tango as its 2012 colour of the year. This is good news for garden centres, which are perfectly positioned to help consumers bring these bright colours into the garden.
Mixing and matching merchandise can help customers visualize all the great ways to bring colour into their outdoor spaces. Containers in a rainbow of shades and fun outdoor art pieces are great ways to keep colour in the garden throughout the season. Design displays that get your customers’ creative juices flowing.
Low maintenance options
Those customers who want plants that thrive with very little help aren’t going anywhere. McCoy says native plants that are well suited to local conditions and drought tolerant varieties that can handle a dry summer will continue to be in demand. The good news? Customers want help picking out plants that match their space, the amount of effort they’re willing to put in and their level of commitment to their gardens. Garden centres that can deliver personalized service to this group stand to win over loyal customers.
Something to talk about
“It’s not about putting plants on shelves, it’s about creating an experience,” Brian Minter told attendees at his seminar during the OFA Short Course. “Garden centres are the stress relief for busy, worried people.”
Whether it’s attending a seminar on cooking with herbs hosted by a local chef, or dropping in to sit among the plants and sip a coffee, customers are hungry for fun and unique experiences in your garden centre.
Team up with other local businesses that might like to take advantage of the beautiful spaces inside your store. For example, McCoy suggests partnering with a yoga studio in your neighbourhood and offering yoga in the garden.
Get into containers
Whether it’s a window box planted with herbs, a tiny terrarium filled with air plants, a living wall potted up with tropical flowers or a giant planter bearing a mature fruit tree, the flexibility afforded by containers makes them a hit with gardeners of all skill levels.
“Promote container gardening as an art,” said Jonathan Wright, speaking at the OFA Perennial Production & Retail Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in September. He suggested that garden centres should create display containers across a range of sizes to demonstrate that anything can be grown in a container, as long as the container is large enough.
Customers look to your garden centre for inspiration, so make sure displays show off all the ways you can incorporate other top gardening trends into a container.
Keep these trends in mind when you’re planning for 2013. Come spring, your garden centre will be stocked with all the must-haves customers are asking for.