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Business Management
The wheelbarrow project

December 22, 2009
By John Stanley


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The wheelbarrow project
Retail expert John Stanley discusses a concept he developed over the last 12 months that he calls "The Wheelbarrow Project."

Dec. 22, 2009 – Over the last 12 months, my team and I have been developing a concept we have called the “Wheelbarrow Project” which we launched at
the 2009 GLEE show in Birmingham, U.K.


The origins of the project are based on the research released at the 2008 Independent Garden Center Conference and Trade Show in Chicago.
That research focused on the new gardener, the Gen X (25-35 year old) and their wants and needs as garden decorators. Having read the research I watched our own Gen X children and their habits, in Australia, were identical to their American counterparts.

The research identified that these consumers were not dedicated gardeners, in fact they had little garden knowledge. They came in and out of the garden category and were project based thinkers.
One weekend would be a project in the kitchen, then the next weekend it may be a project in the bathroom and the next was a project in the garden.

They walk into a garden centre looking for their weekend project.

Over the last twelve months I have tried to put my 35 year old customer project head on and go shopping in a garden centre. What do you find? A confusing array of products and finding the pieces for a project was a real challenge.
The Wheelbarrow Project

This confusion means there is an opportunity for Independent Garden Centres to develop monthly weekend garden projects to attract younger consumers into the centre to grow sales.

A wheelbarrow was chosen as the centrepiece, to replace the supermarket shopping trolley as a “vehicle” in the consumers mind. Why don’t we place the pieces for a weekend project in a wheelbarrow to give the consumer an idea of what they need to achieve success.

The objectives of the wheelbarrow project are as follows:

  1. Provide independent garden centres with a unique marketing opportunity that will not be available to “box” store retailers.
  2. Establish the local garden centre in the young consumers mind as the local expert they can trust on gardening issues.
  3. Widen the customer base for the local garden centre and provide a marketing campaign that will appeal to younger gardeners.
  4. Allow a group of suppliers to work together to provide solutions and ideas to the consumer rather than just offering them a single product.
  5. Increase the overall awareness of the independent garden centre in the minds of all consumers.
  6. Increase the customer count, customer conversion and average sale per customer in garden centres.
  7. Move the mindset of the customers away from price as the main purchasing motivator.

The Concept
The concept revolves around a weekend garden based project. The project should be displayed in a prime location in the garden centre, inside the shop or outside the plant area, in a wheelbarrow. The promotion should change monthly to provide consumers with a constant stream of new ideas to develop their garden.

Each new promotion should be unique to the participating garden centre and provide them with a point of difference over their competitors.
What Promotions Should You Introduce

In developing the project I asked 30-35 year old consumers what suggestions they had for weekend projects.

The projects were split into four main categories.

– Water Harvesting & Reuse
– Flora and Fauna
– Composting and Worm Farms
– Habitat Gardening
– Sustainability in the Garden


– Dress Up Alfresco
– Grow a Gift
– Drop Dead Gorgeous
– Green Walls
– Container Fashion

– Dinner Parties
– Grow Your Christmas Dinner
– Menu Planning in the Garden
– Container Gardens

– Garden Tea Party
– Garden for the Kids
– Gardening Across the Generations

What Next?
A garden centre should have one person dedicated to managing their “wheelbarrow” project. The wheelbarrow should be positioned in a key location in the garden centre.
I recommend it goes on a round plinth with a backdrop banner. The wheelbarrow should contain the pieces required for the project, but placed next to the barrow should be the finished project. The sales items should then be displayed around this central focal point.
Will It Work?
The reaction at GLEE was exceptionally positive and retailers from the U.S., Europe and Asia came up to say they would give it a try.

Hopefully the next few months will prove the success… give it a try.

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.  E-mail John at

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