Greenhouse Canada

Urban marketing precision

Swiss retailers understand how to boost sales to city consumers

January 14, 2016  By John Stanley

Zulauf Gartencenter has a great way to connect young consumers with plants. Photo courtesy John Stanley

Switzerland may only have eight million people, but this small landlocked country has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh – and a thriving horticultural industry.

In late November, I was in Switzerland at the invitation of Jardin Suisse, the National Garden Association, to present a workshop, conference presentation and to take a group of retailers on a Retail Mystery Tour of leading retailers in the country.

Retailers in Switzerland are gearing up for the International Garden Centre Congress, which will be held in the country in August.


My mystery tour included a visit to Migos, the country’s leading supermarket and a place that is brimming with ideas.

G and A Duttweiler started the business in 1925 and have been innovators ever since. They grew the business with “pop up” stores before anyone had invented the name by having supermarkets on wheels travel to consumers. They then progressed to developing the first self-service stores in the country and are at present focusing on developing stores for millennials with their “Generation M” program.

This thinking is shown in the store with the co-operative developing added-value concepts to traditional local products and combining this with excellent store graphics. This is a store that is focused on the consumers’ values and knows how to implement concepts based on those values.

Switzerland, like many countries, is seeing a population shift with more and more consumers moving to the urban areas, and the urban garden consumer being one of the new target customers. This shift is seeing product mix and location changes taking place in the industry. The urban garden centre is therefore one of the models for the future and Switzerland has some excellent examples on how this can work.

The Raschle garden centre is incorporated into a shopping centre in “downtown” Wadenswill. This small urban centre has an excellent range of products to meet the needs of the urban gardener. They also take advantage of being in a shopping mall and have access to displaying products in the centre of the mall during the season and therefore expose more consumers to the pleasures of gardening.

Switzerland also has many large out-of-town garden centres. Some are recognized global leaders and these include Bacher Gardencenter, Gardencenter Meier and Zulauf Gartencenter, all of which can provide ideas in retailing that can be developed in your own retail centre.

Zulauf also builds traffic by installing a skating rink in the centre – the space is available, so why not use it to enhance the activities available for the community!   

Larger garden centres in Switzerland are facing some of the same challenges as in other countries. For example, are they the right size to maximize sales per square metre in the future, and what other developments do they need to bring in to maximize the use of space?

One technique used at Zulauf is where they have built a Christmas village and “town square.” In the square, they are offering space where local artists can display and sell their products. The artists are changed every week to make sure the square is kept fresh with new ideas to encourage customers to come back.

The garden centre world has the opportunity to see Switzerland at its best this August, there will be ideas to take home and implement in your own garden centre.

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

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