IGC Tips

Merchandising Concept “Plentiful but Unique”

Merchandising Concept “Plentiful but Unique”

Half-full or half-empty? That’s an interesting concept when it comes to merchandising. When I worked in a big-box garden center, we tried to keep the large shelves full of plants. Was that a good idea?

I recently read an interesting article by Karen E. Varga, “Four tips from a visual merchandiser who’s seen the best and worst in retail displays.” If you didn’t see it, check it out online at http://bit.ly/XJIg8v .

I especially endorse the tip of offering a “plentiful supply but give the illusion of uniqueness.” She makes a good point about customers not liking half-empty shelves and followed with the opinion customers who see large full shelves of the same plant will think everyone will have that same plant. Obviously, the big-box stores don’t think their customers have that reaction.

How does your garden center merchandise?

It would be very easy to test your customers’ reactions. ...

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Published in IGC Tips, Merchandising

Hoping Santa Brings More Customers?

Are you asking Santa Claus for more customers?  Leaving cookies for him isn’t the answer…

Some garden centers think of this as their “slow” time, a time when customers aren’t thinking about planting veggies, flowers or trees. But actually, this is the BEST time to build your relationships with your customers.

Think about it. This is the time when you can provide information to your customers. Newsletters, emails, and signage help them save the lives of their plants, encourage improved plant growth, and foster garden design ideas. Now is the PERFECT time to get into your customers’ minds, offer them information they didn’t realize they needed and increase their awareness and appreciation for what you can uniquely offer them.

This is NOT the time to hunker down and sweep the walkways. NO!

You need to have a system to communicate with your customers. That is not the same as a ...

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Published in Communications, IGC Tips

Is “Small” the New “Big?”

Several weeks ago, I attended a Seattle Chapter meeting of Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association. Networking occurred at the Urban Earth Nursery before we went to dinner. We ordered food from the Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop and ate around the corner in the work area of the Fremont Brewery.

What struck me was the size of each place. Urban Earth Nursery, as a garden center, is postage stamp sized. However, because of the variety and quantity of plants, artistically combined with garden ornaments, arches and pots, we felt like we were in a private and secluded personal garden instead of the hustle and bustle of the city!

The Fremont Brewery is also small...even for a microbrewery. It was a fun place to nibble sandwiches while listening to our speakers. In addition, the Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop is barely bigger than a large sandwich!

So...what's the point of all this?


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Published in General, IGC Tips

Party Time!

I was speaking with a garden center owner last week. I remembered he had told me previously they were going to have a party at his store...in the evening...with wine (free)...and music. So I asked how it went.

He told me the first time they partied, they had 20 people come in. Three weeks later, they partied again and 60 people came in. The third time? They had150 people come in, they had to open a second cash register, and the shelves were bare when the lights turned off!

I'd say his "party" was very successful!

Would something like this work for you? I don't know...but it seems like a fun idea to try.

No license was required because the wine wasn't being sold. (Of course, minors couldn't be served.) The first parties were mainly attended by women who brought their friends to the third party for a "girls night ...

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Published in IGC Tips, Money Idea

Ask Them…and They Will Tell You


I returned from the OFA Shortcourse in Columbus, Ohio with my ears ringing. So much buzz!

Of course, many conversations centered around trends and how to meet the wants, desires and demands of customers. So,  here's the question for you...are you giving your customers what they want?  AND...how do you know if you are or not?

With new branding efforts from big names such as House and Garden TV, Proven Winners and Hort Couture, your customers will be subjected to increased advertising with specific plant and variety names. Have you started hearing requests for specific plants from your customers? Do you have want they want? And how would you know what they'll be asking for?

All good questions. First, do you know if you are providing what they want?

I strongly suggest the KISS principle. This is "keep it simple, silly." How about a short and sweet survey for ...

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Time For A Mystery Shopper?


A few years ago, I worked for a "big-box store." Of course, I always tried to work in the garden center. As you know, many people exit through the garden center doors and I overheard many comments about the store as they left. I thought it was a shame management was unaware of the customers' perceptions.

Later I learned about "secret shoppers." Apparently, the store contracted with a business specializing in providing customer feedback using "undercover customers." These customers visited the store, took notes about cleanliness, service, signage, employee attitude...and much more! Later, the store received a complete and itemized report. It even included the names of employees who interacted (and sometimes didn't!) with the customer.

According to IntelliShop (http://www.intelli-shop.com/services/benefits-mystery-shopping-programs) the benefits of such a program include:

  • Retain more current customers
  • Attract new customers
  • Know what actually happens when customers call, click or visit you
  • Improve ...
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Published in IGC Tips

Jump On A Band Wagon!



Released last week, Michelle Obama's first book, "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," shows us a new side of our First Lady and her interest in gardening and nutrition.  

As her current "favorability rating" is 70%, it's a good guess many Americans will be buying or reading the book. Quoted as explaining the raised vegetables on the South Lawn are "an expression of my hopes" for American children, she also wrote, "Just as each seed we plant has the potential to become something extraordinary, so does every child."  

This should sound a bugle call to garden centers. As Americans read this book, their next thought will be "How can I plant a garden?" Obviously, they will need plants and instructions. Will your garden center be ready? Maybe it would be a good idea to have signage and advertisements ...

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Published in IGC Tips

Consider Networking for Increased Productivity and IDEAS!


There's a simple way to energize your employees, pump productivity, and not spend much money...NETWORK!

Earlier this week I attended the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association Seattle Chapter's  meeting at 21Acres (www.21acres.org) in Woodinville, WA. It was a good crowd and included growers and employees, garden center owners and employees, landscape designers and an assortment of suppliers and freelancers.

I compared the conversations from the beginning of the event to those happening after three hours of networking and heard a remarkable change. Stilted discussions morphed into engaging and spirited "compare and contrast" debates. "That's a great idea, we could incorporate that," was uttered several dozen times, I'm sure.

I know when those employees went to work today, enthusiasm and bright ideas went with them. Sure, it may have cost $20 for the meeting and meal but the employees received professional training credits, enthusiasm and a sense of value. That ...

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Published in IGC Tips

Always Include a Call-To-Action (CTA)

Here's a true story with a very short lesson...

The other day I received an email from a garden center in another state. It raved about the volume and quality of their plants. It included some nice pictures. But it didn't say anything else about the plants. In fact, it didn't even motivate the reader to come in to see the beauty or take advantage of the wonderful offering! Literally, in effect, it said, "Hey, we have these plants, they're great."

I assume you probably have a goal in mind when you send an email or newsletter to your customers. Please don't expect them to read your mind. Tell them what you want them to do. Otherwise, why spend your time writing it?

A simple email with two or three pictures of new arrivals could say something like, "Hi, Fellow Gardener. Here at ABC Nursery we have a fantastic assortment ...

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Published in Communications, IGC Tips

When Did You Last Update Your Web Pages?

Today's posting is short. When did you last update your website? Two compelling reasons should make this a regular activity...



In the last three weeks, as part of my job,  I browsed various garden center websites. Unbelievably, many websites have blank pages entitled "Upcoming Events" or "Special Happenings." Some haven't been updated in over a year!

This isn't true for you, is it? You know customers love coming to special events such as planting classes, speakers and book signings.

Maybe your center doesn't have any upcoming events, that's possible. However, instead of leaving it blank, how about saying something such as, "We have big plans for something soon; please check back and we'll let you know when it comes together."  (You could also use this as an opportunity to capture their email information to send notification when the event is scheduled). Or, temporarily remove that page from your ...

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