It’s Not About The Paint – It’s About The Strategy

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It’s Not About The Paint – It’s About The Strategy

By John Stanley There is a change going on in the outside plant area of garden retailing. To the outsider or uninitiated it may appear that the leading garden centers are just changing the paint scheme to brighten the place up, but there is far more to the change than a lick of paint. What is happening in the market place? Over the last few years many independent retailers have seen their market share decline and have had to ask where they should position there business in the market place if they are to have a viable business in the future. In the 70�s and 80�s many had thriving business who attracted Baby Boomer gardeners who enjoyed walking down rows of plants, often displayed in straight rows of benching. Those consumers have now planted up their garden and are more likely to employ a gardener to maintain there garden while they go on an exotic weekend, play golf or spend their leisure time at the local restaurant. Gardeners are a declining breed, whilst garden decorators are on the ascend, this means the whole approach to horticultural retailing has had to change if we are to increase the market share of the garden dollar or pound. The first challenge is that according to research the consumer expects today�s retailer to reinvent themselves every four years, this means that spending large amounts of money may not be the answer in the future, it is a time to reinvent, but not a time to do that by simply spending capital .Today�s retailer needs to be a lot more flexible and be able to change based on consumer needs and wants. The furniture retail industry discovered that to sell more chairs or lounge suits, it was not a matter of putting them in rows with a price sticker, they had to design room settings and provide ideas and solutions for the consumer, they created rooms inside and companies such as IKEA have grown into global business as a result of there philosophy. The same is true when you come to the room outside, what was traditionally looked on as a garden is now looked on as a room outside where entertainment and relaxation takes place. This change in consumer view needs also to be reflected in the design of the plant area. You cannot please everybody Today�s consumer also relates to their generational group more than they have done in the past, this reflected in the growth of business such as Zara, in the clothing retail industry that targets Generation X exceptionally well, whilst Nordstrom in the USA will target the Jones Generation with the same success, but one rarely sees a cross over of generations in either store. The challenge of the garden industry is that we aim to attract all generations, but the traditional plant area layout tend to only attract gardeners, baby boomers and greying tigers. The aim is to attract as many people as possible and turn them into buyers. This means that we need to create merchandise and display zones that appeal to certain sectors of the community. Obviously the layout will vary demanding on the local demographics of the market place. If you live in an area that is predominantly inhabited by the elderly, then you may be inclined to have a more traditional plant layout, whilst those who live in an area of younger residents may well go for a boutique layout. The key is to look at the marketplace and not your existing customers, you may be attracting the wrong sector of the marketplace and the opportunity to increase the average spent could well be with a different consumer sector. Life is about compromise and the same is true in the plant area, you may need to create a plant library of plants in straight rows for the gardeners, whilst the rest of the community may require you to provide ideas and solutions type displays and designs. Today�s plant area needs to combine a mix of inspirational garden rooms and conventional benching, plus needs to appeal to different generations. The challenge is exciting and the need for experimentation is critical to ensure you get the right formulae for success. It�s more than the plant Traditional plant retailers often had little to do with containers and displayed them in rows away from the plants. Today�s consumer is often looking for the �right look� which means they plan to purchase a container and a plant for their patio or entertainment area. This means that the container and the plant are now integral units in the same retail space and need to be displayed as one. One container supplier in Europe this year is experimenting with supplying the retailer with the pot and plant as a finished product, something he would not have considered a few years ago. Containers now need to be incorporated into the plant area, but to provide for three types of consumer the Do It Yourself consumer, who will select a plant and then select a container and then pot the plant up at home, the Do it For Me consumer who wants the plant and container already finished for them to take home and finally the Do It With Me consumer who wants a unique product and wants to help create that unique product in the retail plant area. In today�s plant area the manager is concerned with integrating containers, statues and plants so they relate to specific customers and can tell them a story that they would like to take home with them Finally You�re a fashion Consultant The consumer today is reading fashion magazines that relate to their age group. These magazines cover what they wear and what their home and garden should look like. This not only includes style recommendations, but stresses what colors should be seen in the garden and home. Today�s retailer needs to be in tune with these trends and their plant area needs to relate to these trends otherwise sales could be lost. The color trends often change with the seasons which are a great opportunity for the plant manager to ensure their garden center looks fresh to the consumer on every seasonal visit. Today�s plant area manager must be in line with the color trends in the market place. This came across very strongly in the UK this spring. Pink was the fashion color in the market place. Some plant retailers built pink displays using containers, pink foliage and flowers and benefited from the promotion, whilst other plant managers had no idea what was going on in the market place and were losing market share. I have found the best way to follow trends is to create mood boards. Collect all the latest fashion magazines for each target generation and then rip out the relevant pictures on fashion and glue them to a board to make a montage of colors. By the end of the month you will have a jigsaw of colors which will highlight which are and which are not the color trends within the generation. This will then be an indicator of what colors to promote and what not to promote in the plant area. Empower the Plant Manager The most critical part of any new plant area management policy is ensuring that the plant area manager has the vision and know how to grow sales. Today�s plant manager needs a lot more skills than those of a decade ago. They need to have retail skills, be aware of trends, and be plant care technician and have knowledge of plants and to be able to sell them and understand the consumer�s perspective. Over the years we have lost a lot of the plant knowledge we had in the plant area and a knowledgeable team can increase the average sale per customer considerably. I recently did a survey of a number of garden centers and asked how often they did product knowledge training sessions, it varied from once a week to once a year. A plant area can contain hundreds of different products at any one time and the knowledge of the team is critical to the success of the business. We often forget that we are story tellers. Every plant has a story attached to it. It may be based on its histories significance, herbal properties, facts about its discovery, how man has used it in the past or its attractive features. As plant retailers we need to sell the sizzle which includes the stories relates to the plant as well as the features and benefits to the consumer. I saw this done exceptionally well last Easter in an indoor plant area. The plant manager set up an Easter display and put together Peace Lily, Crown of Thorns and Prayer Plant as a display. It worked wonderful for the consumer, but the team needs the vision and knowledge to put these types of stories together. Plant Area 2007 The plant area of the future, I feel will not be rows upon rows of plants, it will be a place where consumers can browse shop and pick up ideas and solutions. As garden plots continue to get smaller, consumers will be prepared to spent more money on a smaller plot on their property. It will continue to become a room outside that is a fashion room in their minds where they can entertain and relax. The plant retail area of the future may become smaller than many we see today, but at the same time it will become more interesting for the consumer and sales per square foot or meter will increase. We will see the plant area become more profitable. It will be an exciting journey. John Stanley is a conference speaker and retail consultant with over 25 years experience in 15 countries. John works with retailers around the world assisting them with their merchandising, staff and management training, customer flow, customer service and image. www.johnstanley.cc