Sell the Garden not the Plant

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Sell the Garden not the Plant

Over the last few years we have seen the growth of domestic landscape design,mainly driven by the Do It For Me Baby Boomer Generation. This is the generation that helped build the garden centre business over the last twenty years. They have now left garden centre to attract the Jones generation and Generation X. Both are groups that are less inclined to be gardeners and who look on the garden as a room outside. This means that retailers who are focused on commodity selling could be missing out on the opportunities in the market place. Over the years independent retailers have been concerned about the impact of the �box� stores on the market place especially when it comes to the garden category, but even this is a market sector that is asking itself what the future holds and how they should be tackling the future gardeners needs. In the USA the big two are Home Depot and Lowes. Home Depot have just recorded a drop in profits of 28% over the last quarter while Lowes recorded a drop of 8% in the same period, whilst across the Atlantic, their equivalent, B&Q has been showing healthy profit figures, the question is why? When you look at the USA big box retailer they are still mainly focused on commodity retailing and offering the best price, whilst in the UK their equivalent has moved passed the commodity only scenario and has started to concentrate on solutions and room settings. This does mean that the independent garden centre is faced with a more serious game player in the UK than in the USA at this present time. But, that is not the message I want to get across in this article, it is the message that we are moving into the garden selling game, not the continuation of the commodity selling game, there are already examples out there to show the way. Sell Gardens in Store, the Box stores get it In February I had the opportunity to visit the new B&Q flagship store in Reading, Berkshire. One of the first things that hit me was there was no Customer Service Desk to be seen, the staff themselves were very proactive and were �walking advice centres�. Plus there was the Kitchen design area and the Bathroom design area. When I walked outside to the garden area, I came across model gardens which could be purchased as a kit and installed in the customers property. The gardens on display include the Simply Classic, Mediterranean, Terraced, Cool and Contemporary and Country. The display was accompanied buy a brochure showing the garden and the kit needed to do the project. The customer could buy the kit on site and then either take it home or have it delivered. This reminded me of a similar concept that Lifestyle have been developing for the last few years in South Africa. Mike Gibbons and the team have recruited garden designers to build gardens in the plant area during the traditional quieter plant retailing months. They have created their own Chelsea Flower Show which has proved to be one of the highlights of the horticultural year in Gauteng. Designers must use materials that are sold in the garden centre and must maintain their own garden. Orders taken at the show for designs must be channeled through the garden centre, a win:win situation is created for all concerned. Other garden centres in South Africa have now copied the idea and are finding it is equally successful. Customers would rather see ideas using plants than row upon row of plants that they do not really understand how to use in the garden. The key is to get the ratio correct between ideas gardens and commodity retailing, rows of plants, the retailer can go to much over board and put plenty of garden vinnettes together, but the consumer also needs areas where they can pick up and take products. Gardens in a Box The best idea I have discovered in recent months also comes from South Africa. Imagine you could buy a garden in a box. The idea I believe would appeal to the younger gardener who is used to the IKEA way of buying furniture. Warren Lange and the team at Hort Couture are landscape designers by trade in the Gauteng region of South Africa. They realized that they were targeting the rich end of the market place, but there was a huge market who wanted a designer garden but could not justify getting in a designer and wanted to do it themselves. These cliental were also going to a garden centre are being confused by the array of products on offer and the way they were being displayed. What they came up with was a DIY solution for this type of consumer, a Garden in a Box is a pre designed garden solution for small gardens and, yes, it comes in a box. The aim is that a customer can build the garden in a weekend and it is targeted at townhouse dwellers. The garden design provided is for a 5m x 5m plot, but can be tailored to different shapes. The whole concept is put together like a cooking book. There are 18 different gardens for the customer to choose from. They purchase a box which contains the plan, gloves, string and other parts of the tool kit and then purchase the plants directly from the garden centre. The box is easy to display and has eye appeal. This is the type of innovation that is easy to be transported around the world. Check out the web page www.hortcouture.co.za What I like about this concept is that it opens up the opportunities to gardening to the younger generation and makes the garden building a �cool� thing to do. Once they have started, hopefully they will then continue to explore other means of enhancing their garden. Garden Design in the Garden Centre What we are seeing is the natural progression of garden design coming into the garden centre, but it will take different forms based on different customer profiles. The older DIM market will continue to use a garden designer and an astute garden retailer should be locking in designers to their own garden centre. My daughter, in Perth, is a qualified designer and has at least two garden centres across town where she provides a unique design service for their customers. The Jones Generation often want to see an idea and then plan it in their own garden, this is where B&Q and Lifestyle have identified a retail opportunity. A DIY market that needs to see the finished garden before they buy. Then you have the Generation X market who have little garden knowledge or vision as a group and the Garden in a Box is an ideal tool kit for them to build a garden at home during the weekend. The challenge for many retailers is to get out of the straight rows of plant thinking. In the past we could make customers walk rows of plants as if they were in an outside supermarket, but today�s customer is looking for a new shopping experience and this means a rethink on how the retail package is put together.