Mastering the Art of Change

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Mastering the Art of Change

I was in the USA at the start of the primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa. At this stage in the presidential elections there are about ten candidates wanting the top job. Put C.N.N. on and listen to their speeches and every one of them was repeating one word “change”. At the same time Tom Peter’s, the Management Guru is stating “Any business that does not change will be dead in five years”. 2008 will go down in history as the year of change, but is it a case of everyone else has to change except for garden centres? In my view garden centres should be at the forefront of change and this is an opportunity that we should grasp with glee, but I still come across retailers who prefer the old days and are, alas, losing market share. Who is driving the Change? Businesses don’t change for the sake of change, businesses generally change because the consumer either asks or forces them to change. It is not the industry that is forcing change; it is you and I as consumers. The following points are the key change indicators: The Journey of a 35 year old woman When it comes to the garden market, the industry is generally led by a female consumer. She tends to get into gardening at the age of 35 years old. A retailer who can “hook” her at that age has the opportunity of keeping her for life. Therefore horticultural retailers should be targeting this profile consumer. These consumers have often bought their food in “Whole Foods” or a similar food retailer, browsed for clothes in “Anthropologie”, purchased furniture in IKEA and dropped by for a coffee in Starbucks. They now have a perception of the style of retailing they are comfortable with. Having visited these retailers they now stop at their local garden centre and expect the same type of retailing experience. The garden centre that understands they are a decorator who is looking for ideas and solutions and merchandises accordingly has the opportunity to win them over. The retailer who puts all their plants in straight rows with trees at the back just confuses them. A plant library may work for the horticultural merchandiser, but it is not the same journey the consumer looks for. Those garden centres who wish to Master the Art of Change need to visit the retailers in their catchment area who are lifestyle retailers and evaluate how they can offer the same consumer experience in their garden centre. It still amazes me how many independent garden centre operators do not go out and look at what consumers are experiencing in retail land. The Consumer has already gone “Green” Whilst politicians argue on how the country needs to change and adapt to climate change, most of our target consumers have already started the journey of change. They are seriously questioning what type of vehicle they should drive; they are recycling home waste and refusing to use non recyclable shopping bags. They are favouring retailers who are also going through the green change cycle. I was recently working along the West Coast of the U.S.A. I had my coffee in Tully’s using a recyclable coffee container, they told me on the cup, I visited the new Whole Foods supermarket who are buying organic produce when possible; they told me in the elevator, I visited Williams and Sonama who have a sustainability policy; they told me on their shopwindow and I flew American Airways who have reduced their greenhouse gasses by 1.6 million metric tons in four years; they told me in their magazine. But, the majority of garden centres I visited ASSUMED I knew they were “green” in the environmental sense. Today’s consumer expects you to tell them what you believe and what you’re doing about it. They may not agree with all of your stances, but they will be less loyal if you come across as bland and not caring. Garden centres who are Mastering the Art of Change are telling their consumers what they are doing to help save the planet. They are being perceived as proactive and caring. Who’s Changing the Quickest? Some garden centres are managed and some garden centres have leaders. The masters of change businesses have leaders rather than managers. Let me give you two examples from recent experiences I have come across. To maintain confidentiality we’ll call them Garden Centre X and Garden Centre Y. Garden Centre X – When I arrived I was introduced to all the team leaders. These team leaders were responsible for different product categories. They set their own financial targets, knew the sales per given foot/metre, average sale per customer in the category and stock turn. At the one day workshop they sate in groups and set out the strategies for the next 12 months for their department. They decided who would do what and by when. The owner sat in the room, but at certain points went out for a cup of coffee when he considered that it was in their interest that he should not be in the room. At the end of the day the team leaders reported back to the owner on what they felt they should do, who should do it, what costs and resources were needed and what extra income and profit they felt these changes would bring to the business. The role of the owner was to simply approve or add value to what they presented. In one scenario he disagreed with the proposal, but gave a rational explanation on why he felt this. A further discussion was held and all agreed and respect the alternate outcome. This owner was a leader of the team and empowered them to make the decisions. Garden Centre Y – Compare that to another garden centre I visited where the departmental managers were paid the same as in Garden Centre X. But, these guys were caretakers not managers. They were never given financial figures as they were confidential and the owner would come around and tell them what to do. This particular owner was completely out of touch with the consumer (wrong sex and age profile). As a result all change was driven from one person without any input from the team. This guy had never Mastered the Art of Change and I suspect his business will not be around within a few years. Mastering the Art of Change will be a key issue for garden centres in the immediate future, those that don’t will lose market share, but those that do will reap the rewards. But, remember, a master knows the key is with the existing team. John Stanley is an internationally recognised conference speaker and retail consultant with over 25 years experience in 18 countries. He has authored several successful marketing and retail books including the best seller Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know. For more information John Stanley and his services visit his website www.johnstanley.cc