The Future of Garden Retailing

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The Future of Garden Retailing

Around the world there are garden retailers looking at the future and wondering what they need to do to develop their own business in a changing world. Many of them have downloaded the White Paper from our website to look for new trends and ideas. The challenge for many garden centre owners is how do they take a traditional business and transform it into a business that meets the needs of the consumer of today and the future. There is the added pressure of what is going to happen to the global economy and how is that going to affect gardening and gardens. Valerie Hole, one of the directors of Holes in Canada has been concerned about the future for some time. She admitted to herself that the traditional garden centre is a dinosaur in many consumers’ minds and she included her own business in that mind set. Holes, situated in St Albert in central Alberta had the extra problem of weather. Gardening cease in October and gardeners do not reappear until April. The climate is one of the harshest and most variable in the world. What do you do if you have a Dinosaur Valerie and husband Bill plus brother Jim had a challenge. They had a garden centre that was recognised as “the” local garden centre and one with a solid track record based on the huge local reputation of their mother, Lois Hole and her husband Ted, both of whom died a few years ago, after establishing one of the biggest garden centres in Canada. They were the “garden expert” family locally, yet they had a client base that was getting older and young people found the traditional facility was not appealing to their needs and wants. The Hole family took a brave move. Despite a downturn in the economy and an unsure retail future they felt they had to start again from scratch and build a retail centre for the new consumers of St Albert and Edmonton. After extensive research on consumer needs and wants the Hole’s Enjoy Centre was developed as a concept. Gardens and gardening they believe could only be one part of the retail project for the future; they had to offer something different. The Enjoy Centre is a centre for entertainment, food, art, gardening and plants, fashion shopping and wellness. A group of like minded retailers have joined forces with the Hole family to build a complex to share a vision with the local community. According to Valerie and Bill,”the consumer wants to shop in a space that shuts out the world and opens imaginations. A place to discover new trends, get expert advice and enjoy the surroundings”. After a challenging building period the new store has gradually opened throughout 2011 and the final tenant is now in place. This is a store that will continue to evolve as all the partners get to understand the customer and their requirements. Consumers can walk through the store and shop for a variety of things. On my November visit I was finding shopping carts with meat, wine, cheese, Christmas trimmings and plants in them. This is a bold move, to invest tens of millions of dollars in a new venture means you have to be confident that you can own the “high” ground of lifestyle retailing in the community. The Hole family believe they could not do that with a standalone garden centre and they needed the retail partners to make the concept work. The Prairie Bistro is one of the best places to go for a meal in town, in fact in talking to people who have been to the centre it is definitely one of the main highlights. The spa complex is one of the most complete in Alberta and will continue to grow and develop its own niche group of customers. The biggest challenge for the retailers in the complex is to get used to merchandising on a new scale. The cathedral glass roof is awesome, but it also means that the merchandisers have to learn new skills and to use height differently to what they were used to in the previous retail site. I am sure that the many retail visitors they have had from around the world will come away with new ideas and views on the way forward. Not all of them will be prepared to make the bold move that the Hole family have made, but this highlights the fact that the traditional model is changing rapidly and to succeed you need to:”Dare to be Different”.