Switzerland may only have 8 million population, but this small landlocked country has four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh and a thriving horticultural industry. On first impression, it seems to be a DIFM (Do It For Me) rather than a DIY (Do It Yourself) society as the landscapers seem too far outnumber the garden retailers.
In late November, I was in Switzerland by the invitation of Jardin Suisse, the National Garden Association, to present a workshop, conference presentation and to take a group of retailers on a Retail Mystery Tour of leading retailers in the country.
Retailers in Switzerland are gearing up for the International Garden Centre Congress which will be held in the country in August 2016.
My mystery tour included a visit to Migos, the country’s leading supermarket and a place that is brimming with ideas.
G and A Duttweiler started the business in 1925 and have been innovators ever since. They grow the business with “Pop Up” stores before anyone had invented the name by having supermarkets on wheels travel to the consumer, they progressed to developing the first self-service stores in the country and are at present the business is focused on developing stores for Millennials with their “Generation M” programme. According to their web site Generation M is:
“Generation M. promise to the generations of tomorrow. Migros takes its responsibility and is involved with binding promise for the future that we all desire.”
This thinking is shown in the store with the cooperative developing added value concepts to traditional local products and combining this with excellent store graphics. This is a store that is focused on the consumer’s values and knows how to implement concepts based on those values.
But, what about the garden centres?
Switzerland, like many countries is seeing a population shift with more and more consumers moving to the urban areas and the urban garden consumer being one of the new target customers. This shift is seeing product mix and location changes taking place in the industry.
The urban garden centre is therefore one of the models for the future and Switzerland has some excellent examples on how this can work. Raschle garden centre is incorporated into a shopping centre in “downtown” Wadenswill. This small urban centre has an excellent ranging of products to meet the needs of the urban gardener. They also take advantage of being in a shopping mall and have access to displaying products in the centre of the mall during the season and therefore expose more consumers to the pleasures of gardens. This is a key strategy where the business exposes the product to the consumer where there is guaranteed heavy shopping traffic and then they encourage the shopper to visit the garden centre. Small urban centres need to have a faster stock turn than a large rural garden centre as they have to have a higher return per square metre, this also means they have to add value to the product to increase the average sale, something Rasche does exceptionally well.
Switzerland also has the large out of town garden centres, some of these are globally recognised leaders and these include Bacher Gardencenter, Gardencenter Meier and Zulauf Gartencenter all of which can provide ideas in retailing that can be developed in your own retail centre. Being in Switzerland on Black Friday I was there for the start of the Christmas season and the displays were stunning. Christmas is a time when retailers can really build strong theatre displays in their store and this is what the Swiss excel at.
Larger garden centres in Switzerland are facing some of the same challenges as in other countries, are they the right size to maximise sales per square metre in the future and what other developments do they need to bring in to maximise the use of space. One technique used at Zulauf is where they have built a Christmas village and “town square” In the square they are offering space to concession where local artists can display and sell their products, the local artists are changed every week to make sure the square is kept fresh with new ideas to encourage customer to come back.
The garden centre world has the opportunity to see Switzerland at its best next August, there will be ideas to take home and implement in your own garden centre.