Here are 12 tips for getting the most out of gardening
by Monica Humbard
For years, gardening has been one of Americans’ favorite
hobbies. And despite a slower economy and rising home
foreclosures, two top experts in garden-market trends say the
industry offers opportunities for growth.
John Stanley, director of retail consultant John Stanley
Associates, Kalamunda, Australia, foresees a resurgence in the
gardening market as people invest more in natural home décor. He
is optimistic that the economy and home foreclosure problems
will have little effect on the gardening market.
Judy Sharpton, owner of Growing Places Marketing, Savannah, Ga.,
which works on store development with independent garden
centers, says that those who are losing their homes are not good
gardening customers anyway because they have little
discretionary income. Ms. Sharpton’s bigger concern is that the
30-something generation is not “into” gardening like the
generations before them.
To get the most out of your gardening category this season, Ms.
Sharpton advises keeping your inventory manageable and targeted
to your particular customer base. Stay with easy-to-use items,
products priced well for your market and inventory targeted to
decks and patios. The successful companies will be those that
are “nimble enough to offer the products the customers really
want to buy,” she says.
Here are 12 more recommendations from Mr. Stanley and Ms.
Sharpton for growing your garden category:
1. Show you mean business.
Mr. Stanley says the biggest mistake mass-market retailers make
is giving customers the impression they are not serious about
their garden category because plants are not properly cared for
and maintained. He recommends assigning one person to check on
garden plants at the start of the day and again at lunchtime.
Ms. Sharpton insists that there is no substitute for product
maintenance. Customers need to feel they are getting fresh
products every time, she says, just as they do with produce. If
they see even one wilted plant, they may assume the rest are
poorly cared for, too. If your store has difficulty finding the
staff to care for your garden inventory, Ms. Sharpton suggests
approaching local suppliers about helping with the care of your
2. Protect your products.
Invest in some type of structure to protect your plants from the
elements, especially if your area of the country experiences
blazing sunny days that may quickly bake your inventory. Before
you purchase the plants, decide on how you will protect them,
Ms. Sharpton says. The protection can be as simple as temporary
shade structures. Determine the type of protection based on your
floral product investment and the return you expect.
3. Ensure customer contact.
Because your garden selection is most likely not the reason
customers came to your store, make sure they pass by the items
and are immediately moved to purchase them. The best location is
the store entrance, but the display must be dynamic enough to
make the sale the first time they pass by. It is highly unlikely
customers on their way out of the store will go back in again to
make a purchase when they pass by the second time. Ms. Sharpton
says the key is to make your display so enticing that customers
“slow down and decompress” as they approach the store.
4. Merchandise combination planters.
Ms. Sharpton recommends that mass-market florists increase their
focus on planters filled with multiple plants for decorating
decks or patios rather than individual plants. She suggests
designing planters with a central plant surrounded by companion
plants; however, keep them at sizes customers can carry out of
the store. For the do-it-yourselfer, Ms. Sharpton suggests
merchandising all the ingredient plants around a sample of a
mixed planter or hanging basket.
Mr. Stanley also believes plants offered in small patio bowls
can grow the average sales per customer. He recommends telling
customers that planters look best when designed with three
different plants and offering shoppers a special price if they
buy three types of plants at a time.
5. Branch out with tree, herb and shrub container gardens.
Take your container garden selection for patios and decks a step
past mixed plants. Mr. Stanley recommends small flowering
shrubs, herbs, fruit trees and bushes but says to keep them
small enough to be easily handled by shoppers.
6. Limit choices.
For combination planters, Ms. Sharpton says to offer only three
plants for sun and three for shade. “The store must make choices
for the consumer,” she says, just as specialty retailers like
Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel decide on a few color
combinations to present to shoppers each season. When making
your choices, consider what sells well in your store, what is
easy for you to maintain and what is unique. The reward for more
calculated choices, she says, is less shrinkage.
7. Offer more flowering plants.
Mr. Stanley says flowering plants are high-impulse items and
will sell quicker than nonflowering products. This will cut back
on maintenance and shrinkage.
8. Sell plants with product information either attached to or
printed directly on the containers.
Studies show that if the information can’t be pulled out,
forcing customers to pick up the plants, the chance of them
making the purchase is 8 percent better, Ms. Sharpton says. She
notes this also avoids information being pulled out of the pots
and then dropped onto the floor.
9. Keep individual plant displays simple and color-blocked.
Less is more when it comes to individual plant options, Mr.
Stanley says. It is far better to offer a few varieties with a
stronger visual impact, he says.
Avoid merchandising on the floor.
Display products where customers can reach them. Mr. Stanley
says customers do not like to bend down to pick up items off the
11. Don’t oversign.
Ms. Sharpton cautions retailers to avoid visual clutter. She
says customers need only the information that will help them
make buying decisions: Is it a sun or shade plant? What color is
it? How big will it grow? How do I care for it? Mr. Stanley
recommends 6-inch-square signage, placed in the middle of a
display, telling customers the name of the plant, three benefits
of it in a bullet format and the price. Plants with effective
point-of-purchase signage will sell quicker, he says.
12. Start a plant-of-the-month program.
Train customers to buy plants on a regular basis by giving them
a discount on a new plant each month as part of a special
loyalty program. Ms. Sharpton says they will care less about
whether they let each plant die if they know they are going to
get another one next month.
You may reach Monica Humbard by e-mail at
or by phone at (800) 355-8086.