Thursday, June 13, 2013

Independent Garden Centres

I attended a Nursery & Garden Industry of Victoria presentation on Wednesday: An Evening with Trevor Cochrane – Repositioning Gardening in a Crowded Lifestyle Market.  If you are not aware Trevor is Managing Director and Editor at Large of Guru Productions, including the Channel 9 TV show, The Garden Gurus. Trevor just happens to also be a past Category Manager for Garden at Bunnings Warehouse and State Merchandise manager at Kmart Australia... Credible source in my book.

Trevor's presentation was based on a paper he has co-authored outlining key strategies for US & European independent garden centres, and wow was it relevant!  I came away so inspired I think I'll be writing about ideas from this presentation for a few weeks to come.  Today, let's just try to summarize the message and get some thinking happening.

First and foremost there is a bright future for Independent Garden Centres. Independents can and do co-exist alongside Big Boxes quite happily and there is a solid customer base of young, affluent gardeners who are looking for a garden experience that a Big Box cannot offer. So what does Trevor's research tell us?  It 'aint rocket science, gardeners who would prefer to shop at a garden centre have some common preferences, desires and interests.  Most importantly this gardener holds the independent garden centre to a higher standard than they do the Big Box.

Service, Service, Service.  Plant Crèches; Cheap (not free) delivery; know your customers individually.
Community. Adopt the local school and community garden, you will be repaid. Nothing makes me madder than schools assuming Bunnings is the place to go for a donation because Bunnings has put themselves into that community position. If you need support please don't hesitate to ask us. 
Plant selection.  Range, but don't try to be everything to everyone, find a specialty and do it thoroughly (haven't we learned this ourselves); Value, if you offer high value plants what service and guarantees come with them? 
Retail best practice.  "Dynamic margins" are used all major retailers. The "basket price" at the Big Box is not better than yours but with careful merchandising and targeted discounts they create a perception... "The lowest prices are just the beginning".  Yes we will help with targeted, high turn over product, please just talk to us. Merchandising, presentation and freshness (move the old stuff on, it's hard but it's not doing you any favours)!

Price Point at The Little Veggie Patch
Signage doesn't have to be fancy, this is a great idea from The Little Veggie Patch Co.
Events.  Christmas, Mother's Day, Spring launch, sausage sizzle, demonstrations, seniors day, pruning day.
The ENVIRONMENT.  The gardener who prefers to buy locally is almost certainly a Greenie. There, I said it. You may or may not believe in a carbon tax but the gardener that will seek you out does. What are you doing to convince that customer that you share their belief? What can you tell them about the products you have on sale? Where are they from? How were they produced? Are they GMO free? Know and understand your pesticide offering and the alternatives available.This is the independent sector's best opportunity to differentiate itself from the Big Boxes. Take it and use it. If you want more information from your suppliers, ask for it.

Ok so Trevor is singing from my song book (not to mention his emphasis on edibles, but that's more a fashion not a tangible point of difference).  We have hitched ourselves to the Independent Garden Centre so it's in our interests that you are successful, please don't hesitate to demand that we support you implementing these ideas. We can and we will.

3 comments:

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  3. I've read this blog a couple of times over the past two years, and the paragraph that resonates with me is this one:
    First and foremost there is a bright future for Independent Garden Centres. Independents can and do co-exist alongside Big Boxes quite happily and there is a solid customer base of young, affluent gardeners who are looking for a garden experience that a Big Box cannot offer. So what does Trevor's research tell us? It 'aint rocket science, gardeners who would prefer to shop at a garden centre have some common preferences, desires and interests. Most importantly this gardener holds the independent garden centre to a higher standard than they do the Big Box".

    I agree, but the its quite difficult to get all independent retailers to believe this and I'm not sure why, but if they worked together in a far greater disciplined fashion, and a less "what's in it for me", then I believe the independent retailer could reap huge benefits. This is exemplified with the retailers who are members of IGC - www.independentgardencentres.com.au. We all need to work together, and the suppliers are wanting to engage now.

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