Giving Plants The ‘X’ Factor

Giving Plants The ‘X’ Factor

There is nothing more certain than the fact that retailing will change more in the course of the next five years than it has during our lifetimes (and maybe even longer) and will therefore require an effective strategy for retailers to succeed. There will be a need to define our basis for competition be this on price, exclusive products or service. The need for change is imminent. Competing on price or exclusive products will not be possible therefore the only option is to improve service and the satisfaction our customers gain from visits to our stores.

Undoubtedly though, one of the saviours of our trade has been the diversity of the offer at garden centres. Restaurants and cafes now represent up to 25% of total turnover and Christmas sales up to 20%. When this is coupled with gift areas, farm shops, cook shops and other product groups it is not rocket science to understand that the core gardening offer is a diminishing part of the equation. This is a slightly worrying situation as the sales are being held up by an increasingly ageing customer profile.

This fact caused me to consider how much television has changed in recent years. Those of us old enough will remember a plethora of talent shows in the sixties and seventies....’Opportunity Knocks’, ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ etc and it is interesting how these have re-emerges in popular culture as ‘The X Factor’, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ etc.

Consequently, in a similar vein to the re-invention of talent shows, there is currently an urgent need to investigate and instigate ways of attracting the upcoming younger gardeners. This group will definitely use the internet for research before engaging with retailers therefore it is essential to reach these potential customers through facebook, twitter, pinterest and other social media channels. Recent research carried out by Stewart Plastics also revealed that the 25-35 group will spend an average of £300/ per annum where the 35-45 age group will spend £240/ per annum and the 45-55 age group only £200/ annum therefore moving the emphasis on customer profiles could increase the average spend by 50%.

Coming back to the television analogy, the old style programmes relied on what the entertainment consisted of, whether it be a singer, a comedian, a performing dog or whatever and, in essence the new programmes are no different in the end result. Now, though, it is the journey that is important, audiences are captivated as they follow the progress of the contestants. They have a need to be involved emotionally as they travel the journey with them. They want to be involved, to cry with them, to celebrate or to commiserate with them and the same is true of our garden centres.

The traditional methods of promoting plants in alphabetical order, in plant groups with Latin terminology and complicated cultural instructions is somewhat akin to subjecting them to an omnibus edition of Opportunity Knocks!

To overcome this, there must be a reason why they should engage with our business, our plant areas, and our product range.....putting The X Factor into our plant areas.

The linear grids will need to be transformed into inspirational displays attracting customers visually and encouraging them with plain English to enhance their outdoor and indoor living spaces with plants, pots ornaments that they can enjoy whilst relaxing or socialising. Our teams will need to be transformed into day makers rather than sales people eager to ensure the complete satisfaction and enjoyment of our visitors. Their visits should be something to celebrate as our customers buy projects that are guaranteed to succeed and ensure pleasure and satisfaction. This will however both higher margins and greater sales to fund the extra service. This will require greater investment in training, in-store investment and core customer service skills and those making the first moves will be the leaders.

Remember, they booed Bob Dylan when he first picked up an electric guitar in 1964 but he did pretty well on it for the next fifty years!