Helping Your Garden Center Customer Operations Grow

by Susan Martin
January 14, 2016

This article is an example of the useful content Paulsen could provide to your business – ideal for a newsletter, email marketing, website content or digital media. Providing expert advice to your garden center customers helps their operations succeed and positions your company as an authority.

Harnessing the Buying Power of the Female Consumer For Garden Center Retailers

In a retail sector where women account for a majority of revenue, it is critical that retail garden center owners understand the importance of connecting successfully with female consumers. This article addresses four essential components retailers must provide to be profitable.

It’s a Saturday in May…absolute prime time when you’re talking about retail garden center business. Businesses literally boom or close based on critical spring traffic so you’re at the top of your game.

Two women walk through the door (you guess they are mother and daughter) followed by a single man. You only have one salesperson working the front store area and though they greet both customers, they can only help one first. Who should it be?

Women hold the majority of buying power in the nation and in your store. Be sure to greet her genuinely and let her know you’re readily available for help if needed.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners, www.provenwinners.com.

If you don’t already know the answer to this question, you’ve just learned why your numbers aren’t what they should be. Female consumers not only make up about 80 percent of garden center traffic, they also collectively account for 80-85 percent of all consumer goods purchased. Seven trillion dollars—over half of the entire U.S. GDP—is spent annually by female consumers.

All retail garden centers that successfully harness female purchasing power offer four basic elements: a clean and safe shopping environment, friendly and helpful employees, informative signage and creative merchandising that models practices. Having just one of these four won’t suffice. You need all four to thrive. Let’s get started.

1. Clean and Safe Shopping Environment

First impressions are everything, and it takes less than 20 seconds for a woman to form an impression of your business. It’s a woman’s instinct to immediately assess her environment and determine if it is safe for herself and her children. If she steps out of her car and into a mud-filled pothole in your parking lot, you’re not off to a good start.

Beyond the front door, are there hoses on the ground (a trip hazard), chemicals within reach of little fingers and are the aisles wide enough to easily accommodate more than one customer at a time? Have the bathrooms been cleaned recently? Set strict standards for cleanliness and safety not only for the sake of your customers but for your employees as well.

2. Friendly and Helpful Employees

Some stores have a policy that states employees must say “hello” to every customer who walks through the door. More effective would be a policy that specifies employees must make eye contact with customers and genuinely greet them, letting them know they are available for help if needed.

Most garden centers offer some products that are too large or heavy for the average female consumer to easily pick up and bring to the register. These items should be clearly marked so she knows help is available. You might use a ticket system so she can bring the ticket to the checkout, and your staff will deliver the product to her car. If an item is too heavy, too big to fit in the cart and no assistance is readily available, a woman who is shopping alone is probably not going to purchase it.

3. Use Informative Signage

According to a recent survey, 88 percent of shoppers stated that point-of-purchase signage helps them decide which plants to buy when they are shopping at a retail garden center (Nichols Research Study and Nielsen/NetRatings Survey 2014).

Benchcards, plant labels and informative posters act as salespeople to help customers make more informed purchasing decisions. They are essential to strong sales. Be sure all items are clearly priced, too, as no price often means no deal.

Signage must be well placed, accurate and consistent to have an impact. With a quick glance around your store, a woman should be able to navigate to the area she needs and find accurate information when she gets there. Homemade signs are acceptable if they are neat and legible. Professionally made signs with explanatory photos and your store logo are even better.

Most shoppers rely on easy to find, accurate signage to assist them with their plant purchases in-store. Have you updated your signage this season?

Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

4. Creative Merchandising Techniques and Modeled Practices

Most garden centers merchandise their products completely differently than other stores where women shop. Especially with products that come with a degree of failure built in (the plants might die!), you need to merchandise them in a way that makes them more familiar, and thus more comfortable, for your female customers to buy.

Modeled practices are essential. For instance, build an end cap that models ideas for combination containers and inventory all of the components—hard goods included—on the bench right behind it. Include several options so she can personalize her combination. Don’t make her carry that heavy, breakable ceramic pot all the way across the store to find the perfect shade of petunias to fill it with. Give her the ideas, then offer both cash ‘n carry and do-it-yourself options for the project.

By incorporating these practices, your retail garden center can thrive. Need more ideas? Ask a few of your best female shoppers. They’re always good for an opinion.

It’s not enough just to sell great products. You must model the practices for your business to thrive. Show her how to be successful and get the look she wants, then be ready to help her fill her cart.

Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.