Things aren’t what they used to be!
Big box stores and the internet dominate today’s shopping landscape. How can your independent garden center not only survive but thrive when customers have more buying options than ever before? Times may be changing, but there are things you can do to stay competitive and attract shoppers to buy local.
It all starts by recognizing your strengths.
You’ve got something over those big box and online retailers. Actually, you have several things, namely: expertise, excellent customer service, an intimate and unique in-store experience, and a personal, local connection. These aren’t insignificant! They can make all the difference. You just have to know how to highlight and capitalize on them.
We’ve done some research and put together this list of helpful ideas to keep your business booming all year long.
Whether you realize it or not, you are selling an experience. You need to give potential customers a reason to want to get off the couch and their phones and visit your garden center. One thing we know about the Millennial population is that they are looking for unique “sharable” experiences. Think outside the box and draw them in.
Here are a few ideas:
- Yoga classes in the greenhouse.
- A coffee shop with comfy seating in your beautiful store, perhaps surrounded by a library of gardening books.
- Lessons in gardening, houseplant care, or bringing in local experts on a wide range of additional topics.
- Creative classes for children. Get them digging and learning (and their parents buying!)
- Transform into a winter wonderland destination during the holidays.
- Partner with local businesses to offer wine tasting events or farm to table dinners in the greenhouse.
The internet and social media have changed everything! You need to be there. Period. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are your friends. Don’t be afraid to dive in and connect. That’s where your customers are. A majority of people research online before visiting stores. Make sure your website represents your business well and is optimized for local searches. Consider even selling online. Studies show that 20% of independent garden centers are now offering some sort of online retail, and that is only likely to grow and can drive business to your physical retail location.
Use your social media channels to advertise events, special offers, and get customers to “check-in” by offering an incentive. Be sure to interact with your followers and post beautiful images and engaging videos. Your garden center is the perfect backdrop for that. A YouTube channel can offer gardening tips, design ideas, and plant tutorials to highlight your expertise, garden/retail stock, and services.
Is that even possible? Running your own business is more than a full-time job but, you may be able to offer more. Showcase and utilize the expertise of your employees. Develop new services that cater to today’s customers. A few trends have emerged that can help your business stand out:
- Container planting services, both in house and at customers’ locations.
- Garden Coaching – A great way to connect with customers. You can assist with plant identification, selection, placement, vegetable garden set up, disease analysis, site planning and more. This can be done via video chat or in person.
- Houseplants – Small is in! Millennials are flocking to urban living in small spaces. House plants, succulents, and small cacti are fashionable. Indoor container gardening of herbs and small veggies is also popular. Offers the plants, containers, and assistance to meet these new demands.
Box stores and online retailers may be stiff competition, but as new generations of “gardeners” emerge, they will seek out the expertise and experience of independent garden centers. By offering some of these new services and experiences, you will be ready and visible to serve your existing customers, attract new demographics, and successfully compete in the challenging landscape of brick and mortar retail.
Here’s to a prosperous new year!