Clean up your act

Clean Up Your Act

There is an aspect to merchandising plants that is often over-looked. Many case studies prove, good fit for purpose plant display fixtures that are clean and tidy, well merchandised, and signed can greatly increase sales.


Numerous magazines and newsletters talk a lot about merchandising plants and the various methods that can be used to attract customer attention and increase sales. There's no denying good merchandising can make a dramatic difference to the success of a plant.

Yet as a customer, I often walk into a garden centre with anticipation and find my delight soon turns to despair. Why? 
Well first, it’s because my eyes rest upon rows of timber benches with weeds and sludge beneath; sometimes rotting or split, or in need of a waterblast.  Or timber trays lined with mangy pieces of capillary matting, precariously perched atop concrete blocks; or leaning benches that have never been introduced to adjustable feet.


Second, is because I can’t easily access the item I want to buy. I should not need to teeter on one stiletto to increase my reach across an 1800mm bench to choose a pansy that has the ‘right face’ and the ‘right personality.’ I’m unlikely to bend double to peer at small grade groundcovers and perennials on the ground either – there will be another garden centre close by that will know how to merchandise their plants so customers can reach for them comfortably.


In this day of DIFM, have we forgotten our house-keeping skills or the small things that make a person feel welcome? Do we like our guests at home to sit on sofas covered with dog hair or last week’s party crumbs? Probably not! Would we invite them to eat off a dank and dirty potting bench in the dining room? I don’t think so! 

So why should it be different at garden centres?


Yes, smart and creative merchandising; good positioning, and linked products are very important but, as in any well kept or admired home, fixtures and furniture also play an important role. They create ambience and a pleasant shopping experience so customers feel compelled to hang around for a while and fill their trolleys with your offerings.


Too many retailers fail to invest in good quality benching, believing they will not get a return on investment. Well listen-up! There’s value, and there’s cheap and nasty. It’s a big turn-off to customers if your place looks down and dirty.


Good plant display fixtures can double sales and reduce labour and they are one of the key factors of good merchandising. If displays are well designed and constructed and fit for purpose they will:

  • Maximise visibility and appeal
  • Enhance the ambience of a store
  • Enable fast and labour saving merchandising
  • Provide a perfect platform for any staff member to merchandise to a high standard with minimum training
  • Reduce the time staff spend watering by using a bottom-up watering


Reach and accessibility; visibility, appeal and room to manoeuvre their trolley are the elements that matter most to the customer.  What should be considered during the decision-making process to choose display benches?



Vertical and tiered displays provide good visibility, accessibility and appeal. Tiered Displays are best for flower pack bedding, and when vertically colour-blocked the visibility and appeal is stunning.


Choose fixtures without over-lapping shelves so plants won’t suffer from reduced light, and lower plants are less likely to get damaged from water and soil seeping from above. 
Look for display units that don’t have a large footprint, can be levelled for watering or tilted for display and easily moved on castors.


Round and hexagonal displays are easy to shop and customer friendly. 


Round is preferable to hexagonal in that there are no corners and a soft organic display can be achieved – helpful for directing pedestrian flow too.  


Both shapes are easy to nest, particularly if they come with different height or adjustable height legs; and they are excellent for impulse colour plants, volume seasonal sellers and promotions.  If you want to create impact or brighten an area; five, seven or nine clustered together can create a stunning display, particularly when there is only one product of one colour per table.


Rectangular display benches are best for ‘range’ product i.e. where only a small number of each plant is stocked and a large number of separate facings can be shown for perusal and selection. 


In general they should be on wheels and small enough for easy movement.


The reach across a bench should never be more than one metre, both for the customer and stock turn. Theoretically a bench may be up to two metres wide but only if in practice it is positioned to be shopped from both sides.


Construction and materials

Shop around. There are a vast number of timber and steel/aluminium options available in most countries. Whether galvanised steel/aluminium or timber, don’t be tempted by the price of inferior quality, it will cost you more in maintenance and replacement in the long-run.



  • Where you are using the benching – undercover or outdoors?
  • What is their function and what will they be used for? Is it designed for its purpose
  • Dimensions and footprint
  • Can you use ebb and flow watering?
  • Will the product withstand the extremes of environmental conditions in your location?
  • Can it be easily hosed down to maintain day to day cleanliness?
  • How often will it need water-blasting or re-coating to preserve its near original condition?
  • Will it contain soil and leaves or is there likely to be a mess under your benches daily?
  • Is it durable but light enough for the majority of staff to move and change displays single-handedly?
  • Can it be painted or powder-coated to match your corporate colours?
  • Does it come with adjustable legs and castors? Do you need them?
  • Can you use sign holders?
  • Will it allow the customer easy access to your offer?
  • Will the look and quality of the system you propose to purchase enhance your garden centre?


Finally, develop a house-keeping plan as part of your operations manual; encourage staff to tidy up after themselves; appoint a broom brigade to be on duty at the end of every day; have a good clean-up in winter and take note of fixtures that need replacing.


- by Joy Lamb, Garden Retail Sucess Ltd


Our Premises Development Manual will help if you are re-developing a garden centre; changing the layout of your centre; thinking about new fixtures and fittings; or if you know the layout of an area doesn’t work but you can’t quite see why and need a few hints. Login to access full information