Spoilt for Choice

Since the late nineties, psychologists have been suggesting the abundance of consumer options are stalling our decision making and wearing away at our well-being.


How often are you confused by choice? Daniel McFadden, a US economist said that consumers find too many options troubling because of the “risk of misperception and miscalculation, of misunderstanding the available alternatives, of misreading one's own tastes, of yielding to a moment's whim and regretting it afterwards”, combined with “the stress of information acquisition”

The more that options multiply, the more important brands become. Today, when paralysed by bewildering choice, a consumer will often turn to an inferior brand that is cleverly marketed to appear as the most trusted.

We like choice don’t we? So more choice must be good, right?

If you imagine standing in an aisle or before a gondola stacked with garden chemicals looking at more than 20 subtle variations of the same thing all claiming to do the same job, then the answer should become fairly obvious.
Customers will probably be scratching their heads thinking “where do I start!”

Some of you will know the story of the Proctor & Gamble Head & Shoulders shampoo range. When they reduced the number of products in the range they sold more. Their research showed a greater range of options not only makes choosing harder, but the customer was less likely to be happy with the choice they finally, sometimes grudgingly made

Providing every choice or option available can also make it difficult to decide which product will be in demand or popular with your customers and it creates problems for managing the business.

This is why we continue to see garden stores with shelves of faded or obsolete packaging; dusty stock, expired use dates, products that have had birthdays.

More-over if a garden centre accepts a product within a brand range just for the sake of introducing the latest release or to pacify a Rep and get them out of the store, it can end up with several products that target the same customer or the same need or the same end use.

These are reasons why keeping good records is essential for inventory control and to understand what is going on in your business.

There are a number of EPOS systems available that handle sales transactions, keep a database of your inventory, allow you to print and read barcode labels, interface with bookkeeping software and offer a myriad of reports and statistics.

The benefits of creating an inventory system are numerous, especially in the areas of customer service, financial management, product tracking and shrinkage:

  • You immediately know the items that are selling well but have low stock balances. Popular lines out of stock are the easiest way to lose sales.
  • You can easily locate out of stock items, the manufacturers of suppliers and their price
  • You can immediately identify slow sellers that have been sitting on the shelves or in the stockroom for a year or more. Better to clear them at a reduced price, turn them into cash to purchase stock customers want to buy.
  • You can immediately be aware of best sellers that signal an opportunity to increase orders or take advantage of a selling surge.
  • Management reports help you keep track of how you’re doing - sales, customer numbers, item counts, expenses, stock turn.
  • You are alerted to possible theft or disappearance of stock before it’s too late to intervene.

Most importantly

  • you are providing category managers and your buying team accurate information and resources to forward plan, work together, share information; be prepared for promotions; ensure quality, saleable product and ensure there’s appropriate in-store product information and signage.
  • You can select and stock the best, most cost effective products and aggressively sell them on their benefits, creating a point of difference between you and your competitors. “We make it easy to choose the right product”

Make it easy for customers to shop. Communicate your recommendations rather than confuse them with ten alternatives that will achieve the same result.

Know and anticipate what customers will buy, procure good product, present it to them at the right time, in the best manner, at the right price and then communicate its benefits to them.

Simplicity and clarity will be rewarded. Install an EPOS system, keep good records and use them. Give your business the best chance to maximise sales.


- Joy Lamb