The Importance of Community for Raising Your Profile
If a symbiotic relationship with your local community brings more people to your garden centre, increases sales and the average customer spend, then the effort to develop it will have been worth it.
Your community is the most important ally you have in your business. Experience tells us that continuing to offer a wide range of quality products at competitive prices but ignoring the community you serve and you could be on the path to a slow death, just as many corner dairies have experienced with the rise of supermarkets and convenience stores that have bigger marketing budgets and perceived convenience.
Many of the well known iconic retailers in our countries engage with community activities and charity partnerships, recognising how important it is to their business to invest in their communities.
Some of our trade associations actively offer assistance to encourage, promote and support community outreach programmes such as clubs for children and community ‘Grow’ programmes to promote a healthy lifestyle or garden services to support local hospices and charities.
Over the years, hundreds of companies across the world have supported local scouting, girl guides, youth groups or youth sports clubs through sponsorship by offering product for raffles or product and / or equipment that can be used by the organisation in a practical way. It’s fair to say, micro initiatives such as assisting your local school’s fundraising activities could be regarded as sufficient to raise the profile of a small local garden centre more successfully than a nationwide industry initiative.
However we can no longer ignore the fact that in a world of economic decline there is pressure on local government budgets to provide sufficient resources for community based social services and learning.
There’s also the question of developing a skill base. A frequent comment over-heard during the last 30 years is “the younger generation doesn’t seem to have inherited DIY skills in the way previous generations have”. We can all speculate on the myriad of reasons why:- tele, computer games, children grow up not knowing grandparents; parents and grandparents work patterns offering little opportunity to spend quality time with their children and grandchildren; and so on.
These developments have given rise to a call for engagement between business and society and an expectation that business will provide both resources and initiatives to deliver measurable assistance and improvements to the community at large.
For garden retailers there has never been a better time to promote to customers the messages ‘improve health, improve lifestyle, improve your living environment, save money by growing your own food’.
‘Celebrity chefs’ around the world have been your allies by promoting the consumption of healthy food; grow your own and buy local ... support your local suppliers. That’s another bonus for garden retailers: If you are supporting local suppliers, you are supporting your local community by helping local business’s to survive which will in turn benefit your business.
Garden and DIY retailers are well placed to initiate measures to improve the quality of life of local communities because our ethos defines healthy living, quality of life, sustainable lifestyles. We have knowledge, resources and often the space to develop symbiotic partnerships within our communities.
It’s all very well talking about what large organisations are doing, I hear you say. What could a small garden centre with limited resources do? For a start you could:
- Link up with a city farm, town allotment or community garden programme in your area. Offer vouchers to spend at your garden centre, free ‘How to grow’ classes or offer to run classes for a small fee
- Run ‘How to’ classes for children in school holidays ... how to make and plant your own flower or vege planter, make an apple feeder for birds, for example. As an incentive, give them a $€£5 to spend in your garden centre
- If you have spare ground at the back of the garden centre, link up with a charity and offer the space for struggling families to grow veges and edibles.
The opportunities and benefits are endless and if it increases your profile, brings more people to the garden centre, increases sales and increases the average customer spend then the effort will have been worth it.
But don’t leave it there - think of creative ways to promote herbs, veges and edibles in store as easy to grow, health giving, useful and decorative. Use linked sales, living labels, sample pots, ‘how to’ brochures, recipes. Reap long term rewards for your business by generating ideas and encouraging children and ‘new to gardening’ families to continue the cycle of learning, development of skills and life-long enjoyment.
- Joy Lamb