What you know for sure can get you into trouble


"It is not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that does" said Mark Twain  

There are numerous examples in garden retail of previously successful stores struggling to survive or in many cases closed, due to changing customer behaviour and new competitors.
The strategy, product, presentation and service that was so successful 20 years ago, no longer delivers the results required. Garden centres responded to competitors and changing customers by doing what they knew,—but doing it better. This was never going to be enough.

For ongoing success, whether it comes from growing the market or gaining market share, will come from clearly identifying the customers and their requirements today and the years ahead, not yesterday.

It is necessary to develop comprehensive strategies for today’s customers and implement them with intensity in order to be noticed. I used the word ‘strategies’, because to achieve success many factors will need to change — premises, product, presentation, services, communication, systems, staff, measuring and monitoring. Above all, HOW changes are implemented not simply WHAT changes. Targeting customer segments with tailored promotions on social media is not enough.

Garden Retail Success have assisted many clients to develop strategies and implement them to the level required, resulting in sustained substantial growth in sales and profitability.  

The customer

Todays customers are a mix.
Keen knowledgeable gardeners make up a much smaller percentage than 20 years ago.
Beginners and the inexperienced are a much larger group and they vary in age from 30 to 65.
Empty nesters approaching retirement, and the retired have time and the desire to take up gardening.
Growing edibles continues to be popular.

These customers are serious and want to succeed.
In earlier years they had an affinity with big box stores because they were less threatening and simple. But the beginners of today are searching for good information so they can be more than successful, they seek to be knowledgeable.

These customers have difficulty finding good information. Garden magazines tend to be mostly fluffy, light inspirational. Web sites are dominated by large box stores with frequently conflicting third rate information. Organic methods are losing credibility, but sustainable is in.

Todays’ customers relish challenges. Most of these customers are looking to grow vegetables from seed. For colour they want instant and have the money not to quibble. Quality is more important than price but they need to know why. More than ever they need advice—not just about the product but how to put it all together to achieve the result. These customers are not necessarily looking for a product at a price, but they have a situation or problem and want a solution.

The customers garden site

Urban sites have become smaller and houses larger, leaving less space for the garden and the warm sunny space even less. Unlike young beginners, these older gardeners have the money to build raised vegetable gardens for convenience, to buy in a truckload of compost, to build solid attractive support frames, or to grow in containers. They want to make this small space attractive and productive, not an overgrown weedery.

How to Succeed

To achieve success in the modern market place a complete review and a new comprehensive business plan is required. There is no silver bullet. Many small changes are required in a coordinated manner and implemented with intensity, consistently. It is not just what is done but HOW it is implemented that is the real secret to success.

Many Garden Retail Success clients in the ‘Making it Happen’ programme have had considerable success implementing a plan that involved changing from a strategy that presented a perception of—‘we have a large range- take your pick’, to a strategy that presented—‘we have a range, but these 2 are the best and we highly recommend them’. In the garden care range especially; offering the best and promoting the reasons for using the best, rather than just the price.

Because the customer is looking for solutions rather than a product, a garden centre layout by situation, purpose, theme, or colour is more customer friendly.

It is easier to sell an improved plant/product of an established known entity, than something new and unknown. It is easier to sell a plant/product if there is a story to tell, just make sure you tell the story. Don’t just tell the story once, keep repeating it.

Digital marketing is great for independent garden centres, especially web sites and weekly emails. It makes it easy to tell a story in a very personal friendly manner.
Reinforce this with frequent demonstrations, talks, or even garden classes.

If you have implemented all these changes with intensity, word of mouth kicks in and word of mouth advertising is effective, free, and more likely to retain the customer.

Ask us about the Garden Retail Success ‘Making it Happen’ mentoring programme and references from garden centres that have achieved success from it.

 - Bill Brett