How garden centres can sell walking sticks

Garden Centre Retail speaks with Charlotte Gillan of Classic Canes to find out how to sell walking sticks.

What are the options a garden centre has, to showcase walking sticks?

Walking sticks are very tactile items. Display them in a way that encourages people to try them. A purpose-built display stand is necessary. Folding sticks can hang on slat wall or on a specially-designed counter-top stand.

Have you got any examples of a garden centre doing displays better than others?

The best garden centre displays are those that are the most loved by the staff. Walking stick displays can become unruly and the sticks ?knitted? together.? An untidy stand is very off-putting to customers.

Some garden centres find their sticks sell best in the gifts area and some in clothing. In all cases they need to be somewhere prominent, but not so busy that they feel rushed making their choice.

What would make a standard walking stick offering in a garden centre??

A typical garden centre would start with a display stand to hold around 40 sticks, a dozen folding canes and small accessories such as wrist loops.

Folding canes are best kept folded up inside their display packaging. If you open them out and place them in the main display, they lose the main selling point.

Every user wants something different to reflect their own requirements. The wider the range offered, the better the sales.


How can garden centres increase the sales in this category?

Remembering to re-stock before the stock runs down is crucial. A full display stand is always much more appealing than a half-empty one. Ordering little and often to re-balance the stock is much better than placing one huge order once a year.

Garden centres need a wide range of sticks because of the various types of customers.

A full-length mirror beside the stick stand works miracles. Lighting too is very important. A lot of garden centres are not good at this because of their high ceilings. It’s a problem worth solving – a couple of spotlights trained on the stick display will bring the colours to life and boost sales.

It is also important to clean the stand as no one likes to choose from a dusty display. Few people will ask the price of an item without a ticket so check regularly that all hang tags are still in place.

Having a few members of staff who know how to set a stick to the correct height for a customer is great for encouraging word of mouth business.

What works best for a garden centre with limited space to dedicate to these products?

Those with limited floor space could consider selling folding canes. Many of these fit into a small amount of slat wall and still offer a wide range at different price points.

We sometimes suggest this to new stockists with a limited budget. Once they know the demand is there, it’s usually not so difficult to find a small area of floor space after all.

What are the key things a garden centre should do when deciding how to display walking sticks?

Ensure the display is accessible for the likely customers.

Many walking stick users have limited mobility and may be using a scooter to get around the centre. There needs to be space to park and manoeuvre one beside the stand. Stick users are often not as supple as they used to be. Folding canes need to hang between waist and shoulder height.

Bear in mind that petite size walking sticks are for shorter customers so these shouldn?t hang up out of reach! Any signage also needs to be in a large print size for obvious reasons.

An excellent book that all retailers should read is ?Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping? by Paco Underhill. For further ideas, visit your supplier at a trade fair. You will see how they display their own products.

What are the key things they should avoid?

walking stickIn our experience, cheap walking sticks are best avoided as the return rate with problems is too high. There is always the risk that they will not be of a good quality and cause an accident.

There is no official safety standard that walking sticks must meet in the UK.

It?s also important to pay attention to the little details with walking sticks. As we age, we shrink, and our hands shrink too. The proverbial little old lady will struggle with handles that are too large or clumpy. It?s best instead to offer a range of petite size handles for these customers.

We all know that patterned walking sticks are ideal for garden centres. But not all patterns are equal.

Each walking stick is after all an accessory as well as a mobility aid. If you can?t picture what you?d have to wear to form an attractive ensemble with a cane, it is unlikely to sell well.

What return per square metre should a garden centre expect from this category?

As walking sticks are displayed vertically, you don?t need a square metre.

A typical walking stick display stand holds about 40 walking sticks over two square feet of shop floor. Depending on the range of sticks stocked, this could be around ?1,000-?1,300 worth of retail sales in the stand. The centre should expect to turn the stock over three to four times a year.

Twenty to thirty folding canes on slat wall hooks nearby would add approximately another ?750-worth at retail. Walking sticks work very hard for their keep!

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