In today?s evermore hectic world, the chances to slow down and relax become harder to find. We look for a chance to go somewhere new, a relaxing change of scenery and a place and time to unwind and shed the stress and strain of modern living. So where can we go to do just that on a regular basis?
Maybe our garden centres have something to offer. The fact that so many garden centres now feature on Tripadvisor made me realise how much we have in common with the cherished summer break. A visit to the garden centre takes the customer on a journey ? hopefully one they look forward to ? and, most of all, a place to buy new things.
Clear customer flow
As a retailer, it is always worth walking the customer?s journey through your garden centre or, better still, getting someone who doesn?t know your store to walk around, and stalking them to see how they behave. Clear customer flow, good signage and perhaps a simple roadmap at the front door will help customers to find all the great places in the garden centre. In order to generate good customer flow you need a clear aisle that?s wide enough for two trolleys to pass easily and takes a simple route that goes through or past each department in the centre. And make sure each department has at least one memorable feature as a talking point. These provide great photo opportunities for Pinterest, Instagram or a ?selfie? that finds its way onto Facebook or Twitter to promote your business. Who wouldn?t want their photo taken with a forest of giant cacti, a lovely old Morris Minor brim full of flowers or even a cardboard cut-out of One Direction?
Great journeys abroad involve the excitement, challenge and risk of foreign foods, and great food is often a fusion of fantastic ingredients and flavours. With customers offered endless product choice through the internet, the advantage we have ?in store? is the way in which we combine products to create ideas and flavours for both home and garden. Not only does this give us the edge over the ?online? retailer, it also encourages linked sales and an enhanced ATV (average transaction value). With ATV figures ranging from ?15-25, if a garden centre turns over ?2 million with an ATV of ?17, a ?1 increase in ATV will deliver nearly ?120,000 of additional sales, so linked sales are well worth the attention. I always look to make space in a retail layout for display, that place where great products can be brought together; anything from a small crate set on a shelf in the sundries area to a full stage in the plant area. The idea place for these displays is at the end of main aisles around the store so they act as eye catching focal points to draw customers deep into each department.
Setting the scene for customer satisfaction
As an industry focused on delivering pleasure can we do more to feast the senses? How good does your garden centre smell? Is it warm enough? Are there things I can taste? Perhaps try a tasting table in the gift area to encourage gift customers into your food hall or restaurant. Does the garden centre sound good? Music helps to give life to a store but avoid background music with lyrics ? you want to set the mood without distracting. Or, better still, find a place where local music students can do their thing. I like centres like Lowden Garden Centre where there is a guitar in the caf? you can pick up and play and they have held evening beer and paella parties. The overall aim is to make sure customers are relaxed which puts them in a good frame of mind to shop. Academic research in supermarkets has shown French music improves the sale of French wines and the right music in bars increases the perceived value of drinks ? perhaps a throw-back to the holiday Sangria.
We all like meeting new and interesting people so make sure there are ?touch points? along the customer?s journey around the garden centre. This should start with a visible staff presence near the front door but should extend to all departments, forming places where people can interact and start conversations. Garden sundries, outdoor plants, craft, food hall and restaurant are key ?touch point? locations. It may be the classic ?jobs in the garden? blackboard in the sundries department or perhaps a small seating area and worktable in the craft area where like-minded customers can have a go at something new. Wherever you choose, it is all about creating loyalty and giving customers a sense of belonging to the centre?s ?family?, which in turn generates repeat visits. It is easier to keep a customer than find a new one. Many restaurants now have large community tables where unknowns can get to know each other, but it would be great to do this across the garden centre.
Hopefully your customers will be sad to leave, keen to return and take with them a big basket of souvenirs for friends and family.
Paul Pleydell is a director at Pleydell Smithyman ? garden centre design and business consultants whose work includes business strategy and retail concepts as well as advice on site layout, planning, retail, restaurant & interior design and architecture.