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Merchandising – the Vital Ingredient

For over 30 years as the leading manufacturer of premium quality growing media and garden care products for commercial growers and home gardeners, Debco has seen the market transform and continually change along with the demographics that now form our market. No longer is the nursery industry seen as an unprofessional group who used to put a bunch of plants together with hand-written prices stuck to them out the front of their nursery. An enormous amount of focus has been placed on merchandising and today, more than ever, can be the difference between success and failure.

A successful business doesn’t happen by chance; in most cases it is a combination of blood sweat and tears along with a well thought out plan, carefully researched and strategically implemented. ‘Back to Basics’ is a term often coined; however, how often do we actually take this advice and ensure we have in fact the basics in place. Viewing our offering critically and comparing our store with other retailers in different markets is a great way to freshen and improve our approach.

Effective merchandising of the dry goods (an area often neglected) can significantly increase the average customer spend. Further to this, these add-on sales can be a critical element in the completion and success of their purchase. With suppliers spending many millions of dollars on advertising and promotions it’s imperative that consumers virtually trip over the stock being advertised – otherwise the advertising money is largely wasted. It is also imperative that effective communication between supplier and retailer ensues so that the retailer is up to date with lines that will be heavily advertised. The aim should be to excite the consumer with a variety of offers and ideas all aimed at making it easy and inviting for the customer to purchase, hence ensuring the plants purchased have a better chance of survival once taken home.

As with most things you get rewarded for the effort that you put in. Therefore increase the activity targeted at servicing your customers’ needs – whether that be helping to generate ideas, providing product knowledge or helping with product choice. These will all result in tremendous benefits for your business.

As most suppliers have by now funded and implemented their 2007/08 marketing plans, praying and hoping that their hard earned money won’t been spent in vain (and actually might return a dollar), it’s an opportune time to channel our focus on the basics.

We’ve all spent half the year working to this point and preparing for the spring season. It’s make or break time – we’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.

Products have been presented, manufactured, promoted, advertised, transported and now they require dedicated merchandising. It’s disappointing at times to see this last most critical step in the equation not being given the respect it deserves. Simple basics like not displaying advertised lines, low stock holdings and bland presentation all contribute to not achieving maximum sales and profit potential.

With so many choices for consumers to spend their money, we must all ask ourselves – Why me? Why should consumers purchase from me? How am I any different / better than the next supplier or retailer? Being critical with our responses will certainly put us on the right path to delivering what we all strive for in true customer service. Our offering needs to be kept in constant motion to attract and maintain the emerging customer base. We need to look outside the square by learning from other industries and ‘migrate’ the ideas we believe may have merit and success for ours. The merchandising component is often underestimated at retail level and can very quickly undo all the effort and expense performed at the front end. In fact, oversights in other facets of marketing can quite often be overcome with effective in-store merchandising.

Working together from supplier to retailer will certainly reap far greater results for all concerned. Yes the market is changing, but the basics still apply and discipline is required to ensure we have them in place. With the environment and health taking prime focus in the media and society throughout the world, the future looks exciting as we all try to get closer to nature and wellbeing. So take advantage of these trends and incorporate them into your merchandising mix.

Anthony Terzo, Marketing Manager, Debco.

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