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Where to from here? Discount or Quality?

I was listening to the radio the other day, and one of those ghastly ads came on for an electrical/furniture shop. You know those ads; they shout at you like youíre a complete fool with a hearing problem. Horrible! Anyway, I wondered why some businesses are expected to give discounts and not others.

The last time I purchased something from one of these big stores they gave me a discount and I didnít even ask for one. There I was, credit card blazing, and was told I could have the items for less than I was obviously willing to pay. Thatís ludicrous. I donít understand how these businesses are still in business.

Then I was in the supermarket. I bought 3 six-packs of yogurt and no one offered me a better price. What about the oranges? I bought thirty of the suckers; should I expect a quantity discount? Why does the electrical shop practically give it away and not the supermarket?

All businesses have an image. The supermarket is based on fresh and family, and has a certain wholesomeness about it. The electrical shop image is to do it cheaper than their competitor; their only benefit is a low price. What a mess, and what a desperate position to be in.

The nursery industry is going along a similar and scary path. The past year has been tough for some, and the terror of staying afloat has led to heavy discounting. Itís great to sell stuff, but one must be profitable. The more you discount, the more you undervalue your product and the more the customer wants taken off the price next time.

Itís no secret Iím anti discounting. Discounting cheapens a business and its products, and is unnecessary. How much is a cup of coffee, a t-shirt or a pair of sun glasses? There is no set price; they sell for what the market will bear; for as much as the store can get.

Your garden centre is the same. Make your centre fantastic and charge more.

Garden centre plants are worth more than chain store plants. Why? Well, theyíre alive for a start, and are cared for and sold by a professional instead of a customer-blind, assistant. Garden centre staff know the difference between dirt on the leaves and sooty mould, which is more than the staff at my local chain store know. Customers flock into my garden centre with incredible tales of mis-information and are so relieved when we solve the problem instead of inventing some nonsense, and this expertise and customer interaction is more valuable and more appreciated than a lousy discount.

If your customers tell you about the great discount down the road, let them have it. Theyíre only telling you because they want your superior product for a far from superior price. Say no to discounts or at least let one only apply if the customer spends a fortune and youíre still making a juicy profit. One customer wanted to ďTalk TurkeyĒ because she wanted two succulents. I canít imagine what she might have asked for had she bought my thirty oranges.

If price is the only way to attract customers to your business, youíre going to do it tough. Forget price; concentrate on profit and reap the rewards. Every time you give a discount, that money comes straight off your bottom line; itís your money youíre giving away.

Iíd like to see all garden centres increase their prices, and to do so with supreme confidence. We are a great Industry with a sound and healthy image. We are the environmental darlings of the retail world. We deserve the respect and the profits that are associated with professionalism. If we sell it cheap, weíre labelled as cheap, and we deserve better than that.

Let the chains have cheap, and letís make garden centres dearer and better, just like a good bottle of wine. Who knows where this will go; I hope weíll have the chains shaking in their boots, because another independent garden centre is opening in their area.

Roz Mather,

Mittagong Garden Centre, NSW

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