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How To Drive Sales Through Quiet Times

Is there a retail cure for droughts or flooding rain? Miffy Gilbert asked Maree Planner from Grevillea Nursery if raising the temperature in-store can cure the ‘quiet times’ blues.

It’s that time of year again – winter! Does that mean, as a retailer, you hope you tick over enough sales to make it through until good spring sales see you through until Christmas? Or can you become master of your own destiny and instigate something, anything to promote sales?

The existence of peaks and troughs in sales is well established – probably in any industry sector. Is it acceptable that we continue to blame poor sales figures on the vagaries of the weather? John Stanley (John Stanley & Associates) in a report titled ‘Nursery retail Innovation’ states “consumer lifestyles, buying habits and spending patterns are changing.” He goes on to say “the major factors [driving this change] being rising home-ownership, increased affluence, consumers passion to reconnect with nature and an aging population.

This should be good news for the business of retailing plants. As independent garden centre operators John asserts that you need to position yourselves into “niche lifestyle ‘experience’ centres targeting high income bracket consumers.

In John’s scenario quiet sales periods would become a thing of the past – if only you could develop your own “unique point of difference”. Perhaps beginning with providing consumers with a unique in-store experience, some wow factor, when they least expect it. For the nursery industry that means mid-week and mid-winter.

Maree Planner (Grevillea Nursery, Werribee) has hit on an idea that is winning customers and sales. Grevillea Nursery has offered customers computer aided landscape design. But, as Maree says “it’s all a bit hard for them, they really wanted something simple and tangible”. This is where ‘Plant Placement’ comes in. Just as the name suggests, the scheme is simple and practical for the customer, with guaranteed sales for the garden centre.

Interested clients visit in-store and are taken on a ‘walk ‘n talk’ tour of the garden centre while discussing their plant needs with any of the sales staff. Plants are paid for and delivered to the home. This is where the story usually ends – but not at Grevillea Nursery. Upon delivery plants are actually placed around the garden in their appropriate pre-determined positions. All that is left for the customer do is plant them in the ground.

Maree says that “after six months the ‘Plant Placement” scheme is very popular with customers, their friends and their relatives!”

Consumer Benefits:

  • It is not too technical, not overly designed oriented,
  • Can be accommodating of consumers individual budgets,
  • Offer a true service to customers by reducing stress and required plant knowledge,
  • The customer saves money by doing the planting themselves, and
  • Helps develop gardening confidence and maximises success for customers.

    Garden Centre Benefits:

  • Can promote the scheme heavily in “quiet periods” to boost sales,
  • Great PR tool keeping the business uppermost in customers minds,
  • Generates goodwill between garden centre and customers,
  • Easy for all staff to participate in (rather than just the “designers”), and
  • Keeps stock moving through the business.

    Maree now has a unique point-of-difference that is a winning mix of customer service provision as well as keeping abreast of current and evolving trends in retailing. Does Grevillea Nursery still experience ‘quiet times’? Well …. yes .…but the peaks and troughs are slowing ironing themselves out. More importantly, Maree still gets satisfaction from pushing the retailing envelope and maintaining a sense of humour.

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