Lessons From The Market: Merchandising

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Industry marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery says controlling and executing merchandising is a key to long-term grower success. Based on his extensive retail travels the last two years, he lists merchandising’s missing elements and common traits that make merchandisers successful.

From extensive retail travel to almost 1,500 garden center in 2008 and 2009, it is apparent merchandising at the point of purchase is a key success factor and impacts sales velocity more than many other factors, possibly with the exception of “wow” color. There are garden centers that have outstanding products, attractive pricing, great locations and plenty of parking that clearly never maximized their sales opportunities by the way they merchandise.

From our observations here are some of the missing elements of merchandising:

- Prices that are difficult or in some case impossible to find.
- Plants that are not saleable but remain on shelves.
- Plants without labels.
- Overcrowding displays in which the individual plant cannot be seen. This is especially true of patio pots and hanging baskets.
- Plant merchandised on grow carts with baskets hung from the lips of the shelves.
- Plants on grow carts with too many shelves.
- Grow carts jammed so close together the consumer has a hard time shopping.
- Grow carts in aisle ways preventing the movement of shopping carts.
- Plants that should be sold in flower with no color.
- Not putting high-impact products on end caps.
- Poor point of sale signage.
- Debris in aisle ways that makes it hard to shop.
- Tables that have too many different items.
- Under-grown plant sizes.
- Pallets of bagged goods and/or sod that blocks the visual impact of colorful products, especially on the outside aprons.
- Outside aprons that are filled with too many items.
- Too much inventory that makes it hard for the consumer to navigate the store.
- Outside aprons with low-impact items.
- Plants that wilted from lack of water.
- Merchandisers who do not engage the customers.

These issues can deter the consumer who wants some kind of decent shopping experience in a reasonably clean and friendly environment, and that is not happening in many stores.

Looking at what the best merchandised stores, there are some common traits that make them the most successful.

- Friendly, well-trained merchandisers who are always busy and enjoy engaging the consumer.
- Balanced inventory that provides choices but does not clog up the aisle ways.
- Great color: the “wow” effect.
- Right-size plants for the container they are produced in.
- Plants always groomed and watered, discarding merchandise past prime.
- Spacing of large containers and baskets.
- Everything is priced.
- Control their own merchandising.
- Well-thought-out planograms that are flawlessly executed,
- Use POS signage. (One grower had several small signs indicating deer-resistant plants and had the plants displayed together.)
- Clean, orderly retail venues,
- Every plant had a label
- High-impact end caps,
- Compelling displays on the outside aprons,
- Talented management of the merchandising function,
- Merchandisers that undergo extensive training,

Merchandising is clearly a game changer and those who consistently do this expertly are those who are known in the industry as very successful companies. Great merchandising can be the conduit to:

- Reduced discards
- Improved sales velocity
- Improved gross margins
- Satisfied customers
- Allocation of more stores

Controlling and executing this process is a critical key to long-term grower success, and I would suggest that those who outsource their merchandising should be sure their vendors are executing at the level you need to make your retailer’s happy.

About the author: Jerry Montgomery is a 40-year veteran of the floriculture industry and has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers specializing with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, he works for large growers, distributors and breeder/producers. His focus is to understand the market dynamics from breeder to consumer through intense retail travel, visiting almost 1,500 stores since January 2008.

Jerry Montgomery (mrplug@cfl.rr.com) is a veteran of the floriculture industry who has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, Montgomery works for large growers, distributors and breeder/producers. His focus is to understand the market dynamics from breeder to consumer through intense retail travel, visiting about 2,700 stores since 2008.

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    2 comments on “Lessons From The Market: Merchandising

    1. Anonymous

      Great article. Now would you staple a copy to every garden center owners forehead. We will post a copy in our Bench Systems booth at every show.
      Just developed a display to solve issue #4 on the list. Overcrowding of container gardens and hanging baskets. It is selling very well at summer shows so many owners do understand.

    2. Anonymous

      Great article. Now would you staple a copy to every garden center owners forehead. We will post a copy in our Bench Systems booth at every show.
      Just developed a display to solve issue #4 on the list. Overcrowding of container gardens and hanging baskets. It is selling very well at summer shows so many owners do understand.