Help Nature-Loving, Gardening-Skeptic Consumers Fall In Love With Plants

garden bench next to a pond and pathThe consumer research Dr. Bridget Behe and Greenhouse Grower‘s Carol Miller have conducted the past three years shows that potential consumers really like plants. It’s as if they’re saying, “I love nature. But gardening? Not so much.”

What drives that disconnect between a love for nature and lack of desire for creating their own piece of nature at home?

First, we’re at a point where the last generation who gardened regularly are millennials’ great grandparents.

That’s a big knowledge gap. And it’s hard to keep the interest of anyone who doesn’t understand the basics of a hobby, or who hasn’t experienced the satisfaction of their patience and work resulting in success.

The Missing Gardener series explores ways plant retailers can rebuild the gardening consumer base.
The Missing Gardener series explores ways plant retailers can rebuild the gardening consumer base.

This younger group we studied also tends to go into the yard only for chores like mowing and snow removal, giving them a distaste for “yard work.” And although there is a love for the outdoors, the outdoors, in their mind, is a hiking path, or the beach, or even their kid’s soccer match, not their own patch of Earth.

So What Can You Do About It?

1. Look at your store through your customers’ eyes. Are they overwhelmed with too much choice? Frankly, you won’t be able to answer this question easily. You worked with your staff over several years to make your store as shoppable as possible, and that’s what you’re going to see when you look around.

But try to look at it from a true novice’s point of view. They want to decorate more than cultivate. They come in, thinking this will be a similar experience to shopping at Anthropologie or even Target, depending on your target demographic. They expect to walk through, weighing the appeal of each display, gaining ideas from self-explanatory inspirations.

Instead, they come in and see a horizontal sea of green, divided up by annuals, perennials, tropical, edibles, shrubs, and trees.

Anthropologie doesn’t put all the pants together in one department, and all the jackets in another. Instead, matching outfits are grouped together. Departments are more along the lines of color, season, or even the level of formality involved.

Likewise, if you walk through Target’s furniture department, they have several collections, with all types of furniture pieces that work together displayed, then grouping of accessory items like lamps and even chairs.

The garden retail industry needs a pretty radical rethink of how it’s displaying its plants if we want to convert nature-loving gardening skeptics to loyal customers.

2. Train your staff to find out what projects customers are working on. When someone steps into your store, they’re most likely there with a purpose. Ask them about what they’re wanting to do, listen carefully, and help them achieve it.

This one sounds simple, and at its heart, it is. Listen, and ask just enough questions to get a clear picture of what they want to do and how well equipped they are of reaching their goal.

The tricky parts are timing and putting the customer at ease. And both of those come with training and practice. You want to give customers a chance to get into shopping mode — in other words, don’t start questioning them as soon as they come in.

And your staff will need to have questions fed to them until they can personalize their approach to something that feels natural.

Some of the questions they can ask are:

“What kind of project are your working on? Really? That sounds gorgeous/fun/creative/really cool!”

“Tell me about what you’re working on this weekend.”

Then they feed them follow-up questions — how big is it?, where is it?, do you want it stretch the entire length of the patio?, how sunny is it there?, and so on.

Figure out what they already have on hand, and how much they can spend that day. Then the staff can help them figure out what all they need to be successful, and if it’s ambitious, how they can plan it out over a few weekends so the money stretches further and the project is achieved.

3. Display key projects that include what they need to achieve their goals. One of the side effects of your staff diving deeply into your customers’ goals is that they will begin to spot patterns.

During your staff meetings, work up a rotating list of projects, adding new ones as someone brings the idea in.

Then create at least 10 projects that address those home projects and put them on display. Stock everything needed to achieve those goals, along with instructions they can take with them. Make sure step-by-step instruction (with illustrating photos) are posted on your social media platforms and your website.

You’ll want to switch them out weekly during the peak season, and twice monthly the rest of the year.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Retailing...

June 19, 2017

IGC Show Features Talks on How to Cash in on the Buy Local Trend, Managing High-Stress Situations, and More

This year’s event, which takes place Aug. 15-17 in Chicago, also includes a free workshop on what you might do when starting your business over from scratch.

Read More
Robert O'Neill

May 11, 2017

Former SEAL Team Six Leader to Address Attendees at IGC Show in Chicago

Robert O’Neill is a highly decorated combat veterans and the author of the just-published memoir, “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.”

Read More

April 24, 2017

Ian Baldwin Offers Examples From Grower-Retailers on Price Increase Strategies

In March, Baldwin wrote a blog advising grower-retailers to consider raising their prices this spring. The post inspired a number of creative suggestions.

Read More
Latest Stories

June 19, 2017

IGC Show Features Talks on How to Cash in on the Buy Lo…

This year’s event, which takes place Aug. 15-17 in Chicago, also includes a free workshop on what you might do when starting your business over from scratch.

Read More
Robert O'Neill

May 11, 2017

Former SEAL Team Six Leader to Address Attendees at IGC…

Robert O’Neill is a highly decorated combat veterans and the author of the just-published memoir, “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.”

Read More

April 24, 2017

Ian Baldwin Offers Examples From Grower-Retailers on Pr…

In March, Baldwin wrote a blog advising grower-retailers to consider raising their prices this spring. The post inspired a number of creative suggestions.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

March 31, 2017

Ian Baldwin: Aim High With Your Pricing This Spring

In his latest blog posting, the garden retail consultant says consumers are spending more today, which means it’s a good time to consider raising your prices.

Read More
GCA Summer Tour 2017 Andersons Newport Beach

March 23, 2017

Garden Centers of America Unveils Stops on Its Summer T…

Registration for the event, which includes visits to several garden centers each with their own unique highlights, is now open.

Read More
MSU Guide To Attracting Pollinators

March 9, 2017

New Guide on Bee-Friendly Plants Available From Horticu…

The guide is designed to help grower-retailers educate and motivate their customers to purchase and plant pollinator-friendly materials.

Read More
Grapevine Balls, Glass House, and Galvanized Dish Gardens (Flori-Design, Inc.)

March 6, 2017

Cool Product Awards from Garden Retailers Announced at …

This year’s Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) once again served as a great spot for the Cool Product Awards, an annual collaboration between TPIE, Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, and The Garden Center Group.

Read More
Nursery Photo

March 6, 2017

How Great Photos Can Help You Sell More Plants

More consumers than ever want to see what a product looks like before they buy it, and that includes plants. Here are some tips on taking top-notch photos at your nursery or garden center.

Read More

February 28, 2017

Registration Now Open For IGC Show in Chicago

Find out how you can save on early registration, and get a sneak peek at what’s new at this year’s event aimed at independent garden centers.

Read More

February 21, 2017

Ian Baldwin: 2017 is Off to a Strong Start For Plant Re…

Many garden retailers are telling garden retail consultant Ian Baldwin that sales and the consumer’s attitude toward spending have been very strong the last two months.

Read More
Summerwinds Proven Winners display FEATURE

February 17, 2017

Proven Winners Makes Improvements to Its Retailer Certi…

Understanding the challenges of training new and seasonal staff at independent garden centers, Proven Winners says it is working to equip managers with tools to prepare their employees to better handle customers’ questions and boost their confidence in selling plants this season.

Read More
TPIE 2017 tradeshow floor

February 14, 2017

Trendsetting Products and Ideas From TPIE 2017

If you're a trend watcher, the 2017 Tropical Plant Exhibition, held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on January 18-20, was a can't-miss event. In case you missed it, here are a few highlights of the cool products, trends, and ideas seen at the show.

Read More
Plant in box for Amazon feature image

February 6, 2017

Amazon is Coming to Plant Retail; Here’s What it …

Plant e-commerce may finally take off soon. The question is, are you ready?

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

February 6, 2017

GrowIt! App Now Offers a Listing of Independent Garden …

The team behind GrowIt!, the app designed to help connect consumers with plants, has launched a new platform that allows independent garden centers to sign up to be a “Garden Shop,” helping new gardeners and community members find garden centers in their specific areas.

Read More
Monrovia Trends Floratourism

January 26, 2017

9 Trends That Could Influence Gardening in 2017

From color-changing conifers to smaller-sized luxury looks, plant experts at Monrovia predict nine trends that will drive consumers to do more gardening this year.

Read More
Bundle Pricing sign at Farmington Gardens

December 23, 2016

It’s Official: Growers Stink At Pricing Plants

The industry’s first pricing survey exposes serious problems in how plants are priced. It’s past time for us to change that.

Read More
Greenhouse Retail Center

December 20, 2016

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned From The Garden Retail…

After covering this industry for close to 20 years, I've picked up a few life lessons along the way.

Read More

December 19, 2016

Smart Retail Tech All Garden Retailers Can Use

Your store may be dark for the winter, but it’s never too early to think about the light of spring and opportunities to improve within your store. Take note of how many national retailers are making capital improvements, altering product assortments and brands, employing more part-time staff, trying new promotional tactics, and modifying services including store hours. Are you thinking of making changes to retain your best customers? Are you considering taking control of some operational costs? Is there a dark side to your retail environment? Retail shopping survives today because it has evolved. Retail has morphed into a blend of displays, services, events, category-specific brands, exclusivity, location and, most importantly, customer satisfaction! It’s more than the thrill of the hunt for a great bargain; it’s an experience. Are you striving to offer a “good to great” retail environment that entices today’s consumer to shop your store? Who will spread […]

Read More