In a keynote presentation at the IGC East conference in Baltimore, Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, Pa., argued that the only way for independent garden centers to remain relevant is to be different and make your customers feel like they have to visit your store.
Traven’s impassioned presentation kicked off the second day of the IGC East conference, and no doubt left many in the audience brainstorming about the changes they could be making.
Here are a few highlights of Traven’s speech:
• “Bring your awesome every day.” Traven noted that it’s critical for retailers to have something in their store that will “blow your customers’ minds” and get them to not only come into your store, but come back again. “Thanks to homogenization from store to store, we are boring our customers,” Traven said, speaking to both breeders and retailers. “You need to give people a unique reason to buy from you.”
• Aim for plants that you’d buy for yourself. “If it’s not good enough for your home, why would it be good enough for your customers?” Traven said. This also means that rather than competing with each other, independent retailers should work together when buying from breeders, to the point that breeders will produce more varieties exclusive to independents. “Otherwise, you’re going to lose ground to the buying power of Home Depot.”
• Always seek out what is new and different. “My slogan has always been, ‘differentiate or die.’ If you are different, you’ll become more relevant to your customers,” Traven said.
• “We’re not selling a plant or a product; we’re selling a solution,” said Traven. “How does it make me feel, and what does it do?” Traven noted the several benefits that plants can provide, including bodily (“they smell good, and you can sometimes eat, drink or even smoke them”), mental (relaxation and therapy), social (community building and pride, and increasing home values), environmental (attracting pollinators) and horticultural (color).
• Notice that none of the above benefits are directly tied to being a beautiful flower. “That’s because younger consumers don’t care about pretty blooms,” said Traven. “They don’t even notice them, so why are we providing exactly what they don’t want?”
• When most people walk into your store, studies show they will typically walk to the left. This is the area where you should capture their attention with a “wow spot.” Traven offered many examples of this, including the world’s largest hanging basket at The Garden Corner in Tualatin, Ore.
• Try to engage your customers in your store, but don’t try to take their phone away from them. “The number-one way the next generation communicates is with texting, followed by social media and email,” said Traven. “If you try to interfere, you’re going to disengage them.”
• Everything today is about food, especially local food. Whether it’s farm-to-table events, foodscaping or simply identifying the grower producing your edibles, there are many ways to take advantage of this trend.
• What’s the one thing you should say to every customers that walks through your doors, whether they are new or returning customers? “Let me show you something really cool.”