Our Favorite Garden Retail Ideas To Steal

Steal This Idea Cooking DemosGarden retailers love to share ideas with one another. Below are some of our favorites from over the past few years. If you have a favorite, please let us know about it!

Hold Grocery-Store Type Stand Up Classes

We reached out to a local chef named Baron W. Von Gottsacker, and he loved the idea of having a cooking demo based around herbs, fruit and veggies that were in season. We created four events, and each featured a specific group of fruits, herbs and veggies. Our chef created recipes around these items, and then he demonstrated in front of our group how to make them. He handed out the recipes at the end of the demo. Prior to the cooking demo, we had an expert from Caan’s explain the care and uses of the featured produce.
We learned that people are really interested in growing edibles and cooking with them. We saw all age ranges take part in these demos. In the future, we would have our chef do much simpler recipes and things that people could use every day. Our chef specialized in grommet (gourmet) foods and I don’t think they were as practical as people would have liked them to be. Customers love the demos and they love the tips on how to care for the plants. They like knowing that we can empower them to take a small plant, make it grow and then create a delicious meal out of their hard work.
1. Make sure you sell the majority of the products that are in the recipes your chef is making.
2. Make sure the chef allows people to try the food and ask questions.
3. Use unique but practical recipes that don’t make it too hard for the customer to dive into. In fact, I would consider having a beginner cooking demo and an advanced cooking demo. See what option works for your customers.
-Justin Illig, Caan Floral & Greenhouses

Help Employees Know Their Plants Better

During less busy times, we have employees show their co-workers their favorite plants. It helps promote cross-training. Another thing we do is put plants in the lunch room. All employees have to learn them, and I go around once a week and question each employee about the plants, such as which fertilizers go with them and how they differ from other plants. For each correct answer, we award prizes, from popsicles to plants such as shrubs, perennials and tropicals.
-Erma Rhadigan, Ray Wiegand’s Nursery

Get Customer Feedback On What You Should Buy

One way to reduce your odds of significant markdowns and clearance sales and carrying inventory from year to year is to hedge your bets by finding out more about your customers and what they want. Twice a year, we hold a focus group with customers who spend a certain amount of money. We provide food and drink and ask for their input. Then we hold another with people who have the highest open rates in our eNewsletter. We usually invite 50 and get around 20 attendees.
In additional to the food and refreshments, attendees receive a $10 gift certificate, something from the gift boutique or a plant. The key to the focus groups is serving good refreshments first. This is a thank you for supporting us and sharing their thoughts. Topics for the focus groups are drawn from in-store surveys collected during classes or events, or sometimes from a response from someone who took an E-survey.
The staff takes part in the focus groups, as well. We want them to be able to hear what customers think. Employees know the top questions we want answered and they work the room. It turns the event into a meet and mingle and we get great feedback. At least once a year, Countryside Gardens also does an eMail survey of its customer list, and gathers valuable ideas that translate into sales. Constant Contact, our eNewsletter provider, helps out with pre-written survey questions to choose from.
-Tish Llaneza, Countryside Gardens

Square foot gardening class at The Natural GardenerHold Classes In The Demo Garden

The Natural Gardener separates its demonstration and display gardens. In the demo gardens, we hold classes with actual, in-ground gardening taking place, like this square-foot gardening class.
-John Dromgoole, The Natural Gardener

Assign A Chief Happiness Officer

The Wreath Factory has created a rotating staff position of Chief Happiness Officer. Every week, a different employee’s assignment is to do something fun to make the staff happy. Maybe it’s bringing in home-baked cookies. One employee drew cartoons for the staff. If the employee has a few dollars in expenses, we’re happy to help cover them.
The employees have really taken to the idea, and since everyone gets a turn, they try to make sure they’re doing something their coworkers will enjoy, It’s just something little that makes the day a little more fun for the staff and that really comes across to the customers. They can tell we’re having a good time.
-Tina Nohl, Wreath Factory

Guerilla Marketing Tactics Attracts New Customers

Josh Roggenbuck was looking for a way to increase sales for The Flower Farm’s floral department on Valentine’s Day this year. He realized his best opportunity was probably among people who weren’t already regular customers, and weren’t necessarily even thinking of buying flowers for the holiday. His solution came straight from the McDonald’s drive-through: a Valentine’s Day Flower Value Menu.
Roggenbuck printed flyers with a menu offering eight simple options from roses to orchids, all with affordable price points. The genius of the idea, however, was in the marketing. He took the flyers directly to his target audience: men.
“We put the menus up in factories, machine shops, and large farms. We try to get them posted in bathrooms above the men’s urinals if we can,” Roggenbuck says. “There is especially a great response for people who do not buy flowers on a regular basis and are not sure about their options of their budgets.”
The program was a big success in February, and The Flower Farm also made flower/gift menus for Sweetest Day and Administrative Professionals Day.

Bordine tree height signProvide A Visual For How Tall Trees Will Grow

Bordine’s has two signs that are set at 20 feet high. Each one gives a tangible idea of what a tree taller or shorter than 20 feet will look like.
-Cory Bordine, Bordine’s

Donate Produce To The Zoo

Everyday we cull produce that is no longer sellable. We work hard to make sure our produce is the freshest in town, so even the culls are in good shape. The zookeepers come by several times a week to pick up what we cull. The Little Rock Zoo even had a contest where participants took photos of the animals enjoying the produce, and the best photo won a prize. We benefited by getting a bunch of wonderful photos to post on our Facebook page.
-Gregg Curtis and Jennifer Gibson, The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, Ark.

Get Employee Buy In On Ideas Gathered During Roadtrips

Ideas gathered during show season can be overwhelming to sort through. We create focus groups of employees to hash out all the ideas and figure out what to implement.
-Nancy DeBrule-Clemente, Natureworks, Northford, Conn.

Invite The Rock Fairy To Visit

When families come in the store, we tell them about “the Rock Fairy,” who has left polished stones, marbles, pieces of gold (iron pyrite) and tiny plastic animal figures hidden through the store for the kids to find. At check out, we allow kids to keep only five. It’s surprising how many kids nag the parents to bring them back. In the end we’re trying to keep the kids busy while Mom and Dad shop. Unpestered parents spend more.
-Matthew Huff, Hawthorne Gardens, Hawthorne Woods, Ill.

Compost Your Food Waste

Collection and composting are not that difficult. We have bins devoted to compost along with our recycling and rubbish bins. All food waste, compostable to-go containers, napkins, flatware and glassware go into the compost bin. Compost bins are returned to our farm each day when new arrivals of plants and food are delivered. Most of our waste is compostable, with some waste (glass, metal, and plastic) recycled and very little rubbish.
-Scott Endres, Tangletown Gardens, Minneapolis, Minn.

Test Employees To Make Sure They’re In The Right Job

We’ve found a method that takes some of the guesswork out of the hiring process. We do something called personality profiling. Potential employees fill out a 15 question online survey. It will give me a 12-page document on their personality. The intent is to make sure the candidate has the right personality traits for the job he’s trying to fill. The service identifies four basic personality types and assigns each a color for easy reference. Red is command and control (a CEO-type), yellow is communication (good sales managers), blue is detail oriented (that’s your buyer), and green is creative (an artist).
Once you understand those colors, we’re much less likely to put someone in the wrong position, put somebody who is yellow in a buyer position, for example. The reports are shared with the whole team. Not only does everyone understand their coworkers a little better, but it’s helped with communication, too.
Someone can come up to me and say, ‘Gavin, could you be a little less red? You’re walking all over me.’ And that’s such a non-threatening way to talk, it’s become part of our culture now.
I wondered how accurate these test were at first. When I first read mine, it was only 50% right. But then I did my seven key people and theirs were 99% right, so I had to go back and reread mine. I figured it must be right after all.
-Gavin Herbert, Jr., Roger’s Gardens 

Milaeger's WinesOffer A Wine Service With Your Floral Deliveries

Our wine delivery service is used mainly during the holidays. We get a fair amount of requests around Valentine’s Day to have wine delivered with flowers or chocolate, or all three together. It makes a nice romantic add-on to the sale. We only charge for the wine with a minor charge to dress it up. For example, for a typical $12 bottle, we would up to $15. Our standard delivery charge would apply for the wine and the flowers. There is no upcharge for delivery of wine.
Our delivery area is generally within 20 miles, although that does expand during the holidays. We do see a good increase for Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well. Customers will often send wine with a table centerpiece to out-of-town family members who cannot return home for the holidays.
Promoting this service is a little difficult as the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) laws in our state prohibit advertising of alcoholic beverages over the major forms of medium like radio, TV and some press. We promote through our preferred gardeners list, gift basket advertising and website. We also are very careful to ask and verify the person ordering is over 21 years of age, as well as the person receiving the wine at the door. If there is any question, we will ask for proper ID and will not leave the item with a minor or on the porch. A report sheet is signed at the time of delivery and these sheets are sent in to ABC at the end of each month. The paperwork is not difficult once you get into the routine.
We have been asked in the past to deliver bottles of wine at the holidays to radio and TV stations and distribute them to employees’ desks through the entire station. It has become a good niche, but you need a regular wine following to make it work. Otherwise, the license would make it too expensive to be worthwhile. We have in-house wine tastings every other Friday except during the summer months. This has really developed our wine business. Any further questions please give me a call.
-Mark Landa, Boulevard Flower Gardens

Leave a Reply

5 comments on “Our Favorite Garden Retail Ideas To Steal

  1. Thank you Carol and everybody on the staff of Today’s garden center magazine. We will miss your perspectives and timely advice both in print and on-line.

  2. we are going to miss your magazine. it is always full of great info and ideas to implement. I was really surprised to hear of your changes, and I hope it all works out well for you.

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