As part of our 10% Project: Expanding The Customer Base, we asked focus groups of consumers under 49 years old about their garden shopping habits and attitudes.
The consumers in the study see home improvement or hardware stores as their garden center and many (more than 54 percent) are shopping there. We asked them where they bought most of their plants and gardening related items. Not surprisingly, most said the home improvement or hardware store.
The good news is that half or slightly more said they also went to the locally owned, free-standing garden center. More of the 30- to 49-year-olds cited the traditional garden center as a place where they made purchases in the year prior to the study. The supermarket or grocery store was also a popular destination for plant purchases, as more than half of each age cohort reported having made a plant or gardening-related purchase there in the year prior to the study. Very few made purchases online, from catalogs or elsewhere. These findings are consistent with findings by the National Gardening Association and other recent surveys.
We also asked about reasons why they shopped at home improvement stores.
Convenience was the reason most cited because it was a store they were in often or close to where they lived. They also liked the value proposition at the mass-merchants and saw their price offerings as a better deal. However, they were willing to admit that the quality of the plants and the knowledgeable people at the traditional garden center were reasons that took them there. It just appears to them to be easier and more convenient to go to the supermarket or mass-merchant and get all of their supplies there.
How To Bring Customers To Locally Owned Garden Centers
The industry can counter some of the negatives (convenience and price) with positive messages in communication materials. Many traditional garden centers aren’t any further away than the box store, they just need to give consumers a reason to stop by more frequently. Two initial thoughts on how to encourage more frequent visits are:
1. A frequency loyalty program, which focuses on visits vs. purchases (e.g. after 10 visits, they will receive a free plant or pot.) The findings suggest that if you can get them in the door, they will invariably purchase something. The problem is they think of the garden retailer as a place for big purchase trips vs. one offs/small purchases.
2. Change the perception that garden stores are for big purchases. This could be done by either:
A: An Implementation Strategy: changing some aspects of your store / store environment
* Consider having an express checkout line (two items or less) or a self-service/ bar code swipe
* 15 minute parking places in front
* A call-in /drive-through window if people want to call and place an order
B: Implement a messaging strategy to drive home that you are there for small purchases as well.
* “XYZ Nurseries” for all your big and small needs.”
You can also reinforce the changes you are making in the store:
* “Now with express checkout”
* “15-minute parking so you can get in and out quickly”
In an ideal situation, you will have both a communication strategy (to get them in) and an implementation strategy (to support that message).
Our findings did not suggest that nursery retailers prices were out of line; Rather, respondents didn’t have much knowledge on nursery prices. We didn’t get any sense that comparison shopping was actually going on.
Emphasize that you have products in a range of prices, are willing to work within budgets, and again, are there for big and small purchases. The attributes that respondents valued most from locally owned retailers were quality people and quality products (plants).
Play up these strengths, coupled with money-back guarantees, and that you are there for big and small purchases.