The seed category is very important to us at Hillermann Nursery and Florist in Washington, Mo. Grass seed sells extremely well, and our flower and veggie seeds sell year-round. It’s a great category for us.
Bulbs are a category that we have struggled with over the years. Our numbers are not where they used to be. We try hard to include them in landscape designs, maintenance programs, etc. The good news is, after our extremely bad winter last year, our bulbs in the area came up beautifully. Naked Ladies (Lycoris), as well as many others, were abundantly beautiful. That has helped with the fall bulb season this year, but we would like to build them even larger.
We still struggle, but we have used our eMail newsletter to show pictures of flowering bulbs in town and remind everyone how beautiful they are. That has helped tremendously. It is early October, and we have had a hard time on bulb reorders of certain varieties.
Displays Are Prominent And Capture Attention Of Customers
These two categories have prominent spots in our garden center. The displays are very easy to shop. While the size of the two departments is average or equal to our different classes of garden center products, the placement in the store, and the wide room to move around the displays, are what sets them apart. They are front and center.
In addition, we try to use good signage and make sure displays are clean. This not only helps with seed and bulb sales, but with tie-in sales as well.
It has truly become a “slow-down” area for our customers. It grabs their attention and they can’t help but check out what each department has to offer.
Questions Usually Involve When, Where To Plant
When customers are buying bulbs, their main questions are when to plant, where to plant them, what they can plant together and how they should be planted. We have tie-in products in the display (planting drills, soil amendments, plant markers, etc.) to assist them.
On seeds, we have fewer questions because the packaging is very well-defined. If anything, they simply want to know where they can find a particular seed, and when you mention they are in alphabetical order, it makes things easy. We also display planting media, seed starting materials and containers in this area.
Mistakes happen more with bulbs than with seeds. The most common issue with bulbs is when they should be planted. We could sell a ton of bulbs when they are blooming in the spring. We send out reminder cards in late September for those customers who gave us their mailing information in the spring when they asked for them. This helps a lot with sales.
To stay competitive on bulbs, we receive a clean 40 percent margin. Our seed category makes a 50 to 55 percent margin.
We Want Our Seeds To Be Top Of Mind
We try to provide ways for our customers to learn more about our seeds and bulbs. We have printed information for them to take home, and we use Facebook and our eNewsletter for education as well. Communication is the key; we want to stay in their face as much as possible.
Our make-and-take activities have been popular. The customers plant layered bulb gardens in bushel baskets to take home. They usually find it very interesting.
Our marketing efforts include newspaper ads, radio, our eMail newsletter, Facebook, Instagram, a monthly local newspaper article and postcards. We use these efforts year-round, heavily in our busy spring season and again in the bulb and seed season. We try to be as consistent as possible.
Our Vendors Do The Work For Us
We carry several brands of garden seeds, but our best seller is Botanical Interest Seeds. The packaging, graphics, helpful hints and availability are fantastic. We are able to carry these seeds 365 days a year. No other company offers us this service. When my rep comes in at the end of the summer season to pick up our seeds, she automatically puts out seed for 2015. We have had them in stock for about six weeks and she has had to fill in four times already. These will sell well through winter.
We also have a great partnership with our bulb supplier, Stuifbergen. We have a standing order to ship ASAP, and they send us their best sellers. We trust them to put our order together. Their refill warehouse is just across the state, which makes for easy fill-ins.
We would like to have the same type of relationships with other vendors that we have with our seed and bulb vendors.