Covering New Terrain

"If you asked me two years ago if you’re going to be in the garden center business, I’d have said you’re out of your mind," said Glen Senk, Urban Outfitters chief executive officer in a March interview with Women’s Wear Daily.

This month, the clothing retailer is taking the plunge with Terrain, a garden décor concept that is set to debut this month. Read all the details in this month’s "Seven Questions With John Kinsella." The managing director of Terrain, Kinsella says that half of the retailer’s sales should come from plant material.

While half might not sound like much, I think it’s a great business model to investigate for garden retailers. Non-traditional retail outlets like Terrain are new venues into the pocketbooks of consumers, especially those who aren’t gardeners yet. While firm details of product mix and concept are still to be seen, home décor and lifestyle products will no doubt be a draw for non-gardeners.

New types of retail outlets are popping up for consumers who consider themselves urban gardeners, as well. Small plants, small pots and smaller retail outlets were featured in the June 2007 issue of House & Garden magazine.

Sprout Home (www.sprouthome.com) caters to the urban gardener with a modern home décor flair. Susanne Kongoy opened Sprout Home when she couldn’t find the plants she wanted for her own home. GRDN (www.grdnbklyn.com) also caters to the small-space crowd, including those whose gardens can be found on New York City fire escapes. Flora Grubb Gardens (www.floragrubbgardens.com), a new store opening this spring in San Francisco, will focus on plants as well as the work of local artisans.

Finding Disposable Income Where It Hides

I think the best way to make new gardeners is to find disposable income where it lives: Starbucks, the bookstore and the dry cleaners, as one of our readers suggested. It’s not that crazy an idea – Starbucks already sells CDs. And what does music have to do with coffee? Not much. But Starbucks still sold more than 23,000 copies of Paul McCartney’s CD "Memory Almost Full" on its first day of release. All this success, even while competing with iTunes.

I’m not a Starbucksaholic, but I’m constantly amazed at what this business has been able to sell around coffee. I don’t drink coffee, yet I seem to find myself there to buy gifts or meet with friends. It’s a nice place to go, and somehow my wallet opens up when I’m there.

Here at the magazine, we find it’s always best for a few people other than the author to proofread articles before they go to press. We call it a fresh set of eyes – other people bring new perspective to our work and can often spot new ways to improve. When was the last time you looked at the retailers you supply with a fresh set of eyes?

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