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opinion kevin waters GARDEN RETAIL CONSULTANT


A quote I read on Twitter from the recent HTA Catering Conference said, “You can’t buy coffee and cakes on the internet!” That, of


course, is very true – but it should not be translated to mean that the only reason people are visiting our garden centres is to drink coffee and eat cakes, rather they are visiting for the experience of eating and drinking in a wonderful environment. If the rest of the centre is not offering anything in the way of an experience then it will, quite rightly, be ignored. Another comment I


I suspect the majority of garden centre "Customers need to be


given a reason why they should buy rather than


frequently hear is that ‘grow your own’ is on the decline as people are realising that it is hard work, fraught with problems and also that it actually is cheaper to pick up some fruit and vegetables in the supermarket (as well it is). Equally, it is also cheaper and not very taxing to drink coffee and eat cakes at home. Offering the experience in the plant area should be as natural as offering the experience in the restaurant.


simply be presented with a list of what they need and how to do it"


staff view growing potatoes in a bag, for example, as an expensive way of fi lling the larder (and it is) but the reality is that cheap potatoes are not what they are buying. They are buying the experience. For a relatively minimal investment they are buying 10 or 12 weeks of fun and anticipation, it may be that for the fi rst time in their lives they will put something on the Sunday dinner plates that they have grown themselves. Even something as mundane as frost protection can become interesting – watching the weather forecast with the kids to decide whether the potatoes need to go under some protection for the night. Customers need


to be given a reason why they should buy rather than simply be presented with a list of what they need and


how to do it. This could so easily be linked with the success of our restaurants by highlighting plants that are being used in the recipes whether they be fruits, vegetables or herbs. A living wall of herbs in the restaurant or


cafe fi lled with rosemary, chives, basil and other common ingredients would quickly highlight how quickly and easily they could create something that would give them a constant supply for their home cooking and barbecues. Alternatively, if the soup of the day is


tomato and basil then basil plants could be put out on the tables with a brief explanatory label and a note as to where they can be found and how they are used at home. The chefs could also be encouraged to venture out into the seating area to cut fresh herbs to take back into kitchens which would


20 APRIL 2014 / GARDEN CENTRE RETAIL


create interest, highlight the freshness of products used in the kitchens and indicate how easy it is to use fresh produce. Most garden centres stock great product


lines such as the James Wong ‘Homegrown Revolution’ range of seeds which, in my view, is one of the most innovative and inspirational ranges available yet inevitably displayed in the most unimaginative and uninspiring way possible, usually crammed between some other monstrous racks because nobody knows anything about them. What would happen if a few Inca berries, cucamelons or tomatillos were available in the restaurant either raw or in recipes for customers to try and this was linked to the seed range and the book?


" Offering the experience in the plant area should


be as natural as offering the experience in the restaurant"


Simple changes like these could easily


become the equivalent of bringing a mop- top wig home from ‘The Beatles Story’, a memento of the visit, a talking point and something which creates a bond between the garden centre and the customer.


Kevin is an independent garden retail consultant specialising in shop fl oor activities, team motivation and development, product knowledge, display and merchandising and promotional activities.


MORE FROM KEVIN


kevin@thegardenworks.co.uk @GardenWorksKev


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