January 2008
Making Your Wishes Come True By Faith Savage

Yes, it’s true; the Christmas season is behind us (and I hope it was a great season for everyone), but the time for making wishes come true and fulfilling dreams is right in front of us. It’s there and we just have to grab for it to make it a reality.

Now, by “grab for it” I don’t mean just reach out. You really have to focus, go above and beyond what you have always done, to make it happen. You want more customers? More sales from existing customers? You bet! Well, you can make that happen: Just create the vision of what could be, and make it so irresistible that customers can’t ignore the pull. Easier said than done, but it can happen.

Personally, it happened to me this fall when, after 15 years of dreaming about it, I finally went back to Africa for my vacation. What finally inspired me to do it? The images in the brochures I kept getting from a particular travel company. Those images really resonated to my very soul, and they were the vision of Africa that I longed for. Once they got me with the images, they got me for the trip. And it was fabulous! The high point of my trip was holding a five-month-old, 50-pound lion cub in my arms — amazing! This trip delivered on my vision, and I will definitely travel with them on future adventures.

Creating a Vision

How does this translate to your garden centers? Simple. Well, maybe not simple, but definitely doable. You can have that same magical impact on your customers, and you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money creating lavish displays. Don’t get me wrong; great displays are worth their weight in gold for inspiring our customers, but not every garden center can spare the space or dollars to create those awe-inspiring displays. Instead, you can make visual magic by choosing and using some of the great images that are available out there. Use them to create something that will excite and inspire your customers. We all know the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but how about a slight change to “a picture is worth $1,000 in sales”? Now, that’s a phrase that resonates.

Using great images to create great displays is an untapped treasure trove of possibilities. Lifestyle images are best for creating a vision for your customers. They already have it someplace in the back of their minds, you just have to grab hold and pull it up to the front of their brain! They come to your garden center looking for inspiration. They know you have great plants and they know they want to do something to fix up their yard, enhance their environment, make their home more inviting, put the wow factor back into their front entrance or whatever their specific dream is. So help them. Use well-selected images incorporated into meaningful displays. Once you inspire them, make it easy for them to realize the dream.

If you offer landscaping services, great. If not, make sure your staff is trained and ready to help them pull all the pieces of the vision together: annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, grass, fertilizer, soil, trellises and arbors, patio furniture and tools. It might even make sense to have printed copies of the image in your display that has inspired the customer, so they can take it home as a reference while they are putting their “backyard sanctuary” or “garden-party room” together. The easier you make it for them to fulfill the dream, the more likely they are to pursue it.

Displaying the Possibilities

Start with a beautiful image, like a backyard garden (top right), and begin building out your endcap display with the annuals, perennials and shrubs you know would work well in a backyard setting. Add a lawn chair and small side table into the display; choose one with a high comfort-appeal factor as well as a good profit margin. Adding the chair into the endcap display adds another element as well as different height and texture, which always works to make the display more appealing. The image creates the vision, the unique display grabs their attention, and the fabulous plants you’ve added and loaded on the benches behind the display put all the elements together for the customer to achieve the dream. Do you hear your cash register ringing?

You can also use a great image to create a backdrop from which to sell other garden plants, like this beautiful image of the Penny Azure Twilight Viola bed with wisteria vines to echo the color (bottom right). Maybe you don’t sell wisteria, or maybe it doesn’t work in your area, but you are definitely going to sell lots of violas and pansies, and if you can incorporate a large vine such as mandevilla, clematis or a trailing rose that works in your region on a trellis into your display, then you’ll sell them too. The main thing is to echo the colors from the upright element into the pansies and violas in your display so the customer can make the image in your sign a reality in their yard.

Ka-ching! The Sound of Inspiration

Those of us lucky enough to go on the Garden Centers of America Holiday Tour this past November in Boston were treated to dazzling inspirational displays at Churchill’s, Seasons Four, Mahoney’s and other great retailers on the tour stops. Fabulous Christmas trees, wreaths, fireplaces and table settings — all designed to inspire. And boy, did they! I know I bought tons, even though I knew I had to get on a plane and fly home. And why? Because I was so inspired by what I saw that I couldn’t resist. That “grand vision” concept is what we need to carry forward into the spring, summer and fall selling seasons. Yes, yes, I know you sell plenty in the spring, it’s the best selling season, but wouldn’t you enjoy selling even more?

Inspiration to make over the whole garden bed, backyard or front entrance, rather than just a few new pots or containers, is the way to sell more. Using the images with impact is a relatively simple way to take your displays to the next level. They create the vision that your customers will respond to and inspire them to buy more.

Simple, Yet Powerful

Not every image you use needs to be grand. Tuck a few quiet surprises into unexpected corners for your customers to discover. Create nostalgia with family photos neatly arranged with a lovely indoor container of flowers to enhance the setting, and set this image among your indoor flower displays. Let sentiment and memories do the rest to inspire your customer to buy more.

Using pansies and violas in a great fall basket with Halloween candles acts as a similar catalyst for greater fall sales. Well-chosen, well-placed images incorporated into your displays can pay big dividends at the register for very little cost up front. Your customers will want to spend more time in your garden center looking for the surprises you’ve set out for them. And don’t forget some of the best images of all: those that show a family playing, planting, gardening or just having fun in a beautiful backyard. Your customers will get the message loud and clear.

Becoming Irresistible

We are going to be challenged this year. We all know the housing market is dicey, with slow sales, foreclosures and plenty of financial concerns. Customers will be holding their purse strings a little tighter, and we’ll have to work harder than ever for the sales we seek. But the sales are there for the taking if you are willing to work harder and smarter. Better merchandising, better point-of-sale support, better displays and more inspiration to help them realize their vision will resonate so deeply they won’t be able to resist it. They will buy, and buy more! Have a great selling season, and may your wishes come true.



Faith Savage

Faith Savage is retail manager for Goldsmith Seeds. She can be reached at (626) 918-1353 or at [email protected]





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