November/December 2018
A Special Experience By Abby Kleckler

When I visited my parents’ house recently, I came across some food and water bowls that I had painted for my cat nearly 20 years ago when I first got her. The bowls were in the basement as my parents have since upgraded, but Ginger the cat is still alive and well.

These bowls were created at Glazed Expressions, a paint-your-own pottery place that took the large majority of my babysitting money back in the day. My friend Olivia and I would frequent there all the time, making dishes, vases, holiday decorations, figurines and everything else you could imagine.

Why were we obsessed? There was a joy in getting to pick out exactly what you want, make it your own — even though I had no artistic talent — and then get to enjoy the finished product.

Our 2018 Merchandiser of the Year crafted an experience that had these same components. Distinctive Gardens in Dixon, Illinois, got their team together in the dead of winter to essentially play with succulents, tillandsia and nontraditional materials to make things that could be sold at retail.

They then built out a “U-Create” concept in their garden shop where customers could have a similar — yet simpler — interactive experience. The initial idea had adults in mind, but once it was executed, the kids came flooding in with their parents as well. Flip to page 22 to read all about the displays that helped succulent sales skyrocket.

Don’t think retail experiences are just for the young ones though. In October at AmericanHort meetings, they took a group of us to The Kitchen in Columbus, Ohio. This participatory dining experience had the 50 or so of us broken up into groups to cook a part of the meal. One team took on cocktails, another an appetizer and still others handled the salad, entrée and dessert.

We then all sat down to indulge in what we had just made. Throughout the evening, I heard a few garden center owners who were present say, “We need to find a way to do something like this in our store.”

More and more people are coming into brick and mortars for the experience, which is not always in the form of an event or workshop, but it can simply be changing the way people interact with your products.

an exciting recognition

While our panel of judges was awarding Distinctive Gardens the 2018 Merchandiser of the Year, a panel of judges was choosing Lawn & Garden Retailer for an award as well.

In October, we were recognized with the 2018 Eddie Award for Best Single Issue by Folio: magazine, the magazine for publishing professionals. There were more than 2,500 entries for the Eddie & Ozzie Awards, along with six finalists in our category, and Lawn & Garden Retailer’s March 2018 issue came out on top.

This might feel a little like déjà vu, but that is because we were privileged enough to win the same award two years in a row. We are very grateful and honored!



Abby Kleckler

Abby is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected]





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