Expand Your Garden Center Profits with Gift and Lifestyle Products
Garden Center Gift Leaders
Many top U.S. garden centers are already tapping gift markets to grow their product resources. Armstrong Garden Centers/Pike Nurseries, Calloway’s Nursery, Oakland Nurseries, Petitti Garden Centers and Stein’s Garden & Home are just some of the hundreds of retailers that source at gift markets each year. Additionally, groups like True Value and Ace Hardware often host at-market meetups and events for their members.
Gift and home markets offer opportunities for garden retailers to explore new revenue streams to grow their businesses. With expansive product offerings comes a marketplace scale that can seem daunting even to longtime attendees and users. Luckily, the right planning can set you on an efficient and effective path to success.
Preparing to attend a market begins long before you arrive on campus. First, decide the best season for you to attend. Major national gift markets are held semi-annually in the winter and summer. Winter markets are timed in the post-holiday, pre-growing-season lull, while the summer markets might offer a break in the height of the season and help in your planning for third and fourth quarter sales. Some buyers attend both markets, while others attend one per year depending on their inventory needs, staffing, high season and more.
If gift and lifestyle items are already a part of your product mix, take inventory to see what is selling well. If you are adding gifts, look to other garden centers to see what is selling (retailer profiles in industry publications and social media are some great research tools). Set a budget for your gift category purchases before you head to market so you do not overspend.
Most buying events offer tools to help retailers prepare. Visit the show websites to view exhibitor directories, see events calendars, book travel and get a feel for the market. Many shows produce pre-market guides (like the Atlanta Market Magazine and Las Vegas Market Preview) that distill market information, share stories of industry thought leaders, explore trends, and offer advertisements from exhibiting brands. Follow along on official social media channels for product previews and insider information. Download market apps to use any pre-market tools and have them ready to go when you arrive.
While you are researching, make note of any brands you definitely want to meet in person. Setting appointments with them will ensure that you can meet with the representative for your area. A great relationship with a local sales representative can benefit your business, so you want to be sure to arrange to meet with the person who will service your account.
If the market offers pre-registration, take the steps to do so. Most shows will ask you to produce multiple forms of business identification (resale certificates, tax ID numbers, etc.) to qualify as a buyer. Providing this ahead of market will save you valuable time onsite.
When making your travel plans, be sure to book enough days to fully cover the market, as well as extra time for exploration. Use the market organizer as a resource for booking hotels, flights and parking, as they can provide guaranteed low rates, discounts, and more. An added benefit of booking hotels with Las Vegas Market’s official housing partner is the opportunity to win free hotel nights plus dining and entertainment credits. Do some research on the city to decide where you want to stay. In Atlanta, some buyers choose to stay in the 12,000+ hotel rooms within walking distance of the market, while others prefer to stay near entertainment districts or outside the city. Selecting a hotel on the markets’ free shuttle lines takes the hassle and expense out of commuting to the market center. Regardless of where you stay, be sure to pack a bag or briefcase to bring home materials and some comfortable shoes because you will do a lot of walking.
The energy at a gift market is like none other — and for good reason. These semiannual markets are the opportunity for the industry to come together again for discovery, education and celebration.
As soon as you arrive and get checked in, orient yourself to source the product you need. Signage, buyers’ guides and market apps will help you identify where different types of product and exhibitors are located. Many shows offer brands in permanent showroom spaces (much like a shopping mall) or temporary booths (like in a typical trade show). Both offer great exploration opportunities. Also, identify locations for food and amenities so you can take a break when you need it. Take advantage of the buyer services teams at the markets to help you navigate. Atlanta Market and Las Vegas Market’s new buyer orientations and tours help first-time attendees to get a lay of the land.
Come prepared to meet with brands to make the most of your appointments. Be ready to tell your story: describe your store and customers, name brands that you carry, and why you want to add gift products. Asking a few key questions will ensure that the brand can meet your needs: “What is in stock now?”, “What are the immediate and future ship dates?”, “What is ‘on time’ delivery?”, “What are your terms?” and “Do you offer show specials?” These conversations can help you avoid spending too much valuable market time with brands that are not a good fit for your business.
While appointments are key to success, discovery is what makes a market so valuable. Walk floors in gift, outdoor living and holiday categories, as well as décor and furnishings sections, to find brands you may not know. Market is a sensory experience where you can see, touch, taste and smell products. Find inspiration for displays, new revenue streams and more by taking the time to take it all in. After market, you will go back to your store with fresh eyes and ideas.
Beyond the product exploration, plan for some fun by attending educational programming and events. Spot a celebrity tastemaker talking about their craft, learn new techniques in a cooking demonstration and expand your business knowledge with free courses on a variety of topics. Network with fellow retailers at happy hours and celebrations presented by the market organizers and brands. The connections made at market are invaluable, so connect with other attendees wherever you go.
Adding gift and lifestyle products can be a major boost to your garden center. With some planning, you can optimize your sourcing to maximize your bottom line.