September/October 2023
It’s all about customer engagement By Teresa McPherson

I’ve just returned from the Garden Center Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The event included a garden retail tour, educational sessions and thought-provoking keynote sessions. As the exclusive media sponsor, Lawn & Garden Retailer hosted a Networking Lounge on the show floor — if you stopped by to say hi, thanks! And mark your calendar for the 2024 show, which is scheduled for Aug. 6-8 in Chicago.

We also presented our Innovator of the Year awards to the winning garden centers at the Networking Reception on Wednesday night.  These awards (which were announced in our August issue) are the result of many months of planning and sorting through entries to identify the 10 most innovative IGCs in the U.S.

Speaking of shows, the AmericanHort team once again organized a winner with Cultivate’23. I hopped on the bus this year for the Garden Retail Traveling Workshop on Saturday, which promised to “turn your IGC into your customers’ third place — their home away from home.” With stops as varied as an outdoor shopping complex, two-story vintage retailer, biophilic design company and plant stall in a trolley-building-turned-market, the tour showed how retailers of varying styles and sizes engage with their local communities by creating gathering spaces. Click here for photos and more details about the stops.

In the same vein, Cassie Flynn, former marketing director at Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses and now owner of Harken Consulting, explains in “How to Engage With New and Returning Customers” how meaningful engagement can help every customer interaction become an opportunity to create connections beyond transactions. “Customers are not merely dollar signs, but humans seeking meaningful connections. By treating them as individuals and showing genuine care, you can establish relationships built on trust and understanding,” she writes. Find the article here.

And finally in this issue, we explore how garden retailers can use email marketing to engage with customers, build brand loyalty and drive sales. Having an email list isn’t enough; retailers need to know how to leverage these lists to maximize the impact of their email marketing. Click here for the article.

Is your garden center a “third place” — or do you want it to be? Tell me about it at [email protected].

Teresa McPherson

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