June 2004
Working the Chain Gain By Editorial

Between Martha Stewart’s legal troubles, striking grocery workers in California and a ruling to block Target from building in an upscale Atlanta suburb, there’s been a lot of backlash about the chain stores in the news lately. Everyone from the federal government to unionized workers to upscale consumers seems to be making a negative statement either about the chains or that will affect the chains.

So what does that mean for us? Can all this chain store backlash actually benefit independent garden centers? Sure, anything’s possible, but if we are going to see some real benefit from the current hostile climate, we’ll have to understand why people shop at the chains and do something to get them into our stores instead.

Taking their customers

Can we? That is, can we really take customers from Wal-Mart and Kroger and all the other chains out there? And if we can, do we want to?

Well, we’d be fools not to want more customers, so I guess we really only have to decide if we can draw in the chain store customers. After all, this is a pretty loyal group of consumers. They tend to shop at the same store and to do so almost every single week (imagine if we could get some of our customers into the garden center every week…heaven). They spend a tremendous amount of money at their store of choice, often purchasing across multiple categories, for example, sporting goods, groceries, clothing and yes, L&G. And when surveyed, the major reasons they list for choosing a store are convenience and value, notice I didn’t say price because these two are not always the same. You know what, for all that we bash the chain stores and their customers, this is a pretty attractive customer profile.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy, set answers to help you target and win over the chain store’s customers. I just wanted to share my realization with you, and that is if it is ever going to be, the time might now be ripe to launch a campaign to land these customers. There are many people out there unhappy with chains right now, whether it be because they don’t want one moving into their neighborhood or they suddenly realize that the chains aren’t so good for hourly employees or what; I don’t know. I just know that the airwaves are full of a lot of chain store angst right now, and this could be your golden opportunity. All you have to do is show those customers that you too are convenient and provide a value and who knows!

Don’t Forget

Since May is the busiest month in most garden centers and you’ll hardly have time to sleep, much less read a magazine, we’ll be taking a break in May and will come back in June to take you through the rest of the summer. Can you believe we’re already talking about the end of summer…my how time flies!


Bridget White, Editorial Director
(847) 391-1004
[email protected]