At the event, independent consultant Grant Davis, formerly of Garden & Leisure, outlined how a management information system could highlight trends and sales patterns.
Davis has been leading a long-running project to use an Epos company to collect data for the HTA. HTA market information manager David Denny introduced the audience to the proposed garden centres sales benchmarking system. The HTA wants retailers to send in Epos data so it has accurate figures on industry sales, in the same way that GCA has a Barometer of Trade.
The benchmarking system enables retailers to upload data onto a web portal and benchmark sales and profit performance against regional and national averages.
The event programme also covered other technologies making an impact in the sector. Terri Jones from Joy of Plants demonstrated how her product provides retailers with plant information and easy to use technologies such as bed card printing, plug in plant information, imagery, and apps.
The conference included a panel session about the benefits and challenges of using electronic point of sale (EPoS) chaired by Davis and featuring Simon Fraser from Ben Reid Garden Centre, Karen Elkington from Ruskington and Belton Garden Centres and Steve Grabham from Willowbrook Garden Centre.
They said that among the benefits cited were the ability to control stock more effectively, greater awareness of pricing and trends and the ability to identify specific categories prone to theft.
This last point resulted in better targeting of problem areas, which in turn leads to an improved margin. EPoS also provides great help to a business as a management tool as gut feels are not always correct. It can also be extremely invaluable in terms of customer interface allowing staff to provide them with instant information about availability.
Jo Hailey from Striking Places provided insight into the services they provide using Google Street View 360 technology. By taking panoramic shots of locations and ‘knitting’ them together, Street View enables businesses to showcase their location and premises. Using the example of Aylett Nurseries, they demonstrated how it is possible to show customers and prospective customers what you have throughout the seasons, giving 24/7 access. Aylett showcases its garden centre through the seasons providing added interest and content to all their communication media such as website and through social media.