Paul Pleydell, director of Pleydell Smithyman Garden Centre Design & Business Consultants, says: "Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore some of the bold and eyebrow-raising stunts of TV's illusionist Derren Brown.
"I caught part of a recent show in which he manipulated a young female victim into selecting a giraffe soft toy from over 25,000 toys in Hamleys, the famous London toy emporium. The shocking part was that he didn't use hypnosis, trickery or witchcraft. It was done by manipulating the retail environment - using strategically placed giraffe toys, imagery and patterns on walls and staircases that all went unnoticed - a baffling and impressive stunt (assuming it was done on the first take).
"This technique of subtle and sublime influence, without a person realising, is evidently called PWA - 'perception without awareness' - and I'm convinced that it could soon become part of our retail 'tool kit' to maximise sales in garden centres. You can start to imagine subtly placed images, graphics and products that 'lead' towards a desired product or department.
"At this time of year, garden centres also turn to illusion in a bold, glitzy and often expensive way, with large areas dressed and ready for the period of frenzied consumption also known as Christmas. When I was a boy Christmas lasted just one day - now look at it. Derren Brown would perhaps call this perception with awareness, because in every garden centre you cannot fail to see the displays and get the message - 'buy our Christmas products'.
"But what happens after Christmas? Do we all invest the same time and energy into all of our other product departments? Perhaps we should all become illusionists, turning the gardening department into a garden, the bulb area into a Dutch market or just using lighting, colour, sounds and aromas to enhance the retail experience with the objective of increasing sales.
"Creating individual solutions, our team uses a range of retail techniques to increase customer spend, turnover and profit. How soon will PWA and the fine art of illusion become just another technique?
"Enjoy Christmas and join me next time to explore how anxiety can affect your retail success."