Expert tells garden centres to look to USA rather than royalty

Consultant offers advice on boosting sales during royal wedding and Queen's diamond jubilee.

British cynicism blamed for disinterest in garden centres - image: FSUK
British cynicism blamed for disinterest in garden centres - image: FSUK

Garden centres should not run royal promotions but instead look to the USA for inspiration on how to support sales, says retail consultant Neville Stein.

With the royal wedding coming up on 29 April and the Queen's diamond jubilee in June 2012, Stein warned against dedicated promotional themes, saying individual branded plants could work better.

"I don't think we do this very well because we are cynical. If we were to have a party at a garden centre for the diamond jubilee, a lot of British people would be suspicious," he suggested.

"I don't think garden centres capitalise on events very well. Promotions in the USA are much more sophisticated, with dedicated events marketing people basing a centre's whole strategy around events," he added.

As an example, Stein cited Wilson Farm Shop in Lexington, Massachusetts, which offers a "hot ticket" giving a free gourmet meal to loyal customers, supported by suppliers.

He said Wilson staff also post results of local baseball team the Boston Red Sox at the centre, although declaring your centre "sport-free" or a "chill-out zone" could work too, he added. However, saying your centre is a royal weddingor jubilee-free zone is "dangerous", he warned.

In the UK, retail consultant John Connel said the Eden Project's Big Lunch street parties around the diamond jubilee in 2012 was a "great opportunity for garden centres to play a proactive role in supporting their communities" (HW, 15 April).

Industry expectations

"I think garden centres do promotions well. Stewarts will be screening the royal wedding in its coffee shop and Coolings will be holding a wedding breakfast, but some don't think it will be a heavy-duty shopping day because most people will be watching TV."

Gillie Westwood, chief executive, garden centre association

"Any credible opportunity to engage the customer is worth putting effort into. But our view is that many people will be glued to the TV for the wedding and as we are only 30km from central London, a large number will travel in to catch a glimpse and it will not be a huge day for us."

Gary Carvosso, managing director, Coolings

Sixty garden centres submitted sales figures that show March was up by
21 per cent on 2010 and the year to date was up by 26 per cent

Section March 2011 Year to date
Outdoor plants U 42% U 51%
Gifts N 2% U 10%
Hard landscaping U 38% U 41%
Food/farm shop U 9% U 19%
Clothing U 22% U 20%
Seeds and bulbs U 18% U 27%
Houseplants N 11% U 5%
Pets and aquatics U 18% U 14%
Catering U 12% U 21%

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