Speaking at Contact 2011, Scotsdales outdoor plants manager Jonathan Savage said garden centres need to be a one-stop shop for consumers and staff must offer garden design solutions.
"None of us view the forthcoming season with rose-tinted spectacles and the last season for us at Scotsdales has been a real eye-opener - as trade has become different we have really been forced out of our comfort zone," he told HTA members at the conference.
"Customers don't understand the value of a well-designed garden and they don't want to pay a garden designer, but if we equip ourselves with knowledge, our customers will welcome the complete design solution from us."
He highlighted the importance of good customer service and said garden centre staff must "grasp the concept that we are a retail store that sells plants" and always put the customer first.
He added: "I don't think that customers have ever had as much information available to them ever. We have to gear ourselves up to the challenges that present themselves in this age of the internet and we ignore technology at our peril."
He said close collaboration throughout the supply chain was vital for success in the coming year. "I hope if we can listen to our customers and work more closely with our growers we can improve our profitability - we have to be seen to know more than our customers."