Garden centres should look to autumn potatoes and bulbs rather than Christmas, says consultant Roger Crookes

Garden centre consultant Roger Crookes says garden centres could prosper by selling autumn/Christmas potatoes and thinking of new ways to sell bulbs -- but they may ignore core gardening and concentrate too much on Christmas offerings.

Garden Centre Association inspector Crookes said: "I have seen some centres having a go at Christmas/autumn spuds — and they seem to be selling through. It would be good to see more though. The danger is that centres focus on the Christmas displays and marketing — and I am a big fan of Christmas in garden centres — but we can forget that most of those families who come to see 'Santa et al' are still being bombarded by the press with GYO messages and therefore are primed to spend if centres can come up with the right offer."

Garden & Leisure garden centres operations director Carol Paris said: "We have benefited from people staying at home and saving money. The gardening boom has been plant-driven. Grow-your-own is cost-driven by people who want to be self-sufficient. Even though overall costs are not much cheaper you are growing GM-free food that is better for you.

"We need to build on that success through customer service advice to make people successful. If they try GYO and fail they may not try again next year. But I'm nervous about the second half of this year. We have been fortunate that the weather has been in our favour so far. We've committed for Christmas — by last Christmas we'd placed our orders. Half the stock had already arrived by early August. It's not something we can turn on and off. Retail Week has identified Christmas as an issue for retailers. That's a key issue for us now."

Crookes is running a half-day workshop, Increasing the Sales of Autumn Bulbs, on 16 September at Chepstow Garden Centre from 2-5pm.

He said: "Many garden centres have recognised how easily autumn can take second place to Christmas in our priorities and displays. But now, in the light of the return to core gardening seen during spring sales, maybe it is time to look again at how we present bulbs and other autumn products.

"Our aim in this workshop is to re-enthuse ourselves and our staff to find imaginative ways to sell autumn and bulbs to the increasing number of new gardeners."

Issues explored will include:

  • What's happening to core gardening and Bulbs in our centres
  • What are the benefits of bulbs to our customers and our centres
  • Opportunities and ideas
  • Range, authority and linked products
  • Displays: impact, inspire, inform and instil confidence, and impulse.
  • Selling the dream, selling ideas
  • Marketing: key messages and signs
  • Three ways to increase sales

The workshop is aimed at managers and key staff involved in displaying and selling bulbs, and the cost is £25 per person attending, including tea/coffee.

Crookes can be contacted on 07891 285166/029 20864730.


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