John Stanley says change essential to beat retail 'crisis'

Global garden retail guru John Stanley of John Stanley Associates has told garden centres "it's time for change" if they want to survive and thrive into the future.

John Stanley tells Glee seminar attendees, it's time for change - image: John Stanley Associates
John Stanley tells Glee seminar attendees, it's time for change - image: John Stanley Associates

Launching his new White Paper, Vision 2020: The Independent Garden Centre Industry, the Challenges and Opportunities in the next decade, to an audience of around 150 garden trade buyers and suppliers on the second day of Glee, Stanley urged retailers to reject conventional thinking and seize the challenges of what he dubbed the ‘Interactive Era’.

"Changing consumer profiles, habits and expectations, the penetration of new retailers, pressure on the environment and the social media revolution are all placing new challenges on today’s garden retailers," Stanley said. 

"It’s vital to have a strategy for the future – but conventional planning is not going to work. The consumer is harder to capture, understand and predict than ever before.

"To safeguard their businesses for the future retailers need to act on integrating their traditional marketing strategy with social media marketing, improving their customer service, and communicating with the relevant communities," he added.

"The increase in shoppers doing price comparisons, a marked decline in consumer trust of retailers, increased consumer expectations and the increase in on-line sales are all key issues to be addressed," he added. 

"It’s exciting but also challenging to be in retail at the moment. Some people say that retailing is having a crisis.  But we should be seeing it as an opportunity.  The key is to decide how you can ‘add value’ at your garden centre."

John Stanley also predicted that garden centres would see ‘clicks-led’ sales account for 40 per cent of business within two years – leaving ‘bricks-led’ sales accounting for only 40 per cent. 

"If you’re not in clicks you have it do it quickly: it’s your future," he said.  

Other areas of opportunity cited included setting up pop-up garden centres in shopping malls; embracing QR codes and introducing smart phone apps; creating an inspirational children’s gardening ‘world’; introducing a ‘Grab & Go’ service allowing consumers to buy on-line and collect in-store; and adding profit by offering designated high added-value products, premium priced.  

He said: "You’ve got to ask yourself: are you going to outsell or out-teach the competition? At garden centres we need to out-teach anyone in the market place. We need to replace the sales people of old with ‘day makers’ who will delight and surprise with their exceptional customer care.  Take people on a retail brand journey that’s memorable, consistent and unique and you’ll be fitter for the future."

The Vision 2020 White Paper was written by John Stanley in conjunction with Malcolm Scott of Malcolm Scott Consultants, and Australian horticultural expert Trevor Cochrane.  Detailing their vision for independent garden centres in the next decade, the White Paper is available to purchase via John’s website    

The next Glee exhibition is from 17th September –19th September 2012.

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