Blending Trends Into Your Store By Susan Ward

The Internet, gardening magazines and customers themselves are your best resources for trend information. Tap into them to align your offerings with the hot products that consumers are searching for.

This past summer, I attended a community class called “How to spot and buy gardening trends.” Going into the class, I knew I had the basic knowledge about what is and isn’t trendy, and I assumed I could figure out how to buy it, but was I ever wrong. Knowing what is trendy and buying what is trendy are two different things.

My garden is, for the most part, classic. I have alwaysstuck with the standard annuals, perennials and shrubs and have never venturedmuch into the trends of gardening. I have never been the type of person whobuys something just because everyone else thinks I should. I buy what I likeand stick to it. However, within the past year, my husband has taken on a moreactive role in our landscaping and has encouraged me to step outside of mygardening comfort zone and experiment a little bit. With a promise that wecould set a bit more money aside for landscaping, I went in search of thehottest trends.

My problem with spotting and buying gardening trends beganwhen I took the community class and asked my brother to help me out. Mybrother, Jacob, has a wonderful independent garden center that he has owned andoperated for nearly seven years. I knew he would be a great resource. What Ifound out was that he, a garden center owner, wasn’t quite the resource Ihad expected him to be. He knew the trends and used some of them in his ownyard, but did not sell a large variety of the new gardening plants or gadgets.Jacob’s store couldn’t help me out, but I knew a garden center somewhere had what I was looking for. Telling him I was going to another store stopped him dead in his tracks. Jacob did not want customers like me to walk out of his store without finding what they were looking for, so together he and I were on a mission to find the trendy products and get him selling them.  

Looking For Trends

We began by making a plan of action, dividing the work andsearching. First, we needed to find out what was out there. We had to know whattrends people were buying into and where they were buying the products.Secondly, we had to make sure that the information we found was accurate. Mybrother was potentially buying thousands of dollars in stock that either couldbe flying out his doors or sitting on his shelves, so accuracy was a necessity.We found the best resources to be the Internet, garden magazines and simplytalking to customers.

Not only is information on the Internet abundant, but usingthis communication medium is a great way to direct traffic to your store. Jacobdecided to create a web site for his garden center, something he had wanted todo for months. We realized that 51 percent of households have computers andthat the Internet would be a great advertising tool for his garden center. Withregard to trends, my brother is going to direct his customers to the store Website where they can learn about the new things that are available and how hisstore is selling them.

Gardening magazines were also a plus. We found beneficialinformation about the latest in gardening and discovered that nearly 49 percentof Jacob’s customers have subscriptions to these same magazines. If theyread about a trend and cannot find it in my brother’s store, they will goelsewhere to buy it.

Applying the Information

We had found where to get our reliable information, now wehad to go out there and get it. The trends we heard about most often were waterfeature gardening, year-round gardening, groundcover use, foliage emphasis andcontainer planting. My brother had supplies in all these areas but wanted toexpand his stock for added variety. During this trend-seeking time, I was stillpersonally trying to decide what I wanted to implement in my own landscaping.My husband, Dan, really liked the idea of using more groundcover. I appreciatedÁ his enthusiasm in wanting to make our yard aesthetically pleasing, butI saw right through him and knew he just wanted less yard to mow.

At the same time I extinguished my husband’s fireabout groundcover, I had a great advertising idea for Jacob’s store.Jacob should pick one or two gardening trends each season and highlight them inhis store. And with that simple idea, he started a new promotion.

Every four months, Jacob chooses a new trend, buys theappropriate stock and pushes the sales. His latest spotlight is on containergardening. He designated a section toward the front of the store and placedappropriate products in the display. He has a large selection of containers,slow-release fertilizers, irrigation products and various hard goods. He alsohas container recipe cards with foolproof ways to create your own container planting;however, this marketing idea would never have gotten off the ground if hisstaff did not have a basic knowledge of what they sell. So, a kick-off meetingwas set up weeks in advance of the new trend unveiling for training purposes.Jacob met with the staff and loaded them with information. This new marketingtool proved explosive. Sales were up and consumers were raving about it.

Getting Feedback

When consumers were asked why they liked the new promotionso much, they quite often remarked that the store gave them ideas and providedthem with the tools to get those ideas into their landscapes. To dig a littledeeper, Jacob asked his customers why they had chosen his independent storeover the convenient chain. Sixty-four percent of his consumers claimed thatquality and selection were the main draws to his store. One customer said,”If all those plants were grouped together in the store, I would tend tobuy probably even more than I could afford.”

Jacob has also used his newly designed Web site as part ofhis trend spotlight. He has a computer set-up at the trend display and his Website is always up. Customers can browse the site, get ideas and print outcoupons. It allows them to receive information about the displayed trend aswell as promote my brother’s site.

I have found that I cannot resist buying trendy items fromhis display, either. As I mentioned earlier, knowing trends and buying trendsare two different things. I found out what was trendy but could not find theproducts to buy. Stores simply do not offer a large variety when it comes totrendy products. Of course, my brother runs the risk of buying products thatwill not sell, but if his recent sales are any indication, he’s doingjust fine.

I finally decided to go with a little bit of everything inmy “new” yard. I picked up some container planting ideas fromJacob’s store, decided water gardening might be fun and let my husbandplant some groundcover. Not only does our yard look new and fresh, but Dan canspend a little less time mowing.  

I had only planned on a few new trends in my yard, but agreat display and an impulse buy changed my whole landscape. In my nextarticle, I will be looking at how the garden center can sell just a little bitmore by appealing to impulse buying.



Susan Ward

Susan Ward is an eighth-grade science teacher and experienced gardener in the suburbs of Chicago. She may be reached at gardenersue@excite.com.



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