Blending Trends Into Your Store

January 2, 2002 - 06:49

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 always
stuck with the standard annuals, perennials and shrubs and have never ventured
much into the trends of gardening. I have never been the type of person who
buys something just because everyone else thinks I should. I buy what I like
and stick to it. However, within the past year, my husband has taken on a more
active role in our landscaping and has encouraged me to step outside of my
gardening comfort zone and experiment a little bit. With a promise that we
could set a bit more money aside for landscaping, I went in search of the
hottest trends. 

My problem with spotting and buying gardening trends began
when I took the community class and asked my brother to help me out. My
brother, Jacob, has a wonderful independent garden center that he has owned and
operated for nearly seven years. I knew he would be a great resource. What I
found out was that he, a garden center owner, wasn’t quite the resource I
had expected him to be. He knew the trends and used some of them in his own
yard, 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. style="mso-spacerun: yes">   

Looking For Trends

We began by making a plan of action, dividing the work and
searching. First, we needed to find out what was out there. We had to know what
trends people were buying into and where they were buying the products.
Secondly, we had to make sure that the information we found was accurate. My
brother was potentially buying thousands of dollars in stock that either could
be 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 simply
talking to customers. 

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

Gardening magazines were also a plus. We found beneficial
information about the latest in gardening and discovered that nearly 49 percent
of Jacob’s customers have subscriptions to these same magazines. If they
read about a trend and cannot find it in my brother’s store, they will go
elsewhere to buy it.

Applying the Information

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

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

Every four months, Jacob chooses a new trend, buys the
appropriate stock and pushes the sales. His latest spotlight is on container
gardening. He designated a section toward the front of the store and placed
appropriate products in the display. He has a large selection of containers,
slow-release fertilizers, irrigation products and various hard goods. He also
has container recipe cards with foolproof ways to create your own container planting;
however, this marketing idea would never have gotten off the ground if his
staff did not have a basic knowledge of what they sell. So, a kick-off meeting
was 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 marketing
tool proved explosive. Sales were up and consumers were raving about it. style="mso-spacerun: yes"> 

Getting Feedback

When consumers were asked why they liked the new promotion
so much, they quite often remarked that the store gave them ideas and provided
them with the tools to get those ideas into their landscapes. To dig a little
deeper, Jacob asked his customers why they had chosen his independent store
over the convenient chain. Sixty-four percent of his consumers claimed that
quality 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 to
buy probably even more than I could afford.” 

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

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

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

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

About The Author

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

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