The Magic Of Makeovers

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The Magic Of Makeovers

Bachman’s new “Wink” gift section is geared toward women aged 35 to 50.

“Makeover” – that word is now being heard among garden centers across the country.

And for a wide variety of reasons.

Those engaged in major makeovers – like Bachman’s and Stauffers – have chosen that word to best describe what it is that they have undertaken.

As other garden centers pick up on it, it seems destined to become one of the most frequently used new terms in this industry.

The Dawn Of An Era

Have we entered the era of the makeover? It is certain that many more garden centers will recognize a need to change how they present themselves to their marketplace.

What is going on is all part of the revolution in garden retailing that has been identified and featured by this publication.

The recognition of the pressing need for operators to change has been fueled by the recent findings of marketing research organizations. Their industry-wide studies conclude that there are significantly altered attitudes about home and garden activities. This has caused nothing less than an upheaval in the thinking and planning of retailers.

This is particularly true of garden centers that had continued to do well after dozens of years of operation. Some of them have felt the need to undertake their own research to understand how customers and would-be customers were thinking about their firm, its merchandise, the ambiance of the stores and a host of other variables.

A New Identity 

Stauffers’ received positive feedback from customers on the store’s new look.

Both Bachman’s, with seven stores in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, and Stauffers, with six stores in southeastern Pennsylvania, held back nothing during our extended, probing interviews this past summer.

Thanks to Paul Bachman, vice-president of marketing at Bachman’s, and Jere Stauffer, vice-president at Stauffers (firm’s full name is Stauffers of Kissel Hill) – our readers have the opportunity to review an analysis of the top makeover changes involved in those two properties.

The table on lists the 20 elements most involved in a makeover program. You will note that all but two of them were dealt with by one or both of these chains. For five of the variables you will find the change involved was indicated as either “minor” or “major.”

This table of 20 items underscores the point that only changing a logo or the company colors does not constitute a makeover. However, never underestimate the importance of a fresh, new logo and its accompanying colors. This truth is demonstrated if you access the Stauffers Web site. The graphic elements, particularly in contrast with the previous scheme, are compelling and communicate a fair amount about the firm and the shopping experience.

In the Stauffers project, the graphic design elements were carried over to, or adapted for, all these elements:

•   Store fronts
•   Signage – indoors and outdoors
•   Vehicles
•   Uniforms
•   Advertising
•   Newsletters
•   Website

No two garden centers have the same set of circumstances to deal with when they do their research nor when they contemplate solutions. For example, three of the six Stauffers garden centers are connected to their own supermarkets. The makeover concentrates on the garden center end of the business.

Stauffer comments: “An uncommon component of the makeover at Stauffers is the property’s fencing. It is very utilitarian and worn – quite out of character with the new overall look of the upgrades.”

The situation at Bachman’s is probably unique. In 2004 its research involved only the garden center part of the operation – indoors and outdoors. There was a high degree of customer satisfaction with every aspect of the garden center operation in all of the stores.

“It was a different story in 2005 when the consumer research focused on the other sections of the stores – primarily gifts and floral,” observes Bachman. “There was a feeling that we had fallen behind the times,
for example. For a very long time, we had used solid purple as a key element in our identity system. It had worked well for us but it was no longer fresh and certainly not new. We have found ways to put it in stripes, combined with other contemporary colors. It’s working fine on vehicles, uniforms, printed materials and, most notably, in the packaging materials used with floral arrangements.”

Those considering a makeover should follow Bachman’s lead when it comes to product offerings. There has been a major revamp in its floral arrangements: the selection of flowers used, how they are arranged and how they are packaged.

Doing The Research

Bachman’s pre-makeover research revealed two shortcomings they treated as opportunities and have already made into successes. Although the Bachman’s chain had been long involved in gift goods, survey respondents expressed a desire for merchandise that could be given to children. In mid-September, Bachman reported they are very pleased with the performance of that new section of the store, an area of about 500 square feet.

So it was with another category of goods. Women in the 35 to 50 age group indicated there was this void: gifts that a woman in that age group could give to another woman in the same age range. Commonly referred to as “girlfriend gifts,” they became the basis for a whole new department. This became an ambitious undertaking that included the conversion of existing space to an area that has its own kind of zing – in colors, wall treatments, fixturing and signage.

To help distinguish this department from all others, the department was given a name: “Wink.” Paul Bachman tells us the Wink section, like the children’s area, is “a bright new success story for us.”

At Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Stauffer reports on the implementation of the identity elements of their makeover program: “The feedback from customers is very positive. Employees like what has been done so far. They tell us the new signage system is helping ‘liven up’ our merchandising efforts. At the same time, shoppers are finding their way more easily.”

He notes, “Other garden center operators who get involved in a makeover project must realize that some aspects of it can’t be accomplished overnight. The conversion of our store fixturing will take us at least two years to complete. A similar timetable applies to the changeover of our store fronts and the replacement of fencing.”

It is obvious that everything involved in a makeover project should contribute to the strength of a garden center’s brand image. In this article those two words, “brand” and “image” have been avoided. Too few garden centers think of their store name as being a brand name “image.” On the other hand, it has become such a loosely used term that it is now almost meaningless.

Bob LaRue is owner of LaRue Marketing Consultants in Pompano Beach, Fla. He specializes in the marketing and merchandising of lawn and garden and DIY products.

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