Why Merchandising Plants Should Be A Top Priority [Opinion]

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Sell More Plants: The 10% Project

When we were arranging for The 10% Project’s Garden Center Makeover: The Plant Yard at Flowerland, co-owner and CEO Rick Vuyst, visual merchandiser Joe Baer and I had a chat about why we were doing this. The goal was simple: to increase Flowerland’s sales and show other stores how to do the same.

In September, Baer lead a group of garden retailers in making over seven key areas of Flowerland in Grand Rapids, Mich. The 10% Project makeover affected three departments overall — nursery, seasonal (mums, bulbs and statuary) and pottery — and it created significant sales and profit increases.
Read more about the before and after in our cover story starting on page 12.

It’s Not A Trivial Practice

Merchandising plants is a topic not taken seriously by our industry. Most recognize the need for strong display designs in the gift department. It’s hard to imagine candles, necklaces and holiday ornaments selling off of block and pallet tables. But merchandising in the vital area of the plant yard? Most feel if the plants look great and you get them off the ground, you’ve done enough.

The 10% Project came about because our industry has a deep need to improve its financial performance. If every garden center improves its plant sales by 10 percent, we reasoned, that can be the tipping point in surviving this rough economic time. The various projects we’ve embraced, including the Garden Center Makeover, were chosen because they help garden centers make those gains.

Think about it. Through merchandising, you can increase your sales without expanding your product mix or increasing your staff. It’s a sales increase using what you have on hand.

For Flowerland, the sales increase in the weeks following the makeover on September 10 was a great deal more than 10 percent. Nursery sales improved 27.6 percent and seasonal/bulb sales increased 31.4 percent. Prior to the makeover, neither department was horrendous in its merchandising. Displays were just very straightforward, not calling special attention to key items the store wants to sell.

The pottery department makeover had an even more dramatic impact. Before the makeover, pots were mostly on the ground, creating an intimidating sea of colorful and breakable pots several feet deep. Just by getting the pottery off the ground and color blocking them, sales improved a stunning 78.5 percent. Flowerland has two other stores where no makeover took place. Pottery sales at those stores decreased during the same time period — 34.1 percent at one location and 7.5 percent at the other.

Time For A Change

It’s time to stop thinking of merchandising as mere decorating. Done well, it draws attention to your best sellers with strong margins and prompts add-on sales as you offer ideas of how our wares can be used in different ways in a home.

Plants, especially, need attention. For most of the industry, plants generate more than half of annual sales. If smart merchandising can increase sales for that one category, it has a deep impact on the entire store’s health. You can’t afford to not improve your merchandising.

Carol Miller is group editor of Today’s Garden Center and Greenhouse Grower. You can eMail her at clmiller@meistermedia.com.

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