Tips From Ian Baldwin

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Garden Center consultant Ian Baldwin did not disappoint during his talk, providing specific examples of ways garden centers can improve sales and reduce expenses to increase their profitability. He had some great advice, too, when he said owners and managers have to level with their staffs and set the tone for the upcoming spring. The more the staff is invested, the harder they work.

He advised focusing on the current good customers who have been proven to spend money. One way to find your best customers, too, is to look at the customers in the loyalty program and find the top 10. One of his clients found their top 10 customers spend nearly $90,000.

Baldwin also suggested using the current climate to use bold messaging encouraging self-indulgence, and reinforcing the message in blogs and websites with recipes, how-to tips and other gardening advice. "Customers don’t need to feel your pain," he said, adding the attitude must be upbeat and positive on the sales floor.

Maintain the margins on the high-demand products, like annual color, vegies and herbs and any tree or bush that has fruit. Most importantly, don’t cut back on things like cleaning, maintenance, painting, or on services like delivery or planting.

Some other suggestions include: watch inventory and slash nonperformers; increase the amount of high-quality POP and signage for self-service; reward and train good people, lose the bad ones; invest in productivity, systems and a website; align with the customers and remain relevant; and be a community oasis.

Jennifer Polanz is a freelance writer with Grasshopper Freelance. She can be eMailed at

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