Dale Bachman explains 'what's critical to the shopping experience today'

Dale Bachman explains 'what's critical to the shopping experience today'

The chairman of the board and retiring CEO at Bachman’s discusses how garden centers can better engage customers for long-term success in part two of our conversation.

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In February, Dale Bachman, CEO of Bachman’s, based in Minneapolis, Minn., announced he was retiring Oct. 20, 2018, after a 46-year career working at the company his great grandparents founded 133 years ago. Bachman, a fourth-generation owner, will continue his responsibilities as chairman of the board for the company, which operates retail locations in the Twin Cities, including six full-service floral, home, and garden centers, a floral and gift store in downtown Minneapolis, and 27 floral departments within Lunds and Byerlys grocery stores.

Bachman has been CEO and chairman of the board since 2008 and entered that position during trying times for both the company and the economy, with the sudden loss of Todd Bachman, who was chairman of the board and CEO. At the same time, the Great Recession was beginning to dismantle the economy, and it took years for the country and the garden center to recover.

Bachman discussed his career and his post-retirement plans with us. Below is an excerpt from part two of our interview. Read part one here and look for the full interview in the digital edition of Garden Center’s November State of the Industry issue. 

Garden Center: November is our annual State of the Industry issue. What must garden centers do to remain successful?

Dale Bachman: The aspect of garden centers being community centers is what is exciting about retail today. During a session at Cultivate’18 about garden centers being community centers, Lindsay Squires Chrisp of Tagawa Gardens in Colorado shared ideas and experiences, similar to what we see in our marketplace. Event marketing is a big part of what we do at Bachman’s and a critical part of the shopping experience today. The Ideas House was spearheaded by Paul Bachman (who retired as president in 2016) and the marketing, visual merchandising and buying teams in 2010 as part of Bachman’s 125th year celebration. The Ideas House product mix and merchandising changes with the season, with a spring, fall and holiday house on the property of the Lyndale store, and it has become a tradition for our guests.

 

We started customer appreciation events at all of our stores this fall, with each having its own mix of events. At our Lyndale store, we offered yoga in the garden, food trucks, and green plant seminars led by the Minnesota State Horticulture Society. I did yoga for the first time, and it was really fun. The next time, I’ll try to breathe; I was so focused on getting the positions right, but it really was a great experience. We’ve got our fall inspiration night and our holiday inspiration night coming up. We’ve started a tradition of indoor farmers markets in the wintertime, and now that’s been expanded to five stores.

 

During a retirement party organized in honor of Dale Bachman, his cousin Lynn Bachman had this life-sized cutout made of the two of them when they were 3 and 4 years old from a photo taken in June 1954. They grew up next door to each other. She wrote, "We were so excited to be able to try on Grandma (Great Aunt) Olga's beautiful hats and gloves, and wear them back to our house." Photo courtesy of Dale Bachman. 

 

GC: You also have organized flower shows for a number of years.

DB: We had such a long tradition with our flower shows in downtown Minneapolis. With the closing of the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s in 2017, we didn’t think there was a future for the flower show. We thought that was the finish line. Then, we received this marvelous invitation to do a flower show at The Galleria this past spring. It was called the Floral Experience: Spring is in the Air. The galleria realizes that shopping has to be more than just shopping. It’s the Galleria shopping experience and other special events they offer that make the difference.  

 

They just asked us to do three more years, from 2019-2021. They ended up with daily guest counts nearing the number of guests they get at the Galleria during the holiday season, so that made a big difference for the stores and the restaurants. It is all about the experience. The flower show continues to live as a gift to the community, and we’re very fortunate to be a part of bringing it to life.

 

GC: What is one of your fondest memories of working in the business?

DB: It’s all the people who have been part of the Bachman’s story. It’s not just our team, but the guests we’ve been able to work with over the years. We’ve always tried to make it easy for our guests to provide feedback. You just hate to fail, and if we had failed, we wanted to know about it. I would save customer complaints and try to learn from them and not repeat them. I was kind of feeling like we couldn’t do anything right, because you tend to take these problems to heart. So, I started to save the thank yous and drop those in a file. Over the years I ended up with boxes of compliments, and [we compiled them into books.] To reflect back and look at some of the good that we’ve done through those years, I think it means a lot. I will miss the people that have been part of Bachman’s story that I’ve gotten to know through the years.


GC: What do you wish you would have done differently?

DB: When I talk about staying connected, I think my cousin Todd had an ability to focus on the operations and learn about our team members at the same time. Todd made more connections with our team members than I’ve been able to do while I’ve been doing my full-time work at Bachman’s. Just one example, I saw one of our floral merchandisers leaving at the end of the day during the lead-up to Mother’s Day. I wished her a good evening as she was heading to her car, and she perked up and said she was going home to see her son, a service member who had come home and surprised her that morning. In talking with her, it wasn’t just that one adult child that she had in the service. She has three active duty service members, a daughter and two sons, and I didn’t know that. I think Todd would have known that, and that’s what I’d like to do, is to spend some more time listening to their stories.

 

GC: What do you think is the most important piece of advice you’d like to share with your cousin Susan Bachman West, who has been president of Bachman’s since 2016 and will continue your leadership responsibilities when you retire?

DB: Learn from role models and seek advice and counsel from mentors. She has tremendous role models in her father and her mother. That’s going to serve her well, and I know that she has the support of the family, no question about that. I’ll just try to support Susie, the 5th generation family members, Karen Bachman Thull, director of marketing and communications, and Adam Bachman, fleet logistics and operations manager, and the company, as best I can.

 

Editor’s note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Photo by Becca Dilley