English Gardens

English Gardens

Features - THE TOP 100: No. 10 | English Gardens

Adding consistency and branding to offerings, from kids workshops to landscape design, has made them more visible and successful at English Gardens.

September 10, 2018

The Royal Oak store is one of five English Gardens locations and features an inspirational landscape design near the front entrance.

Like many independent garden centers, English Gardens has offered events and activities geared toward children for several years on a seasonal basis. This year, the five-store company, with locations in and around Detroit, Mich., decided to put a name behind them, create more consistent scheduling, and “take it to the next level,” says Jennifer Youngquest, vice president of marketing.

The company launched Super Sprouts in January and organizes a workshop on the second Saturday of every month at each store, and the program has been so successful that planning is already underway for 2019.

“Most of [the Super Sprouts activities] are intended to be low cost or no cost because we want as many people as possible to participate,” Youngquest says. “The whole goal is to get the next generation of gardeners interested in gardening, and then coming to our store as their garden supplier and the expert.”

For free, kids created a bird feeder treat, planted seeds and painted lady bug rocks. The most expensive activity was the fairy gardening workshop, which cost $24.99.

The English Gardens event committee, which is comprised of two people from the marketing department, an operations manager and a general manager, try to tie the workshops in with what’s happening in the stores, Youngquest says.

For example, the ladybug rock painting activity coincided with their ladybug bag giveaway, when each customer received a free bag of the beneficial insects with a purchase. A pot painting and planting workshop was held the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

Super Sprouts programming is promoted in English Gardens’ regular e-newsletters, and they created a magnet with the events for 2018 so that their activities would be top of mind for parents. The workshops are at the same time on the sales floor of each of the five stores, with a max attendance of 40 kids at each of the three larger stores (in addition to a parent helper) and 20 kids at each of the two smaller stores. Registration is required.

“We wanted [Super Sprouts planning and execution] to be as turnkey as possible for the stores,” Youngquest says. “The marketing department actually creates kits for each of the kids so that all the materials, or as many as possible, come in a paper bag. We include the instructions in there, and we send those to the stores. So, all of the bags for the event are all self-contained and each store has an event coordinator.”

English Gardens, like many garden centers across the country, had a difficult April but rebounded in May.

Help for DIY landscapers

Branding has been important in other aspects of the 64-year-old company, as well. English Gardens has always provided landscaping planning help for customers who wanted to plant themselves but just needed help with design. But giving that service a name — Garden Coach — and resources, including two full-time employees who run the program, has made it one of the most successful aspects of the company for 2018.

“We put a name behind it, concentrated resources behind it, and they have been booked since March,” Youngquest says. “It has been very successful for us with very little promotion. It’s just basically word of mouth.”

Our goal is not to be a mass merchant for the U.S. or the world. We just want to allow our customers to shop how they want to shop.” – JENNIFER YOUNGQUEST, VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, ENGLISH GARDENS

Though English Gardens also has a robust landscape division, the Garden Coach does not fall under that segment because people who need assistance normally come to the stores first looking for plants, Youngquest says. The cost depends on the request, she adds. For example, the service is free with the purchase of a $250 gift card for customers who provide photos and dimensions and have the garden coaches create a plan in-store. Garden Coaches can make home visits, too.

“We have services that will accommodate everybody,” she says.

Like many garden centers in the Midwest and throughout the country, April was a very bad month due to a delayed spring, Youngquest says. A focus on excellent customer care, plant quality and services like Garden Coach and their popular, longstanding Garden Pharmacy for people who need “plant-scriptions” for pest and disease issues, helped the garden center rebound quickly.

Staying in touch with customers consistently has also been a focus, Youngquest says. The marketing department sends four to seven emails weekly and creates a calendar of topics monthly, which has helped the team be more strategic and stay organized.

The Garden Pharmacy is a popular service and available at all English Gardens locations.
Many Super Sprouts classes, which take place on the second Saturday of every month at each store, are free. The marketing department creates activity bags that include instructions to make them simple for staff.
English Gardens has always offered workshops for kids, but recently branded the program “Super Sprouts” and created a consistent schedule.

“I know it’s a lot, but we figure that we’re going to be there when somebody wants information about English Gardens,” she says. “We work really hard on our subject lines so that people understand what’s in the email, as well. We pique their interest with a catchy email headline so that they’ll open it. Our whole goal of emails is to get people to our website and ultimately in the store.”

People who visit English Gardens’ website will notice a product search bar and cart, because since 2011, the garden center has sold Christmas décor such as artificial trees, wreaths and lights online.

“We do have an initiative to enhance our e-commerce offering. We are taking a crawl/walk/run approach and going very slowly with it to see what we can do,” Youngquest says.

So far, they’ve noticed that most customers like to browse the holiday offerings online, but ultimately visit the store to see the products in person and make a purchase there.

“Our goal is not to be a mass merchant for the U.S. or the world. We just want to allow our customers to shop how they want to shop,” Youngquest says.

After more than a decade, English Gardens closed its Ann Arbor location because the shopping center where it was housed would not renew its lease, according to the company. But plans to open a sixth location in the vibrant city where the University of Michigan is based are in the works.

“We do not have an announcement now, but we hope to have something soon,” Youngquest says. “We have people that really miss us out there, and they want us to open a new store.”