In the midst of social distancing and self-quarantining, independent garden centers are finding unique ways to continue serving their customers. From online shopping to curbside pickup and home delivery, here’s what four Top 100 Independent Garden Centers are doing to alter their services in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
While all say that employee safety is top of mind, the need to continue serving customers remains strong.
Pickup and delivery options
Many garden centers are offering delivery or curbside pickup to reduce or eliminate the need for contact.
Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, Missouri, has limited customers in the store to 10 at a time starting Monday, encouraging curbside pickup and delivery. The greenhouse and sales yard will remain open for browsing since there are 15 acres for shoppers to spread out — a message the IGC is pushing out to its customers.
“I don’t know what this is going to do to me,” said Sandi Hillermann McDonald, president. “Traffic is already down and everything is closing up in our little town so it’s pretty detrimental to the economy, as am I sure it everywhere.”
Hillermann is going to be offering Facetime shopping to customers as well. They simply call the store’s main number and make the request. A staff member then calls the customer back on a smart phone and walks them through to store to pick out exactly what they want.
“We’re hoping that it’s something the customer will be more comfortable with because they’ll actually be seeing what they’re getting,” Hillermann McDonald said. The IGC has done it before for out-of-town customers and Hillermann McDonald is hoping it will pick up in the midst of coronavirus concerns.
Ruibal’s Plants of Texas has always offered deliveries, but the company is pushing that service even more now. Customers can shop the website for annuals, perennials, floral plants, shrubs and trees, and download the color wheel PDF to see what’s available. Orders can be made either by email or over the phone.
“If we don’t have a ton of people here in the nursery, then we’ll start using our personal vehicles and trucks to do some of the smaller deliveries — push out as many of those as we can so it will just be a few people close to one another,” says Mark Ruibal, owner of Ruibal’s Plants of Texas. “So instead of having 20 or 30 people in here kind of close, you have the one delivery driver who goes to take it, put it out on the front porch and leave it and anybody’s who’s worried about that won’t have to get it or have to contacted.”
In California, garden centers fall under the same distinction as hardware stores, and are allowed to stay open. Frank Benzing, president and CEO of SummerWinds Nursery, said the company is bumping up delivery and curbside pickup. Customers can call or email to place orders, or opt to come into the store.
At Rockledge Gardens in Florida, upcoming events are either cancelled or moving online. The IGC is planning to offer kits for sale online that customers can pick up at the garden center. They can then watch the webinar and complete their up gardens at home.
“So we’re exploring the possibility of doing more of that. So we’re muddling through. We do feel extremely fortunate. I know that a lot of Northern garden centers have not had their seasons start yet but had done their stock-ups already so my heart really goes out to our counterparts in the North.”
The IGC hosts many weddings during the spring months, but the ceremonies scheduled to take place now through the end of May are being moved to the fall. “We are fortunate that we didn’t have weddings scheduled through the summer,” said Liz Lark-Riley, managing director. “I think it would be a much, much bigger issue if we did because there would be so much more uncertainty.”
As for Hillermann Nursery & Florist, events are being postponed to later in May.
To learn more about zero-contact sales, join us at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 25, for a webinar with Rob Sproule, founder of DIG Marketing and co-owner/marketing director at Salisbury Greenhouse. Register today!