Special attention to women’s fashion and creating a particularly inviting atmosphere helps a Headingley, Manitoba-based garden center distinguish itself from the local competition.
Shelmerdine Garden Center Ltd. is now two years into their rebranding, a process that has helped the garden center to brand themselves as a “lifestyle center.”
“Our ladies fashion department had grown so much over the years,” says Nicole Bent, owner. “We do so many things other than garden things.”
The company’s tagline, “Second Nature,” still plays on their garden center roots, which date back to 1937. A new logo and website — with interactive tabs such as lifestyle, fashion and garden — were part of the rebrand. In October, the company plans to launch an ecommerce component on their website to make it easier to browse and purchase items such as fashionable dresses, hats, shoes, accessories and tops, Bent says.
Events are an integral part of the culture at Shelmerdine Garden Center. Annual gatherings include an indoor hay maze, Halloween fun zone, story time and cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus at Christmas and photos with Saint Nick himself.
“We are very family oriented. All of our events, the proceeds go to local charities,” Bent says. “By having these events, we are basically starting the process of multigenerational shopping so the customers of tomorrow are starting today. We are creating loyalty form a very early age.”
About 50 percent of the company’s sales volume of $5.3 million comes from green goods and nursery stock. Another 25 percent comes from ladies fashion, and the remaining 25 percent comes from hard goods like gardening gear, accent pieces, fountains, statuary and pots. These items will also be available through the ecommerce site.
“We got into women’s fashion only four years ago. It continues to grow and it has really brought in a whole new customer into our store,” Bent says. “We also modeled it after a lot of garden centers in the UK that are doing women’s fashion as well. It sort of introduced a younger customer to our store, a younger female and people that aren’t necessarily interested in plants. It breathed a whole new life into our business.”
Bent also attributes the company’s success to a passionate team of employees.
“They care about the business as if it’s their own and it shows,” Bent says.
From coordinating visually breathtaking product displays, to serving fresh lunch and coffee inside the center’s café, to offering free gift-wrapping of purchases, employees here serve in roles as unique as the center’s product offerings.
“We are a happy place. By being a lifestyle center, we really focus on the experience of people who come rather than sales,” Bent says. “Sales are important, but if they don’t leave with a sense of happiness and enjoyment then they won’t really come back again.”
Shelmerdine is not without challenges, though. Some long-term staff members retired this year, which is both a sign of change and that of a growing company. And despite their financial successes, Shelmerdine Garden Center continues to compete with other retail shops, Bent says.
“Just the amount of places to shop at can be a challenge,” she says.
Also as part of their rebrand, Shelmerdine Garden Center now maintains an active presence on five social media channels, which is another method being utilized to update the company and bring in new customers.
“Everything seems to be gelling for us right now,” Bent says. “We’ve been working toward this for a long time.”