Summer seductions

Departments - Retail Revival | Store improvement tips from the Garden Lady

Bring in customers after the spring rush by offering solutions to their mid-season problems.

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April 6, 2022

The summer season doesn’t have to be a sales slump! Instead, encourage customers to make your IGC their go-to resource by offering solutions to everyday gardening problems.
Photo © karepa | Adobe Stock

Even as we gear up for the busiest time of year, it’s wise to start planning for the slower season. Some IGCs close by mid-summer, but those that remain open can plan for events and activities that not only bring customers in, but help to create sales. Such events need to quickly hook the public’s attention or solve their summer problems. Here are some suggestions.

The design table

Remember the Charles M. Schulz cartoon of Lucy sitting at a booth built of lumber scraps, offering psychiatric advice? While we aren’t going to dispense guidance about mental health, we can create a place where people can come to get information about design, garden problems or plant identification. Consider having one day a week in the summer when your customers are invited to come in and visit the Consultation Table.

These information stations can either be first-come, first-served or operate by appointment, although it’s likely that the attendance will be greater if people don’t have to make reservations. Be sure to provide the staff member who will cover this service with pen and paper, and possibly a laptop or tablet for showing plant photos to customers.

The advantage of having an in-store consultation table is that those who come in for design advice can be directed out to the nursery to see recommended plants immediately. When people come in with an insect or disease problem, they can be sent to the section of the store where suggested treatments are shelved. Other fix-ups your staff might mention, such as colorful birdbaths or benches, plant supports or containers, are all conveniently there for purchasing.

Photo © Ivonne Wierink | Adobe Stock

Container rescue

In mid-summer, many find that their containers are no longer as vibrant as they were earlier in the season. Offer a Container Rescue Weekend when customers can walk in with photos of their boxes, pots and hangers to get advice about quick fixes. Point out that for most people, there are at least two or three more months they could be enjoying flowers, herbs or other plants in these containers, and you can help.

Be sure to have a selection of replacement plants available for sale during this event. You could even designate a special section where the benches are labeled “Container Rescue Plants.” Create a handout that describes how dead or not-so-attractive plants can be dug out of a pot or box, and replaced with something fresh. Have appropriate fertilizers and small bags of fresh potting mix nearby. If you stock a selection of small garden ornaments or obelisks, these too can be featured as instant improvements for containers.

Vegetable garden refresh

Just as containers may flag in mid-summer, many of our customers have vegetable gardens that need refreshing. Early producing crops such as peas or lettuce may be finished, and these areas of the garden can be replanted. Create a display featuring plants that can be installed in mid to late summer for fall harvests. Point out which seeds can be replanted in your region.

You might combine information and plants for continual planting with a consultation table for advice on veggie garden problems. That’s something that your customers won’t find at a box store! Have the appropriate organic products nearby so that those who are having fungal or insect problems can be directed to the best treatments.

Photo © Ozgur Coskun | Adobe Stock

Barbeque fix-ups

It’s the season for gathering with family and friends for picnics and barbeques. Make sure your customers know that you have the products and plants that will make these get-togethers even more fun. Feature fresh herbs for tossing on the coals or into the potato salad. Have some unusual cocktail recipes available near plants such as potted citrus trees or mints. Offer pots of annuals in full bloom for instant decorating of patios and firepit areas.

In addition to the plants, tell your customers that you have the natural, granular products that repel mosquitoes. Feature any outdoor lighting you sell such as the popular strings of Edison lights. And display outdoor furniture front and center so your customers know that you have the extra seating or tables they need.

Any of these ideas can be scheduled over one or more weekends, several days or an entire month. Spread the word in your newsletters, flyers or social media, headlining the information with the problems you are solving:

“Does your garden need a fast makeover? Come in for free design advice.”

“Container rescue! We’ll show you how your pots and boxes can be beautiful again.”

“Empty spaces in your raised beds? We’ll help make your vegetable garden continually productive.”

“Having a barbeque? Come in for colorful pots, cocktail-hour herbs and outdoor seating.”

Consider what your customers are thinking about or struggling with in July and August. Events that address their interests and solve their problems will be the summer seductions that translate into sales.