Today's Garden Center points us to recent study by Horticulture Week, a British on line web resource. Now this is a British study and I am not sure if it relates to Garden Centers in The United States, but I bet it will. According to a recent conference of the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA) in the U.K. Qualitative research by Illuma Research and the HTA showed cafe's are becoming meeting places in garden centers, according to the magazine. Sixty-five person (sic)of visitors told Illuma and HTA it was important to have a Cafe. An interesting note, too, is that "mums with toddlers" and "empty-nesters" were the most frequent visitors to the cafe.
We are always being invited to go on tours of Europe and especially Britain where we are told that the future of garden center retailing is being mapped out. While we have never found the time to take one of those European tours I read about what nursery people see there. It would seem that bigger stores, complete with cafes are what is hip. I actually find these reports depressing as a smaller garden center owner. 65% of visitors say it's important to have a cafe. We are are thinking about a coffee kiosk but the idea of building a cafe is just not in the cards, yet.
I think the most important thing to glean from a study like this is just how picky people are becoming. I can't even imagine that a cafe would have been necessary 10 years ago. Now if you want the business and don't have a cafe you might be out of luck. You cant't argue with peoples wants. They are what they are and we have to adjust or see our business slowly go away.
While the idea of building a cafe can be daunting for a small garden center, I do find hope in this report. It seems people want to hang out at garden centers that cater to their needs. Maybe we cant build a cafe, but we can offer a cup of excellent coffee and great places to sit and enjoy it. A small coffee kiosk that dispenses coffee, cappuccino, and other drinks might do the trick. Winter time is a problem as we don't have the room to set aside for a cafe. But during the dry season wondering through the nursery with a cup of good coffee is something our customers say would be nice. So next year we will do that.
Sometimes these reports seem to say, "Hey if you don't have the money to put in a cafe, bone bar for the pets, and giant indoor greenhouse shopping area, you're doomed. These studies seem to be aimed at the large garden centers who can implement these ideas. We smaller centers have to read these reports and come up with creative ways to provide the same experience, yet with a limited budget.