How can we better serve you?

Garden Rant asks “How could garden centers better serve you? We're looking for the Top Five Ways they could improve.” As I scroll down the list there is a theme to the responses. Most want more information about what they are purchasing! A number mention including Latin Names on signage yet this is one area that the garden centers seem to be running away from. From what I read in various trade publications the trend is to drop the Latin names and use only the common names. We are told that the buying public just doesn’t care about Latin names anymore.

Susan, the post author says she wants of garden centers “More information about the plants they sell especially the Latin and correct cultivar name, but also exposure, water requirement and ultimate size.” This theme is echoed in the comments. People do want more information and Garden Centers are the place to provide it, yet we find ourselves told to reduce the amount of information we provide. “Drop the Latin names and watch sales grow” seems to be the mantra.

Some might say that the comments on a site like Garden Rant are those of enthusiasts, not the general buying public. These are exactly the kind of people we need to market to, the enthusiasts. It’s the enthusiasts that spread the word when they discover a “cool” garden center. Enthusiasts are out in the blogosphere spreading the word about the places they like. I don’t think a garden center could stay in business with just the enthusiast’s shopping, but I do think you need the enthusiast to be the voice of the nursery. They are the megaphone that every garden center needs. They will guide others interested in gardening to your store. Much of our business is word of mouth and it’s the enthusiasts that speak for us the loudest. They often bring neighbors new to gardening in to “get them off to the right start”.

I have a fear of following trends. It seems like when ever people follow trends weather it’s the stock market, housing market, or nursery trends they lose. Following trends is following the masses. My garden center is not marketing itself to the masses. I want to market to that 5% of the consumers that appreciate the difference that a well run garden center with lot’s of information offers. Let the other 95% of consumers head to the box stores where no Latin names are found, the staff is less than knowledgeable, and the plants are in need of help. Box stores lead the way in the "no Latin names and little info about the plants they sell" world. Why follow that?

Ask a wine enthusiast what’s important about the wine they drink and they will tell you it’s the taste, but so much more. Where are the grapes from? How are they pruned? How long in the barrel? Skins left on how long? Bottled when? They want to know this stuff. What would they do if you said “Here, just drink this, it tastes good and it’s in a pretty bottle?” They would go elsewhere, where the winery appreciated their interest in learning more about wine and was willing to teach them the nuances. Look to the small wineries with the cult followings to see how smaller garden centers should operate. Sure they may not sell as much as Gallo, but they get a lot more per bottle and they have enthusiasts out spreading the word and bringing new people in to join the wine club all the time.