The Nursery Diet

001.JPGIt looks like the economy is going through another hic-cup. What to do? Business is already down, where headed to what may be  lackluster fall, and the cold of winter beckons. Hope everyone saved up enough to get to next year. Lot's of us don't have what we would like in the bank right now. It's easy to become pessimistic. We are trying to be proactive. It's during these times that ideas and action that makes a difference are forced on us. You either give up, or re-double you efforts to get the word out. If we curl up and act dead it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Sometimes just the act of being positive and doing something keeps things humming.

We are putting the nursery on a diet.  Not a starvation diet, but a much needed loss of weight. Unlike a starvation diet where you just cut out everything and feel weak all the time, this is a more healthy loss of weight and building up of muscle. What categories are we wasting our time on? What do we keep carrying that just doesn't resonate with our customers? Roses here just don't sell.  Deer and other critters eat them and we usually end up selling them at a discount. Roses are out. Bonsai? We use to buy in finished bonsai for our 'bonsai section", but not anymore. No bonsai. We have a bonsai nursery near hear and I am more than happy to send you to their place.

What are our strengths? A beautiful location that makes you feel great when you walk through the door. We are having more and more groups use our picnic area. The El Dorado Co. Master Gardeners just held their third annual picnic here. Next Saturday the local garden club is meeting here. We are encouraging people to use the picnic ground as well as working on turning our upcoming "Pleasure Faire" into a well attended event. The big news? Workshops and events held at the nursery bring the community together and makes us a vital resource.

Another strength is direct marketing. I figured out how to do my own e-news without our webmasters help. This saves big bucks and I can now put out an e-news weekly, instead of just twice a month. I have already started to hear positive feedback from customers. I never wanted to cut my webmaster (a small business) out of the e-news. But I need to save money while increasing our exposure, and you know what? It has!

We have started on a local flier program. Our employee's, as well as Monica and I have been creating our own fliers and hanging them at every bulletin board in the area. "Grass Roots". We keep track what fliers are placed where, and we change them out regularly to keep the fresh. Hey, it keeps us busy and doing something to get the word out. Plus it seems to be working. There are a bunch of other low cost ways we are using to keep the positive vibe, that I'll share later.

The bottom line is this. The nursery business is changing so quick it's head spinning. The economy sucks, and customers are pulling back on their expenses. Why would they want to come to the nursery and buy plants and fertilizers? Why would they want to go out to dinner, or take a vacation under the circumstances? They do, but they are a lot more careful where they spend their money. We have to make the garden center culture so compelling that they will give up on the dinner out,  and head out to the garden and garden center.

We all know the days of people just automatically lining up at our gates on a Saturday morning are over. Heck, around here Sundays are busier than Saturday's.  We have to provide an experience that compels the customer to return. We have to stay positive and upbeat so the customer will pick up on the good vibes. We have to look at what we sell and re-examine what's not moving. The future of the small garden center will depend on it's ability to carry what sells, and lot's of it, and jettisoning what doesn't. It's not easy. As a small garden center owner you just know you can't carry everything the Box stores do, at their prices. So why try? What are they not doing well? Organic fertilizers? We at the Golden Gecko Garden Center have THE BEST selection of organics in the county. Maybe in the tri-county area. Since we have increased our fertilizer department it's sales are a bright spot. So bright we are INCREASING the selection. Hydroponics? We have created a new department. It's called the "Hydro-Hut". I am not about to let the hydroponic shops have all that business. The nearest one is twelve miles away. We are already getting interest, and people are saying they would love to buy local, from us!

The small garden center has a huge opportunity, as well as huge risks coming down the pike. The ones that survive, and thrive are going to because they took the somewhat dated garden center concept we grew up with, and morphed it into something that will resonate with the 21st century gardener.