One of the horticultural industry insider newsletters I get reported on the latest "Consumer Buzz Live" event at a nursery industry conference. Retailers packed the room to hear what a panel of "typical" consumers had to say about their business. Apparently they were fascinated:
Overall, we got some great feedback from the audience. As a matter of fact, despite the late hour, many of them didn’t want to leave. Some stopped the panelists on their way out to ask them more questions; we practically had to force the retailers back on the buses.
if only owners of garden centers could get to talk to their customers more than once a year! What insight they could gain!
But wait — who are all those people milling about in your shop? Or, for that matter, who are all those people milling about at the Home Depot garden center? What do they have to say?
I shop at three independent garden centers in my hometown. At one of them, the entire staff stays behind the cash register and nobody ever says anything to me. (Mind you, I’m the local garden columnist. Can you think of a better time to pitch a story to me than when I’m in your store, browsing around, probably procrastinating because my column is due?)
And at the other two garden centers, the one and only thing anyone ever says to me is: "Finding everything okay?"
Now, seriously. It’s a small town. I’m a regular customer. I’m a known plant junkie. I’m here looking for something to spend my money on. It’s not that I’m having trouble locating the penstemons–I’ve been in your store a million times and I know every inch of it. I’m wandering around looking for something to inspire me.
What if somebody came up to me and said, "Hey, how’s your garden?" I might roll my eyes and say that it looks like shit and that I hate this dead zone in August when nothing blooms. Now we’re having a conversation!
Or what about, "Ooooh, you found our heucheras. Did you see we’ve got the 4 inch pots, too?"
Or, "I love that salvia. I’ve got three of them in my garden, and the hummingbirds are all over them this time of year. Did you know there’s a taller variety, too?"
Or, when I’m lucky enough to run into somebody who remembers me from last time I was in, "Hey, Amy! Come see our new shipment of dahlias. It’s this new variety that doesn’t get powdery mildew."
Or–if you’re really looking for your customer’s opinions–"Hey, you’re in here a lot. What you think of these new stepping stones we just got in? Do you think we should carry another brand of organic fertilizer, or do you like the ones we have? Have you bought this insecticidal soap before, or is this your first time to try it? How did it work for you?"
So: Conversations at garden centers. Are you for them or against them?