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Garden centres have no time for complacency, says Karl McKeever

Up to half of the UK's garden centres could be facing serious problems this time next year if they do not up their game and make the most of the spring trade, according to BBC2's The Fixer retail expert Karl McKeever.

McKeever, who advises retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, was last night shown to help save Oak Garden Centre in Chatteris alongside the Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi.

The retail consultant predicts that the plight of the Cambridgeshire garden centre is what awaits similar outlets in the UK if they fail to offer customers a better shopping experience, improve their selling environments, offer better shopper entertainment and provide more seasonal displays to inspire customers on what to buy.

McKeever explained: "Many are already on their knees from our last drenched summer and our failing economy, and they will not survive another summer, where the economy at the very least will be miserable. And with big stores like Waitrose just announcing plans to take a big bite out of the sector, this is no time for complacency."

To help, McKeever has drawn up a survival plan which includes the following five points:

Reflect the season in your layout:
Plan ahead of the seasons – e.g. focus selling activities on what most gardeners will need next i.e. stocking spring bulbs in the autumn ready for Easter flowering.

Capitalise on impulse purchases and seasonal events:
Create small, focussed ‘hot spot’ displays for impulse purchases. Suggest advice in the display theme to create an expert feel, such as ‘bringing your pond to life'.

Create strong product categories and department themes:
Group all relevant products together in a ‘destination area’. This shows specialist knowledge and will encourage customers to buy more in themed ranges, as opposed to single items.

Target customer service effectively:
Passive features should include clear signage and detailed product information. When organising the area, just ask ‘what would a customer need here?’

Active features should comprise help desks away from tills, protection plans, landscaping services, flower arranging, home delivery and knowledge-sharing gardeners’ clubs.

Great retail standards:
Premium standards give customers the confidence to buy. Keep the garden centre tidy, safe and easy to shop. Amenities such as the café and toilets should be inviting and clean.

Source : Retail Bulletin

20 March 2013
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