Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Selling? Looking For A Garden Center?

TGC Columnist and consultant Sid Raisch has started a new webpage devoted to listing retail operations and greenhouses that are for sale.

If you'd like to list an operation, include the link to your 'for sale' page in the comment section below the listing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Checking Out - Without Talking To A Human

OK, technically you can already do this with self checkout. Except for the fact that they virtually NEVER work, frustrating the customer to no end.

In fact, it ends up taking longer, because the little light starts blinking, and then you have to wait for an associate (who is inevitably in the middle of a ridiculously long story with another co-worker) come and wave a key fob to take over and hit one button to fix it. Can you tell I'm not a big fan?

But, I've just read about a new mobile app from Aisle Buyer where a customer can scan a barcode and pay for the item right there in the aisle. No need to go through a checkout. The customer shows a receipt on his or her phone to an associate before leaving.

Now I realize this brings up a whole host of potential theft issues. It's sort of the wholesale club idea of checking the receipt but not really being able to "look" at the receipt and all the items in the cart to make sure it matches up.

However, it seems like the opportunities for impulse buys are greatly increased if a customer doesn't have the stigma of a line to deal with. Plus, you can offer them special discounts or promotions once they scan the barcode, offering greater flexibility in your marketing messages.

It's an interesting concept, and one I'm going to watch closely to see if it catches on. The app is available currently in the Android market, and being beta tested (interestingly enough) in an independent specialty children's operation called Magic Beans, located in Massachusetts.

Could this be just one more way independent garden centers set themselves apart from the competition?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Cyber Monday?

This might be a bit of a rant, but I can't figure out why people are still all about Cyber Monday.

It used to be a big deal a couple of years ago, when dial-up still ruled and people spent the Monday after Black Friday shopping online. The theory went that most people had a much better Internet connection at work than they did at home (and therefore spent Monday shopping online, much to the chagrin of HR directors everywhere).

But now, with high-speed Internet widely available, and about 30 percent of the U.S. population armed with smartphones, it doesn't seem to be all that appropriate to offer the biggest online deals on Monday, does it?

I for one have already done a good deal of browsing online, ready to pull the trigger as soon as I make sure there's nothing advertised on Black Friday that I am willing to get up at 3 a.m. to purchase (and I'm pretty sure there's nothing out there to move that needle).

So the question remains: why wait until Monday? For that matter, with online deals and free shipping dangling out there, why even bother with Black Friday?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mobile Shopping

I'll admit it. I have a cell phone that, while not quite the Zack Morris phone, is still pretty 20th Century. Additionally, things like using your smartphone while shopping to allow you to find products faster just seems like something out of a Back To The Future movie to me (you know, the one where they go forward in time - which I might add is to 2015, only five short years away).

But it's pretty much here. According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, more and more retailers are using mobile apps as a way to entice customers to buy more while they are in the stores.

We've always said garden center retailers aren't just competing against other garden retailers and box stores, but also against any retailer that trades in discretionary income (i.e. restaurants, salons and spas, gaming and tech retailers, etc.)

So the question is, what are garden center retailers doing to join the fray when it comes to using mobile apps to enhance the shopping experience? We already know of a couple garden centers using Microsoft Tags, or QR tags (also known as smart tags, 2-D tags, etc.) to provide more plant information to customers while in the stores.

How else can retailers capitalize on in-store apps? Let's take the discussion here and see what comes up!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bellagio Conservatory Transformation

The horticultural crew at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas change over the conservatory there five times a year. I've always been enamored with the conservatory, as they just do an absolutely beautiful job. I've seen it at least three times, and it's always been stunning. I think my favorite was the Monet display, with a ton of spring bulbs and a Japanese footbridge.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Loyalty: Supporting Other Local Businesses

OK, two posts in one day? Shocking, right? And they're both about loyalty programs. I just saw a story about a loyalty program in Portland, Ore. that features 50 local businesses. So the customer gets a loyalty card and uses it at any of those 50 businesses for points that accumulate.

There's even a garden shop on there: Naomi's Organic Farm Supply. The program is called Supportland, and you can read about the program in the FAQs.

As the proud owner of multiple key fobs, this sounds awesome to me. No more fumbling with multiple fobs when you can just swipe or scan the one card. Apparently an iPhone app is in the works, too.

Use Your Loyalty Program Wisely

I have a great example of a way to use your loyalty program to add benefit to your customer. And, it takes a negative event and spins it positively toward your store.

My son's formula was recently recalled by Similac, which made me upset and angry (it had bugs in it, which also grosses me out to no end). The recall made the news on the web Wednesday night (Sept. 23).

By Thursday (Sept. 24) we had a message on our answering machine from our local grocery store, Giant Eagle. It was the store manager, saying according to their records someone in our household had purchased a can of Similac in the last 18 months and what to do with it.

To me, this is proactive and very much appreciated. If I hadn't been on the web the night before, I wouldn't have known about it. Giant Eagle staff reacted quickly, using the data in the loyalty program to notify us before my poor little man had to ingest any more bugs.

This just strengthens my loyalty to the store, and gives me even more incentive to shop there. Now, you likely won't have too many instances of recalled products, but using your loyalty program proactively is still a great lesson.

You could use it to help buyers in a certain ZIP code that had weather damage, or to let buyers of certain products know it's time to fertilize their particular plant. Have another idea? Post it in the comments below!