Do You Have a Spring Strategy Together Yet?
Don’t Let Winter Meltdowns Lead To Spring Panic—Get a Garden Center Spring Strategy Together
We all know the feeling. The Christmas rush has passed and left your shelves half empty and your bank account a little plumper than it was in the late summer months. This year, however, stereotypical holiday rushes and general cheer was muted substantially by the COVID-19 pandemic. A good business owner never stagnates on what has happened, though, and although it was a once-in-a-lifetime holiday season, eyes should focus on the upcoming boom that we like to refer to as the “spring swing.” It’s time to buckle down and figure out where you went right and wrong over the holidays and start a game plan for the spring season! We have five tips that will help you focus on positive spring growth and not become stagnate in the past!
Tip One: Analyze and Assess
The first month of the new year should be all about honesty and positive forward momentum. Be honest with yourself, how did you do over the holidays? They were tough on all of us, and hopefully, you came up with some creative ways to deal with what the pandemic has thrown the ways of business owners. Looking towards your strategies, what do you feel you could have done better during this unique situation?
- Did you provide disposable masks for customers that didn’t have any?
- Are you offering any curbside pickup?
- Do you have any online storefront showcasing your best-selling items?
- Was there any miscommunication about your business hours?
These little things can lead to huge revenue loss and move into the spring, and you need to start addressing them as soon as possible. Now more than ever, the general population counts heavily on what they can see online to steer where they shop.
Imagine a recently widowed woman who is immunocompromised. Nothing would bring her more joy than to shop at her favorite garden center and take her mind off of the pain she is experiencing. Maybe she arrived and forgot her mask; can you accommodate her? She may already have a plant in mind but does not feel safe exiting her vehicle; do you have an option for her? She may not know if you have her favorite Kalanchoe; do you have that information available? She may not know if your business is deemed essential; is that information available for her to see?
Part of your garden center spring strategy should be to try and foresee issues like this. Utilizing all of your digital tools will allow you to be honest about what you’re providing and enable you to show your genuine care.
Tip Two: Reorganize Your Layout
The “spring swing” is all about loading your tables and nursery with as many plants and pretty things as possible. In the past, a typical spring garden center strategy has been pretty simple, “load ’em up and head ’em out,” almost like a cattle drive. Although you may want to have your shelves jam-packed, that may not be the best thing in a COVID-conscious society. Customers are much more aware of having their own shopping space now and are less likely to pile in the aisles with other shoppers. Knowing this going into spring should make you reaccess the number of tables you have out and what you’re packing the tables with.
Instead of packing your typical annual tables with flats, which take up tons of space and don’t produce much profit, opt for designer 4″ annuals instead. For that same space, you can make almost twice the money! This concept can leak into other areas of your spring garden center strategy as well, like any shrub offerings or bulk items. Shoppers will want as much space as possible during their entire trip to your store, so do everything you can to make them comfortable. Of course, this may mean losing a display at the end of your annual tables or narrowing down your coneflower varieties, but in the end, it will create a more shoppable experience.
Tip Three: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!
Every single aspect of the upcoming “spring swing” is peppered with a little bit of uncertainty, and that can cause some pretty serious emotional decisions. Whenever you feel overwhelmed at making new, almost-radical business decisions, make sure you’re of a clear and sound mind. Depending on your garden center location, you may have a long list of rules and procedures that you have to obey to keep your doors open. Please don’t get caught up in your emotions, even though it may seem like the easiest thing to do.
A prime example is the occupancy limitations bestowed on many areas. This limitation can stress a business owner out, especially if you start crunching the numbers. If you’re used to a traffic count of 20 cars an hour and expect that amount but can only allow ten in a time, numbers can start spinning out of control. Breathe deep and start coming up with solutions instead of making additional problems. In this case, come up with a tactic to help expedite the shopping process and move customers in and out as quickly as possible and develop a parking strategy. Every hurdle has a solution, and it may not become evident right away.
Mental stress can also lead to physical fatigue and make you more vulnerable to all illnesses. What your staff needs going into spring is a vibrant, healthy leader, not a mentally exhausted boss with a cough! Self-care can be as simple as taking your vitamins and remembering to relax now and then. When you’re feeling good, you’ll make better decisions!
Tip Four: Don’t Be Too Proud To Ask For Help!
The internet is really and truly a modern marvel, and when it comes down to developing your garden center spring strategy, there are limitless resources to help keep you afloat. One of the best places to look for advice is from your fellow garden center owners. A simple Facebook search result for garden center groups will provide you with several groups of like-minded individuals who are facing COVID-19 challenges just like you are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and soak up the information there. The excellent part about being part of the garden center community is that most, if not all, owners are in the business because they enjoy it.
Aside from help psychologically, monetary support is out there as well to keep you afloat. If you are struggling financially to keep your doors open, a small business loan may be the right direction to go. Depending on where your business was before the pandemic, there is an excellent chance that you may come out of this slight normality hiccup even stronger than before. Taking the slower pace and financial stimulation, you can make much-needed adjustments and renovations without causing too much disruption during regular business hours. You can take that money to focus on a digital media strategy that will resonate with your clients far beyond the spring season!
Tip Five: Be Ahead Of The Game
Beyond your storefront, countless other facets will impact your garden center spring strategy that you will have absolutely no control over. These can range from availability issues with your hard goods to difficulty getting your favorite plant selections. To avoid unnecessary surprises, contact your sales reps and chat about what they see on their end. They may know ahead of time that there will be a shortage of something like Osmocote and fail to relay the message to avoid any panic. Having a heart-to-heart conversation will allow them to know your needs and wants and give you a chance to get some inside information. Maybe instead of Osmocote, you’ll need to start selling Dr. Earth. The same goes for live goods! If an outbreak has walloped the grower you receive annuals from, you need to know that! Transparency isn’t always the case with some businesses, and some will put off telling you until it’s too late to come up with a Plan B.
Never rule out nature as an unknown as well! Keeping your eye on the future forecasts and even taking a moment to look into the Farmers’ Almanac can give you some sage insight. In particular, this winter has been brutal to most of the country, and it helps to know when it will end. Once you have your eye on the winter finish line, you can start implementing your garden center spring strategy and put some of these tips in place! You can almost make a game out of it and include your Instagram followers and Facebook fans. Make a contest as to the last frost date (or coldest temp for tropical locations) and offer rewards. Everybody loves the idea of winning something!
Seasonal struggles target almost every business out there, so don’t feel alone in your fight. Even the big-box store in town deals with more cards than they can play right now; it’s not just you. The most important thing you can do is keep your chin up and know that you’ll prevail. At Bloom: Digital Marketing for Garden Centers, we’re cheering you on more than ever and would love the opportunity to help turn your digital marketing strategy into a bulletproof one. We genuinely care about your success! It’s more than just doing a job to us; it’s about watching a small business grow and prosper! At the end of the day, we will always care about how you’re doing!
Nikki Weed has been in and around garden centers for more than half of her life. Starting at an incredibly young age, she realized she was drawn to horticulture and even more towards the business aspect of it. Her accolades include writing for Garden Center Magazine, being a keynote speaker for countless garden shows, and 20 years of footwork in garden centers. She spends her time growing tomatoes in the desert, unsuccessfully, and hiking the mountains of Arizona.