A Winter Lesson

Many Garden Departments in hardware stores go into hibernation in winter, simply because customers are unaware of outdoor tasks to perform – so teach them!

In mid-winter, there is a temptation for hardware retailers to neglect their Garden Departments and focus on “interior” categories: Home décor, Heating, Paint, etc.

Winter, however, ought to be an extremely active season for a wide range of Garden-related activities – and retailers should be alerting customers to the full range of outdoor jobs that need attention.AHJnoticeboardJuly05

A good place to start is the installation of a noticeboard in the Garden Department, with all major winter jobs (and the equipment required!) presented in a clear list. Think of it as a simple “Things to Do Now” board.

The installation of such a board has numerous benefits:
1) Customers are alerted to the fact that there are indeed many winter activities that should be undertaken in the Garden;
2) Promotes cross-merchandising, with customers encouraged to buy “packages” of products from Garden and other Departments to suit specific “projects”;
3) Educates consumers about clusters of seasonal jobs (such as pruning, planting), and encourages customers to adopt ongoing cyclic gardening routines (and spending habits!);
4) Attracts new or novice customers to the category;
5) Captures customers who may have entered the store for non-gardening needs;
6) The board could be tailored to suit the strengths of the Department; for example, you could include or remove references to individual plant species depending on in-store availability;
7) Encourages immediate purchases: jobs have to be done now, this winter;
8) Introduces new services that might have year-round applications, such as tool sharpening;
9) Promotes the “authority” status of the business, leading consumers to revisit your store (and not a competitor’s outlet) to gain inspiration/confirmation about appropriate seasonal tasks;
10) Offers staff the opportunity to up-sell when responding to specific customer enquiries (Q: “Which secateurs are right for my roses…?”; A: “Have you seen our new top-of-the-range models…?”);
11) Classifies non-essential products (such as knee cushions) alongside essential ones (spades), thereby promoting greater sales of non-core products;
12) Can be used as a means of promoting selected high-value or new items (recently released secateurs, power tools); and
13) Can be linked to targeted peripheral specials, encouraging the consumer to associate the noticeboard recommendations with good value for money.

The value of noticeboards might be enhanced by offering free delivery of bulk purchases to local destinations. If a customer has a positive home delivery experience, repeated bulk purchases could follow.

Garden Departments are often considered “difficult entry” sections of a store, meaning it is hard to convert non-gardeners into keen regular customers. New generations of homeowners who know nothing about gardening are either happy to remain ignorant or perplexed about how to get useful guidance. A noticeboard is a cheap method of painlessly demystifying some of the basics while driving current and future sales.

By John Power

 

  • You can read more on this subject in the July 2005 issue of the Australian Hardware Journal.