Here in the United States there’s a vibrant industry of small, independently-owned garden centers and nurseries. Usually they are family businesses.
Consumers shop at the big box retail stores when looking for mulch or basic annuals like marigolds. But if you’re an avid gardener or discerning homeowner looking for something special, then the independent garden centers and small nurseries are what you seek out.
Well-run garden centers are one of the retail segments that can still have an advantage over the big box stores. From a customer perspective, these independent garden centers win hands down when it comes to product selection, quality, customer service and an enjoyable shopping experience. That’s because smaller garden centers are better at offering a wide variety of unusual plants, interesting statuary and the best color/plant selections in annuals and perennials — along with providing personalized help and great service. Plus the plants are better taken care of and more likely to survive.
Yes — quality, product mix, customer service — they matter to customers. It doesn’t always just come down to price — which is where the big box garden centers compete.
Recently I gave an interview to Garden Center magazine. Turns out — Brent Leary (part of our Small Business Trends Expert Network) was also interviewed by Sarah Martinez, Garden Center assistant editor, in the same article. The topic was whether small-business garden retailers should use social media. Our collective conclusion: maybe. Blogs are a good first step. Beyond that, pick and choose which social media vehicles you use based on where you’re likely to find customers participating — it’s not one size fits all.
I also discovered that Garden Center magazine runs a blog for the garden retail community. In it they have been giving updates concerning Todd and Barbara Bachman, the American couple stabbed at the 2008 Olympics. The Bachmans own a chain of 19 garden centers in Minnesota. The Garden Center blog points out one benefit of a family business with loyal employees — when a tragedy happens, employees step up to the plate to keep the business running. It’s all due to the fact that the Bachmans created a succession plan a decade ago. Score one for succession planning ….