South London was in bloom last week as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show once again opened its doors to the public. It’s a clear sign that summer’s fast approaching, as many of us now turn attention towards our gardens. Of course, for the truly green-fingered amongst us the hard work started long ago. For everyone else, May marks the start of frantic work to ensure our outdoor spaces are perfectly presented during the warmer months – planting, pruning, and making the inevitable trips to our local garden centre.
Thankfully, the presence of two Bank Holiday weekends in May will have once again proven timely for many. It’s also particularly pertinent for CJ Retail Solutions too, as the business has recently become members of the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA).
The reasons for a retail display and P-O-P installation specialist becoming a member of the HTA may initially be unclear to some, but garden retail these days is big business. According to the HTA, UK consumers spend around £5billion a year on garden and plant related products – more than we spend as a nation on chocolate – a statistic that many outside of the sector may find surprising.
Garden centres used to only sell plants in the autumn and spring. Today, they sell everything from gardening hardware, compost, fertilisers and chemicals, to giftware, clothes and, of course food – especially, coffee, tea and cake. In fact, UK garden centre catering is worth around £200m a year – not far shy of the turnover of Costa Coffee and Café Nero, combined.
But it’s also a sector that has to deal with a number of retail challenges and, surprisingly, we’re not counting the British weather as one of them. In many ways, garden retail is arguably an environment as challenging as the convenience sector, with many big brands having to find ways to deliver success through countless independent retailers. In truth, many stores’ busy retail teams don’t have the time, or sometimes the expert knowledge and skills required to tend to ongoing retail standards and POS campaign maintenance requirements. And without effective support, brand performance will only wither.
It doesn’t end there. Today, competition from the likes of fashion and homeware retailer Next, Marks & Spencer, as well as grocery retailers such as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s is growing, with each one taking their own steps towards expanding their plants and garden design offering. Retailers and brands traditionally associated with the sector are being forced to revisit their approaches to in-store, knowing they must look at how they can best leverage their marketing spend in order to turn more shoppers into customers.
Yet too many retailers and brands operating in the garden retail sector are still guilty of assuming that if they deliver new investment into store, retail campaigns will be installed, maintained and perform as expected. This simply isn’t the case, especially if your in-store activation and ongoing POS compliance is weak.
If those operating within the sector need some inspiration, they should look no further than the annual RHS Britain in Bloom competition. The competition runs all year round, with a total of 4,132 groups taking part nationwide. In terms of mobilising people towards the common goal of delivering great presentation standards, it’s a fantastic achievement.
Indeed, there are many parallels between gardening and retail implementation. In-store effectiveness is also about starting right and focusing on the small details. Fail to do the all-important groundwork and your prize assets will be starved of the vital support they need. And even once the initial work has been done to seed campaigns successfully into retailers’ stores, regular checks are also essential to maintain the right conditions for growth throughout the lifetime of a campaign. Do that and you will be ready to capitalise on seasonal opportunities, impulse purchases and seasonal events. Put simply, sales will flourish.
Many of us with spend a lot of time collectively bemoaning the summer months. But rarely does a year go by without us frantically trying to make good on our past neglect in order to take advantage of the sunshine when it does finally arrive. And with it comes a commitment not to abandon our gardens so hastily next time – to take better care of them, consistently. What follows, however, are the inevitable cold winter months, which lead to a legacy of unfilled potential by the time summer comes around once more.
Similarly, retail activations require significant, ongoing investment in time and effort – all year round. Yes, makeovers are possible, but to do so is a false economy when, in reality, most retailers and brands have the ability to organically deliver outstanding displays and the highest standards of in-store presentation month in, month out.
In the run-up to the RHS Britain in Bloom judges’ tour in August, community groups will be redoubling their efforts over the coming weeks in order to impress. As in retail, presentation is everything. Speak to any of them and they will be quick to tell you – there are no short cuts to success.
Best practice retail implementation within garden centres, as in any sector, needs to be built, nurtured and embedded, too. Delivering game-changing retail experiences requires dedication and commitment, and not just for a few short months each year. Retail standards not only have to look as fresh as the spring or summer season, but they must also be maintained, consistently and effectively. Only then will retailers and brands be likely to see sales continue to bloom well into autumn and winter.