On Sunday morning while having warm croissants, on Wednesday when grandma picks up her granddaughter from school, on the first day of the autumn holiday, and on Saturday morning of a weekend away with your sisters, you often hear the same question: ‘What are we doing today?’. And among ideas like going to the cinema, the zoo, the pool, the sauna or a restaurant for a nice lunch, there is another fun option: a trip to the garden centre!
The garden centre offers a perfect day out for many people. The problem is that we as garden centres don’t acknowledge this fact enough. During the period before Christmas and at the start of the spring season, we do everything we can to offer our customers a perfect experience, but between these peak periods we sometimes act like the customers don’t exist. Like they don’t have any free time between the end of December and the middle of March. As if they never ask themselves, between June and October; ‘What are we doing today?’.
For example, I talked to an entrepreneur last week, I’ll just call him Piet here. Piet is an entrepreneur to his core. He proudly told me about his business model for the early Christmas period. “The customers have a lot of time, and we have to make use of that time. We offer a Christmas show with free access. Our Christmas range sells well, but thanks to the influx of visitors around Christmas, we see increased turnover for other groups during this time as well.” I looked at Piet with understanding, “Of course, that makes sense, it’s just a shame that the customers are apparently only looking for something to do with their free time in November...”.
Later in our conversation, we talked about an anecdote from one of Piet’s colleagues, back in February last year. This colleague met a former classmate in town. “How are you doing? What do you do?” The usual. Piet’s colleague told them about his work. The former classmate knew the garden centre, oh yes, she went shopping there sometimes. When asked whether she had been there recently, she said: “Oh yes! 3 months ago, I bought a beautiful poinsettia, had a delicious lunch and brought a nice Christmas present for my dog.” Piet’s colleague asked why she hadn’t come back during those 3 months, and her reply was surprising: “The carrousel isn’t there anymore!”.
So I want to plead for working on shifting the expectations of our customers. From ‘the garden centre is really fun for two periods during the year’ to ‘the garden centre is really fun (almost) all year round’. And of course, that shift will begin – as usual – with garden centre entrepreneurs. Let’s turn ‘being fun more often’ into a separate goal. Quicker and more efficient reconstruction is an important part of this. The same goes for organising themed weeks more frequently throughout the year.
That way, in January, while having croissants in the morning, the answer to the question ‘What are we doing today?’ could be: ‘We’re going to the garden centre, they’re holding Houseplant Inspiration workshops!’.
And in February, when grandma picks her granddaughter up from school on Wednesday, the answer to the question ‘What are we doing today?’ could be: ‘We’re going to the garden centre, for the Carrousel of Love!’.
And in September, on Saturday morning during a weekend away with your sisters, the answer to the question ‘What are we doing today?’ could be: ‘We’re going to the garden centre, for the mini-morphosis days!’.
And in October, on the first day of the autumn holiday, the answer to the question ‘What are we doing today?’ could be: ‘We’re going to the garden centre, for the bees and honey quest!’.
This way, you’ll be fun all year round, and keep giving customers reasons to visit. Let’s make sure that ‘we’re going to the garden centre!’ is always a good answer to that common question: ‘What are we doing today?’.
Kees de Haan, founder of De Haan Group