Summer Retail Merchandising Series Part 2: Making the Most of a Garden Centre

Even before the warm weather hits, many Canadians have been anticipating summer for months due to one thing: gardening.

We Canadians love our plants, but we only have a limited time to tend to our gardens. One of the biggest joys for a garden-loving shopper is, of course, seasonal garden centres.

Even though garden centres have a limited run in Canada, retailers and manufacturers alike can capitalize on the outdoor spaces through a few savvy moves.

1. Make it about more than just the plants.

As much as a garden centre is about the plants, a great centre can go beyond that. Gardening accessories, like spades, gloves, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, and more are all essential needs for the aspiring gardener – especially one just starting out.

Beyond the plants that are offered, think about creating displays with watering cans, plant food, creative potting ideas, and more.

Greenhouse Canada also reports on the “lazy gardener” trend, which is people who know how to garden but want it to be easy. With this in mind, do what you can to make it as simple as possible. Tools that save time, or a ready-made product, have potential to be big sellers.

2. Tailor to the region.

While many garden centres target outdoor gardeners, indoor gardening is also becoming a bigger part of the industry thanks to housing affordability trends. In bigger cities, like Toronto, space is hard to find, and many are forced into tiny condos or living spaces without an outdoor garden. Yet these folks still want some green space…

Trends like ladder gardens, and plants that can be hung from ceilings, are growing in popularity where this housing is most prevalent.

In regions with more land space, where younger families are moving in, Better Homes & Gardens reports that DIY greenhouses are becoming a big trend. Consider creating or stocking an assemble-your-own-greenhouse kit.

3. Focus on vegetables.

Another trend, particularly for the millennial demographic, is moving towards more fresh and natural foods – and what’s more organic than growing your own?

Consider building a section of the garden centre around food growing and related accessories. This can also be tailored to the region. If you’re aware of a particular pest problem, or issues with animals that eat vegetable gardens, offer ways to prevent it.

4. Be sure staff is knowledgeable.

We’ve written recently about the importance of having staff who know more than Google. Many customers will come in having already done research at home – so garden centre staff needs to be just as, or even more, knowledgeable about the products on hand.

This isn’t just on retailers — manufacturers have a role to play in this, too. Consider providing product spec sheets or recommendations for your garden products. Put right on plants how much water they generally need, what type of food they require, the ideal environment, etc.

Depending on trends in your region, more specialized knowledge may be required – such as food growth, plants for condo living, etc. In this case you might want to consider suggestion #5…

5. Offer classes or in-centre events.

Garden centre classes can be hugely popular, especially for those rainy days. Offer the chance for people to come in and learn the ins and outs of their gardens and plants. These can also be useful to run all year long, or in the spring leading up to the summer months.

Classes are a great way to offer more specialized knowledge that staff may not have. For instance, if you are getting a lot of questions about food gardening, bring in an expert for a one-day workshop and advertise that.

There are more possibilities for great events that extend beyond the summer months. In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, some shoppers may be interested in craft sessions — for example, decorating their own flower pots.

While some of the onus for these events falls on the retailer, manufacturers can be equally involved by offering experts or workshop leaders or sponsoring these events and giving attendees a discount on their brand items.

6. Work with community groups.

Many towns and cities have community garden groups — why not create a partnership?

Seed exchanges can be hugely popular and are often held at community destinations, like the local library. Consider offering your garden centre for one instead, offering sponsorship, or hosting one yourself.

The idea is that even though people are bringing in their own seeds from home, they may not find what they’re looking for at the exchange, or they may get inspired by the other attendees and get ideas for further growth. When this happens, if you’re hosting the exchange at your garden centre, the tools are right there for the buying.

7. Think visual.

Among younger generations, there is a trend that Better Homes & Gardens reported on: Instagram. Not just Instagram specifically, but creating an Instagram-able home and garden.

This might mean fun and colourful foliage – plants that are visually striking or make for great photos. Less traditional plants and unique stand out pieces are growing popularity largely because of the impression they can have online.

“Insane colors and textures in plants is on the rise,” BH&G writes.

Coleus, begonias, lungwort, heuchera, and more are all on the rise, as are plants with plum, red, chartreuse, and orange leaves for pigment in the garden.

Consider creating visual displays to show just how pretty your plants can look on social media. Some cafés, for instance, have built foliage walls, specifically for the ‘gram. This makes it a popular tourist destination – and your centre could be the same.

Storesupport Canada can help retailers and manufacturers alike make the most of a garden centre this summer and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about our services. Call 1-877-421-5081 or visit

Read Part 1 of our Summer Retail Merchandising series here, and stay tuned for Part 3, coming out next week.

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