Diversification for garden centres - some ideas
Not suprisingly, many garden centres are looking beyond plants for income during the drought, and the watering restrictions that will undoubtedly remain for years to come.
Sales of mulches, tolerant plants, water tanks etc might compensate for reduced sales in other categories, but will it be enough, especially if interesting in gardening generally is depressed by all the negative publicity? (NB: see also Gardens and the drought - not all bad news!, which adresses the home gardener).
Developing alternative products lines might also stimulate plant sales throught cross-promotion. Factors like available resources and facilities, government regulation and insurance limitations may affect what you can do in reality, but these ideas might start you thinking.
Supplementary products and services
Planning and design
Promote this time as an opportunity for homeowners to take a step back and think about long term directions for their gardens (including water efficiency). As the design is implemented, plant sales may follow.
Cleanups and hard landscaping
With gardening on hold, this is also a good time to carry out maintenance and construction projects. Services and/or products.
Garden ornaments, lighting and water features
Could be incorporated into themed plant displays to attract attention and provide design ideas.
Furniture, hammocks, BBQs, shade structures etc. Displays mimicking a patio accessorised with container plants and homewares fron the gift shop could provide inspiration.
A special date like Mother's Day or Christams provides opportunities for sale of many alternative products lines (e.g. Christams trees and decorations) as well as promoting regular stock as gifts. See also: Garden Gift Ideas and Australian Native Plants as Christmas Trees
Make design ideas and advice available. Besides moving containers and potting mixes, could encourage use of bedding plants and vegetables which might otherwise be abandoned during drought. Extends gardening in general to the space-challenged and gardenless urban dweller. Themed containers for seasonal displays (see above).
Are there gardens that can be hired out for weddings etc?
Cafe, pets, gifts, florist etc
Many garden centres have already developed or are developing such ideas. Big investments obviously require careful consideration. E.g. the amount of competition locally.
Will they come?
You may not be able to rely on in-store promotion of your additional offerings if people aren't coming into the centre to buy plants because of the drought. Similarly, incorporating them into the small print of advertisments for the garden centre may not reach those that have switched off from gardening or who were never interested in the first place.
Highlight individual products and services, especially things people might not automatically associate with a garden centre.
Workshops and Talks
You will still have to publicise these in some way. Check local media for events calenders to which you might submit information. (If you operate in Queensland, see the events diary on this site).
Allow a local garden club (or other community groups) to have meetings in your centre.
Particularly if you specialise in a certain plant group or horticultural style, your gardens may attract visits by clubs or individuals.
Art Events, Musical Performances
Local artists, Charity fundraisers. May also attract free publicity in local media. Activities not directly related to gardening could bring a whole new set of potential customers into contact with your business, including people who have never visited a garden centre before.
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