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Carve More Market Share

Maximizing your share of the market

Often, the statistical information that you see in articles in trade publications is given to you utilizing a pie chart. For example, using a pie chart, the writer may show you the results of a survey taken to ask consumers where they shop when buying their live goods and related accessories. Many times, the pie chart is accompanied by a second pie chart that indicates how the pie was divided several years earlier. There are two changes that you will frequently observe when looking at the changes over a period of years. The first is to see which types of businesses have gained in percentage share as compared to those types of businesses that have lost a part of the market. The other change is that there are one or two new groups of retailers that now have entered the market and own a percentage of the overall trade.

When you look at the pie chart, think of that favorite pie that grandmother always made for you. It was very delicious, and she had baked it especially for you. Yes, grandmother did have a slice, and so did Mom and Dad. But, the majority of the pie was for you. Unfortunately, today you now have a little brother or sister, perhaps several, and now even the cousins are wanting to have a piece of your pie. The garden center business is much the same as grandmother's pie. It was, and still is, very desirable.

But, a growing number of businesses think that the garden center is one of the best pies to be a part of. One of the reasons that this is such a desirable business is that it is one of the few retail arenas that gives a high level of satisfaction to homeowners. This is a result of the products, service and knowledge that you share with customers, and what the homeowner can achieve as a result of his shopping.

There are surveys that illustrate how Americans have increasingly become a society of nesting families in the past couple of years. Understandably, making the home more attractive would be one of the most popular activities for a homeowner. Our concern today, however, is the increasing number of businesses that are now selling the products that garden centers sell. Hardware stores, home centers, variety stores, mass merchants, and even the nearby florist are now selling some of the same goods and services.

Are these retailers your competitors? If a dollar that could be spent in your store is spent in another store, then you most definitely have a competitor. It does not matter why the other retailers have begun to stock green goods. The important question is, "What are you going to do about it?"

The number of potential customers has not increased as significantly as has the number of choices of places for the customer to shop. Fortunately for you, as the number of retailers increases, the focus of the competition has frequently been price. A study by Dr. Richard Feinberg of Purdue University gives us reason to be excited. In a study of 20,000 consumers, the five greatest demands in order of importance were: have inventory on hand, save my time, sell value to me, have attractive visual merchandising, and have qualified help available.

Where is price in this equation? We don't know, but this survey does indicate that there are at least five more important things to the customer. Try taking this five step approach to increasing your market share. First, visit the competitors to see how they operate. How is their merchandise displayed? What plant categories do they specialize in? Be knowledgeable of what they are doing and do take note of their prices.

Second, take special note of what they don't do. Do they have extended hours in the summer? What do they have a small selection of that you do a superior job of? Do they deliver? What accessory items do they sell? In short, look for their weaknesses.

Thirdly, look for success stories of retailers not in your trade area. Trade magazines are an excellent place to start your search. Call or visit dealers and ask for ideas that they have tried.

Your fourth step should be to establish a plan, schedule, and budget to implement any additions and changes to your business. You may be adding new products, a specialty selection, or just rearranging your yard. It may be that you will need to think more as a customer than as a retailer. If a customer comes to your nursery looking for plants that attract butterflies or hummingbirds, are these plants grouped together with a large sign and a picture of these creatures? Will even the first time landscaper come away from your nursery knowing the difference between an annual and a perennial? Someone has to educate these customers. Don't you want it to be you? Anticipate that you will be constantly revising this plan.

The fifth step is to begin to promote. Note that promotion and advertising are definitely not the same thing. An example of an excellent promotion by a nursery is to find the homeowner associations in your trade area and offer to sponsor a "home of the month" award. As they select the winner, offer a $20 gift certificate to your store. In return, you will get recognition in their community newsletter, and a sign in the front yard of the winner announcing that you are sponsoring the award.

The garden center pie is still delicious. Let's just go for an extra helping. You'll enjoy it.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179