People often wear their hearts on their sleeves, and garden center customers are no exception. Millennials and Gen Z crowds are big proponents of personal identity, and many people who fall in between these demographics are likely to flaunt their personalities through clothing, jewelry, and other accessories. If you want to capture more additional sales at the checkout, maybe now is the time to consider bringing some plant-branded products in the store. Eliza Blank, Founder of The Sill, and Leah Flanagan, Owner of The Forest Flower, share their strategies for making these props a consistent hit.
While customers once aligned with brand identities, they now identify with concepts. But if you’re savvy enough, retailers can appeal to both.
âCustomers try to show their love for plants because ‘plant parenthood’, if you will, is becoming part of people’s identity. You see it on dating profiles and social media profiles that people want to identify as the parent of the plant, âsays Blank. “They put it on their shirts, their hats, their streetwear.”
The Sill offers t-shirts, tote bags, posters, jewelry, and enamel pins, and customers are raving about them. While they might not be looking for these items at first, she says they are an easy add-on as they increase the average order value. This can be a key tactic for garden centers that play with the age-old question: how to get customers to buy more?
âIt’s not just about trying to sell more plants. It’s giving someone who you already know has an interest in plants, something else to buy, âshe says.
These items also make great gifts, and can be a good way to cross-merchandise with other departments.
âI think it’s an unexpected and delicious time for customers when they can buy something that expresses their love for plants,â she says. âEspecially when they’re giving something to a plant lover, because the plant lover probably has a lot of plants, but maybe they don’t have a t-shirt that says they love plants. âAt Forest Flower in Indianapolis, Indiana, Flanagan says it’s all about curation and presentation. As an avid shopper herself, she stores items that she would like to see as a consumer, and often.
“One of the things I don’t like about going to the stores is when you go there a few times a month and it’s the same thing, so you don’t go back for six months.” I knew I wanted to sell things that everyone maybe has, but then sell a lot of things that you don’t see everywhere else, âshe says.
Browsing the aisles of The Forest Flower, customers can find unique products worthy of any plant buyer. Flanagan offers craft candles, woven baskets, terrariums, pins, stickers, tote bags, and jewelry, among others. She is also a big supporter of fair trade and offers handcrafted items created by independent artisans and small vendors.
Large garden centers might not be able to sell these types of items because they cannot buy them wholesale from their suppliers, and Flanagan notes that the buying process can be time consuming as they have to choose from a smaller pool of specialist sellers. She must also buy in smaller quantities. Make, an online wholesaler who sells to freelancers (she describes it as an “Etsy Wholesale”) can be a good supplier for these type of items.
âI love it when I sell things and can buy new things. Sometimes I rearrange the same things and sometimes I don’t because I always want it to be different. I love it when people say, “I was just here and now you got different stuff!” I have people who will come every week, âshe said.
Blank says they pay attention to the materials they use for their clothes. Offering good value for money is important at The Sill, but the material should also be of good quality.
âWe didn’t want to sell cheap T-shirts. We wanted to sell shirts that people really wanted to wear and were comfortable in. For example, the sweatshirts we sell are Champion, and the Champion brand has seen a certain upturn in trend, âshe says.
The Sill looked at the market landscape to dictate what customers would be willing to pay for these types of items. Crediting an October 2020 New York Times article titled “Less posing, more pruning: Stylish gardening clothes are coming,” Blank says gardening clothes are becoming increasingly stylish and intellectual. Certainly a step forward from the pajamas that people have become accustomed to wearing in their forties.
âI think that too lends itself to this new situation of working from home. No one is really dressing up at the moment. It is suitable for work in the garden, but it can be a little more stylized, a little more trendy to wear. It’s more functional, âshe says.
The pandemic has also impacted The Forest Flower’s supply, but working with small US-based businesses has been beneficial as when there is a shortage she says she can always find something for the store.
âThe margins aren’t that high, but I also like that a lot of these brands have stories. Many of them are owned by women or they are small businesses. And COVID has been so bizarre. Lowe’s, Walmart, Target – they just killed him. But I think people like to come to my place where everything is a little more authentic, a little more local, âshe says.
Flanagan says she gets a lot of traffic from millennials, who like to spend hours browsing the store and buying three crystals for $ 5 or the vintage-style Cavallini posters, which cost around $ 4-5.
âI’m glad they like our store. And then you have the people who come in and spend $ 800 and never look at the price. These are the people you really love! she laughs.
Flanagan’s space is colorful, and the side of their building even features a pink echinacea mural by artist Jules Muck, an Instagram-worthy stop for many shoppers. They also have two miniature donkeys on-site – Little Red and Burrito (for the curious, they even have a Live Donkcam, where guests can scroll to the bottom of The Forest Flower’s homepage and watch what’s on. they do during the day).
If an IGC wants to test these items, she says he should test buying these products in small batches. Blank and Flanagan are keeping a close eye on the market by listening to the community and keeping an eye out for social media trends. They also have handy tips for garden centers who might want to start trying these types of extensions.
âPeople spend $ 10 on a plant, but then they buy three stickers for $ 4 because they’re sitting right at the front of the store. Just find a little space, maybe closer to the register, with just a few really cute impulses, âshe says.
Blank suggests that garden centers ask their customers if they think there is anything missing from their assortment. She also says it’s important to note which customers come in through the door and see if your business is stocking what they repeatedly ask for. This is data that owners can use to start carrying things, whether it’s gloves, t-shirts, or earrings.
âIt’s just amazing as a cultural phenomenon to see how plants continue to become a unique identifying trait in people’s lives,â says Blank.