5 April 2022
A group of 10 ambitious garden centres from various countries will start working with Garden Connects’ Strategic Consulting Program. “Over the past 2 years, we have noticed that a number of garden centres want to accelerate their growth. To facilitate this, it is important to make choices on both an operational and strategic level,” says Edwin Meijer on behalf of Garden Connect.
The Strategic Consulting Program was developed by Garden Connect to help the most ambitious garden centres. “We have seen that with our knowledge and experience we can help garden centres define a growth strategy. Many garden centres have started a webshop in recent years, but often a good strategy and vision are lacking. Sales went fine during Covid-19 but now that society is open again, it is important to develop a long-term strategy for online sales. We plan to tackle this together with the garden centre owners within our Strategic Consulting Program. In addition, good consultation at the operational level is also essential to implement the agreements made.
Garden Retail Growth Model
The strategic positioning is based on the Garden Retail Growth Model. This model, developed by Garden Connect, helps to gain insight into choices, opportunities and challenges centres are facing. “Many owners are extremely busy and do not take the time to take a step back and look at the longer-term plans. What direction do I want to follow as a garden centre? What value do I add for my customers? Why do I want customers to come to us? And is our organisation ready for these growth steps?”, says Edwin Meijer.
The Garden Retail Growth Model is based on the Business Model Canvas: “The Business Model Canvas is a well-known management tool, but it can be quite abstract. We have made it more concrete and focused on the garden retail industry. With the Garden Retail Growth Model, we can get an overview of the opportunities and bottlenecks in just the first meeting.”
Opportunities & choices
From the beginning of 2020, garden centres have made great progress online: “However, part of this turnover was temporary: consumers were stuck at home and the weather was beautiful in Spring. Part of that money will therefore remain in the industry, but people will also spend money on other activities, such as eating out, going out for a drink and going on holiday. The question is what opportunities are there for garden centres to continue to grow and to prevent this turnover from flowing away. It is important to make strategic choices.”
After a few good years, it's good to use that momentum to think about the future: “We know that some business owners in the garden retail sector are thinking about retirement. Every year a number of them sell their garden centres to a project developer or colleague. As a result, the number of centres is decreasing, but the size and ambition of the stores that are still here are growing. They also have to deal with a changing environment, one in which online and non-industry players are active. It is important for them to think about the position of online within their organisation.”
In addition, customers are increasingly moving online to buy plants: “Up until now, plants have really remained an offline product: people didn't buy them online. But partly due to Covid-19, buying plants online has taken off. This also is the last product group that was not necessarily sold online, a group with which garden centres will feel competition online.”
With more than three hundred garden centres in six countries as customers, Garden Connect has a lot of experience and insight into the market: “We use real-world cases to show how fellow garden centre owners abroad make a difference. We do not show cases from the country of the centre itself: that can sometimes be sensitive. We also do not use numbers since they are confidential. But we can show which garden retailers have made clear choices. Why did they do that? And how does that manifest itself? What can you learn from that?”
By showing cases, a strategic choice becomes tangible. “An entrepreneur who indicates that he is known in his own region for his extensive range of house plants must ensure that his online communication is in line with this. We show examples of how a colleague abroad does this. We know that we should not come up with far-reaching views: practical solutions that suit centres help better. Action points are then established to ensure that the strategy is properly implemented.”
From nothing to 3 million webshop turnover
In recent years, the turnover of garden centres has skyrocketed, both offline and online. “We have helped many garden centres grow online over the past 2.5 years. Some have literally gone from no online turnover to more than 3 million euros per year just in their webshop. However, there is a story behind that growth. There must be a clear strategy, the organisation must be ready and all partners must be on the same page.”
We also know that online ambitions are not being realised. In that case, the owner or managers really want to take steps, but there’s no clear strategy. Or the organisation is not ready for it internally. Then the story gets bogged down and motivation wanes. It is with the Strategic Consulting Program that we can prevent this because we ensure that all these factors are aligned.”
In addition to strategic support, this group of customers also receives broader support at an operational level: “We are pleased that many of our users already appreciate the support we provide. But support by email and telephone is sometimes quite time-consuming, both for us and for our customers. That could be more convenient.”
Within the company we have been using the project management software Jira for some time: “We use this tool internally and now we also give participants in the Strategic Consulting Program access. The same goes for our larger online marketing customers. Supporting them through Jira makes transparent what happens when questions are asked. It also provides an overview for all those involved.”
The operational consultation takes place monthly: “Apart from the normal contact moments, we consciously choose to have a monthly consultation moment with everyone who is involved in the website or webshop on a daily basis. This prevents questions and problems from lingering.”
Participants in the Strategic Consulting Program are given higher priority by the Garden Connect support department: “Our aim is that all questions must be answered within 48 hours. For participants in this program, this is within 24 hours and ideally within a few hours. That way they can make faster progress, but without it being at the expense of our other users.”
Program fully booked
The need for such a program is clearly there because within 8 weeks all available places were fully booked: “We want to get this right and have made time to help 10 customers. Within 8 weeks we had this group together. This group includes garden centres from Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom. This also shows that entrepreneurs in the garden industry are ambitious, regardless of the country where they are located.”
The downside is that entrepreneurs are also excluded: “Unfortunately, we also had to disappoint garden centres who wanted to join in anyway. Hopefully, we can have a second group join later in 2022. But the basic principle is that we help ambitious entrepreneurs to grow: garden centres with fewer growth ambitions do not have to participate in this, we have other solutions for them.” concludes Edwin Meijer
This article is written by:Edwin Meijer
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