The article below as written in 2010 for a garden center magazine column that I had the pleasure of writing during a year long journey. I was inspired to search and challenge my ideas and my beliefs in the green industry. In 2015, I closed The Garden Gates retail store after not being able to negotiating a lease extension. It was a sad day in my career, it followed with four years of hard work, and my determination to stay the course. Today, my ideas remain true in concept, but I would never return to the garden center industry as it is currently designed. Enjoy- Chad Everett Harris, June 2019.

Year 2010

Sometime ago it became apparent that the Garden Center Industry was becoming increasing difficult to attract new customer when the retail landscape is changing at a pace that the Retail Giants were modeling.      I decided that in order to compete, I would have to devise a plan to take the Giants in Retail on single handedly. I studied the companies growth strategies, read everything about the CEOʼs and followed any & all news on a daily basis. I learned a life time of knowledge in just a few months. I concluded that the best way to compete with the Giants was to perform miracles for all to witness. We would give more than we took, service greater than expect and do it all with quality products andservices.

5 instrumental components to our plan

(how we got where we are today)

  1. Become a Virtual Pioneer in the GreenIndustry
  2. Create a 5 part marketingPlan
    1. TV
    1. Web
    1. Social
    1. Community
    1. Gorilla
  • Design
  • Vision
  • Belief

Virtual

The green industry has not embraced the web and I believe itʼs because our industry is comprised of generational businesses. Why change the way we have done it for years, itʼs not broken. In order to compete in the future, maybe 10 years from today, we need to be creating business enterprises that operate based on how our future customers will embrace retailing. Take a sneak peak into a 12 year olds world today and consider them as a customer. How do they use the internet, mobile devices and the technology which will transform the future of retailing. Is the web the answer for your business, maybe not but local customer today search the internet before they climb in their cars to make their purchases today. How can you catch the wave without breaking thebank

  1. If you donʼt have a website, consider building one. If this doesnʼt fit within your budget, take a few minutes and complete the local sections of all the web search companies. For instance, Google Places, which you can create store hours, upload pictures and give a quick note about your business which will come up in search engines when people are search for your productslocally.
  2. Social Media- Facebook, Youtube Channels, Linkedin are all free services that help you interact withcustomers.
  3. Build a website that represents your company and make sure you have a plan to provide updates to the site. Search the web and you can find 1000ʼs of site that are just horrible, donʼt be one ofthose.

Marketing

TV- consider creating TV ads and run them on local cable stations during popular shows like Real Housewives or Top Chef on Bravo, they are affordable and market to your customer. Find a up and coming film student that needs to work on their portfolio and may do work at a discount. Sometimes TV stations have production to get you to buy long term contracts. TV is not for everyone and results are not measured overnight but long term and take a commitment to be successful.

Web- Use Google Places and create coupons( for free) that customers can print and use in store.

Social- If you have a website, post links to in on FB for coupons etc. If not, use FB as your company website and post coupons for your customers to print and use in store

Community- Actively get involved in your community. Give to everyone that asks for donations, giving small gift cards speaks volumes. Devise a plan that puts a value on the group, meaning a group of 50=$25 card( .50 per participate) this will allow you to fairly afford every event.

Gorilla- One of the most effective tools in marketing is gorilla marketing. Consider printing 3 fold flyers ( hole punch and loop rubber bands around them) canvas the neighborhoods of customer every 7 days for 3 weeks.  Make sure to change to message in each flyer but maintain the same format ( so they figure out its you) Hang each one on the door knobs( we find the rubber bands give us better attaching to different doors rather than the normal door hangers) Make sure to create a couponcode or special offer so you can track the results( once you have done it a few times, you will figure out what works best then focus on your bestmethod)

Design

Consider designing your own special products. Its a monstrous undertaking that takes time to develop but you have the opportunity to fix all the problems with the products you sell that are not right in your eyes. Plan to spend 18 months before seeing real results, this is something great to keep you focused on your future rather than the present.

Vision

Whether you are in a generational business or you are the entrepreneur, the future you your business is reliant on the vision or plan you have in place for future growth. Make sure to work on your vision each day and guide the business into the future. Donʼt just show up and turn the light on and off each day thatʼs what a store keepers does not leaders of the future

Belief

This is the #1 ingredient to the future success of your business. The belief that you hold the keys to the future of this industry.  The belief that your product is superior.  The belief that you have something to share of importance. Understand that the measure of success should be viewed in both short term as well as long term Best of all believe in yourself, that is truly all it takes to besuccessful.

The Future of The Garden Gates

I believe the future of this industry hasnʼt even surfaced and the garden center landscape will evolve with smaller operators becoming instinctively creative to fight off the Retail Giants.

Our plan for the future is simple and is only 3 parts

  1. Brick & Mortar

Continue to operate a our store ( only 1) using itʼs involvement with customers to test products, marketing ideas and building our brand

  • Virtual

Continue to build our virtual storefront and product selection

  • Catalog

Continue to create unique catalogs that offer products not readily available

My belief is that we are the future if the garden center industry. We have created a lifestyle store that is special. We donʼt intended to ruin its character through a store expansion but through virtual and coffee tables around the country.

I have been to the future( in my mind) and I see the path. Itʼs my responsibility to share my knowledge and model the future of our industry.

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Published by Chad Everett

Chad Everett Harris is an entrepreneur to the core. Over the last 38 years, he has been involved in construction, retail, ecommerce, marketing, and cryptocurrency. This combination of industries provides him with a unique approach to business development.

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