A Case Study: Canadale Nurseries
Garden Centres Canada has been offering, through Eve Tigwell, retail inspections and consultancy to its members since 2009. A wide range of centres of all sizes in most provinces have taken up this offer, some of which have developed an on-going relationship with Eve to benefit their business. Canadale Nurseries is one such company, and this article looks at the changes Pauline Intven-Casier and Tom Intven have made to the retail part of their business over the last three years.
Inspections, including the on-site discussion and report, aim to provide garden centre and retail nursery owners and managers with practical information on how to improve and grow their businesses. Depending on the contents of the report there are usually a wide range of improvements that can be made, from small details to major projects.
In 2010, Canadale scored 62.76% in their first inspection: by no means a poor score, but the resultant report highlighted details (such as spelling mistakes on signs) right through to potentially major issues with layout, quality and presentation. After a review of the preliminary report’s findings, Pauline and Tom chose to make changes on all fronts in order to take the business forward into the next decade.
According to Pauline, “It was quite a shock for us to receive such a low score in our first inspection. It was a great learning experience for us to see where we came up short when Eve brought a more international view of our garden centre. Several of her suggestions were quick fixes that we were able to implement immediately, while others helped us to set up some longer term goals.”
The overall layout of the centre was not using space very effectively. Many paths were too narrow for easy shopping and far too many customers were visiting far too little of the site. Potential new layout ideas were discussed, and final plans for all sections of the centre drawn up. You might question the logistics of this in terms of the distance from UK to Canada: however, drawings work well as email attachments and phone calls are relatively inexpensive.
The practical work was carried out over the winter of 2010/11 and included moving the checkouts and most of the fixtures and fittings. The effects of the revised layout were seen clearly in the 2011 season with customers moving around the site much more freely.
Merchandising and presentation techniques are vital and the changes made at Canadale are the result of discussions and the use of photographs to show the good, the bad and (sadly) the ugly. Plants and merchandise are now presented in such a way that customers can see what is on offer and make their purchases with ease. There is an enhanced focus on cross merchandising, which has increased the average sale figures and thus profitability.
The inspection process looks at company branding with a focus on signage. Even though it is only a small part of the inspection form, it is a vitally important aspect of a successful retail business. The Canadale brand was evident, but it was agreed by all that it could do with an overhaul to make it more obvious. The logo, colours, sign layouts, overall designs, and all marketing materials were studied in detail and a new and improved look was eventually agreed upon. Now customers cannot fail to recognise which centre they are shopping at and whose marketing and advertising materials they are reading.
This combination of inspections and consultancy has helped Canadale Nurseries’ score to rise to 73.9% in 2011. The discussions and follow-up report made several further recommendations on improvements, mainly details that still needed addressing. In 2012 they achieved 80.73% - an excellent score. This was the result of hard work by all involved: there were great improvements in quality, merchandising and customer care.
“The Garden Centre Inspection program is a great exercise for any garden centre to go through. In our case, it was a motivator to get all the staff - including the front-end workers, team leaders, office staff and managers – focused on one goal. The timing is perfect, right after the busy spring gardening season. It helped us to look hard at ourselves from different perspectives to maximize sales and profit for the softer summer season. It was encouraging to improve our outcome every year. Now we have a clearer vision of where we want to be and future improvements. The staff has a more unified vision with several detailed ideas on how to keep our garden centre vibrant and profitable. With each inspection, we ‘set the bar’ a little higher and try to maintain that level throughout the year.” - Pauline Intven-Cassier
What are next steps for garden centres that have already made improvements? Clearly, the inspection program is a great motivator for garden centres to maintain and improve their retailing standards. They should also consider starting the more detailed work of managing their centres such that profitability can be maximised, ideally with minimum capital investment. This is not part of the inspection program as it involves detailed one-on-one work between Eve and the independent garden centre in the area of sales, inventory, merchandising and more. This service can be made available through Garden Centres Canada and more information is available by contacting the CNLA office.
Recognizing Canadian companies that raise the level of professionalism in the landscape industry.
Minimum standards for the nursery industry, for use by students, educators and professionals.
An independent industry body with a mandate to administer nursery certification programs in Canada.
Provides the framework for basic training sessions to develop an informed well-rounded employee.