From The Archives: How to sell weed control December 2015

Simple explanations and cutting down on options is the way to sell weed control, an often confusing product, says Geoff Hodge

It was an interesting year for weedkiller sales. The cold weather in spring meant a slow start, but sales soon picked up in summer and went on well into autumn. But were weedkillers picked up by your customers? And were they happy with the results they achieved?

From my talks with gardeners, weedkiller use still engenders lots of bewilderment and confusion. And their confusion isn’t helped at all by their point-of-purchase experience. Behavioural research, carried out by Shopping Behaviour Xplained in 2011, shows that the weedkiller section has the highest time spent browsing by consumers – but with the lowest purchase conversion rate, with nearly half not purchasing anything! We need to put an end to the confusion.

When your customers are confronted with long stands packed with dozens of ‘different’ weedkillers, most of which do the same thing, it’s not really surprising they scratch their heads and walk on. Does the one labelled nettle weedkiller only kill nettles, the bramble one only brambles?

I recently overheard a customer remarking that her problem was ground elder, and she could never find a weedkiller to deal with that. When I told her that any weedkiller based on glyphosate would work wonders, she just looked at me in surprise – and quickly bought one.

AI not AI

What about AIs? No, not your customers’ artificial intelligence, but active ingredients. You should never assume knowledge when it comes to what’s in the bottle. You may know all about the active ingredients, how they work and what they do, but your average gardener – and particularly your less-than-average gardener – doesn’t have a clue.

Systemic weedkillers kill right down to the roots, but can take up to three weeks to work, even longer in cold temperatures. Contact and ‘organic’ weedkillers are fast acting, but only kill what they touch and have no effect on the roots. How many of your customers know that, and can make an informed decision on which to buy as a result? You need to explain this as simply as possible.

One of my biggest bugbears is path and drive weedkillers. There are numerous brands out there sold as ‘path and patio’ that only contain glyphosate, so only kill existing weeds. Yet, there are those that also contain a residual active ingredient (Bayer Garden Path & Drive Weedkiller and Weedol® Pathclear™), which prevents further weed seed germination, and therefore, weed growth

Consolidate your ranges and displays. Surely all you need is one fast-acting contact, a total glyphosate-based one, one for tough weeds and a proper path and drive weedkiller? Display them accordingly, highlighting their uses and the benefits behind using each one.

Concentrate on sales

While RTUs remain the biggest sellers in the controls sector, concentrates do provide more flexibility and allow your customers to treat large weed-infested areas economically. So, don’t forget to encourage concentrate sales and display pump-up sprayers alongside them.

As small 1L trigger bottles can be tiring to use over large areas with all that trigger-finger action, the larger 3L and 5L pump-up RTUs, such as those available for Roundup® and Westland Resolva 24H® and the battery-operated Weedol® Power Sprayer, make application so much easier, so get your customers to trade up to these. They’re also the perfect solution for the elderly, infirm and those with hand and finger problems who find trigger applicators difficult or impossible to use.

Geoff Hodge
Geoff Hodge is a garden writer and broadcaster, writing for various gardening magazines and websites and has written eight books. Previously, he was a garden centre manager.

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