At the Van Hage Exclusive Christmas Preview evening on 29th September, Garden Centre Retail’s Ash O’Mahony spoke to marketing manager Lynsey Martinez about the importance of events for garden centres. With visitors enjoying a variety of Christmas themed displays and Christmas trees as well as free food and wine tasting, a grand raffle, shopping discounts and even the chance to meet a reindeer, Lynsey explains why events are a top priority for Van Hage in the coming year.
How did the event go?
It went really well, we had a lovely atmosphere, great feedback on the Christmas Shop and generally a really positive outcome. The staff also remained calm and we felt it was an organised success.
Did you have as many visitors as expected?
We sold more tickets than last year, which is fantastic. We ensured our walkways through our Christmas displays were larger than previous years to ease traffic flow and also dotted food, drink and toy demonstrations around the store to encourage customers into other departments within our garden centre.
What do you think is key in ensuring a garden centre event is successful?
Pre-marketing, letting people know about the event and what you have to offer. Creating a relaxed environment people will enjoy, and not a hard selling atmosphere.
How do you think events like this can affect how customers feel about a garden centre?
I think events create a closer bond between garden centres and customers. Offering family or shopping events allows us to give something back, and create a little fun, making our centre an experience and not just a destination.
What affect does holding events have on the garden centre?
Events have a great effect on increased sales, if the right atmosphere is created people tend to relax and therefore spend more because they are not thinking about it. They will also bring additional friends/family or talk to people about the event which can also attract a new clientele. They also generate great PR for the centre and enables you to maintain a great reputation within the community.
Do you hold events often?
We haven’t had a marketing manager for some time, and therefore we have not had much success in hosting such events. We’re making this a priority for 2017 – there is a huge market out there and we believe offering more events and attractions will increase footfall in to the store and as a result more sales.
How important is it for a local community to feel like part of their garden centre?
Very. This is what makes these events successful, it’s a chance for a garden centre to give something back to the community, whether that’s a discount on the night, free food tastings, meeting reindeers or raising money for local charities
What would you advise a garden centre needs to consider before planning an event?
To allow plenty of time for planning, this will ensure you execute a successful event. There’s no point hosting something half-heartedly, it will reflect poorly on your reputation and dishearten staff members. Timing, research, preparation and organisation are key to a successful event.
For more information on Van Hage and their upcoming event please visit: www.vanhage.co.uk