Garden centre retail asks The Display Centre’s Ali Newton about the importance of visual merchandising, and why garden centres should be on the lookout for impulse barriers on their shop floor.
What is an impulse buy?
“When a customer buys something that isn’t on their shopping list, something they didn’t plan to buy but saw and decided to get on the spot, that’s an impulse purchase” Ali clarifies. Impulse buys can account for a significant amount of turnover within any retail outlet, Ali continues, and should be maximised wherever possible: “There are three really key tactics for making an impulse sale – not all three have to be met, but retailers should aim to have at least two of them. First, the product needs to be something that is interesting, can be understood immediately and clearly, and it has to be something that customers can convince themselves will be a positive purchase. Secondly, retailers need to create a sense of urgency around the sale of the product – things like “sale ends this Friday!” or “Offer on today only” which make your customers believe if they don’t buy the product now, they’ll lose out. The final tactic is running a promotion of some sort on a product – buy one get one free for instance, something that will make customers think they’re getting really good value out of the purchase. If a retailer can’t or doesn’t want to run a promotion, they could get round this with approaches like a dump-bin, which are usually used for promotions, so customers tend to think whatever is in a dump bin is good value.”
What are impulse barriers?
“An impulse barrier is anything that puts a customer off making an impulse purchase” Ali explains: “Customers may not even be conscious of some impulse barriers they are experiencing in a retail environment. The priority for garden centres should be for their products to look as attractive as possible, and positioned well within the centre. If a product is hidden away on the bottom shelf it’s much less likely that customers will see it and pick it up, which then naturally reduces the chances of the product being an impulse purchase. A good impulse product should be easy to see and customers should be able to understand what the product is immediately; the product also needs to be exciting in some way to a customer.”
How can they be recognised and avoided?
Ali advises for garden centres to try and put themselves in their customers’ shoes when trying to identify impulse barriers, and to keep in mind the vastly wide range of forms they can take. “One example of an impulse barrier for a garden centre could be inaccessible parking, which puts potential customers off visiting the centre in the first place.” Ali continues: “Recently a supermarket realised that sales of a particular product had significantly dropped and couldn’t work out why – they checked their stats and couldn’t identify the problem. They eventually went to take a look at the product display, and found it was covered by a spider web which was putting off customers picking the product up. Sometimes it can be a really small thing that can hugely affect whether a product is bought impulsively or not.”
Regular checks on all products out on the shop floor is essential in ensuring that obvious impulse barriers like this aren’t occurring, states Ali, and to check that everything is positioned well and looking it’s best to maximise impulse buy potential: “Garden centres should ask themselves for each product and display stand: why have I placed this here? Is this the best place this product can be to encourage sales?”
Another simple tactic to minimise impulse barriers is to ask customers for their opinion on anything they may have noticed that put them off them buying a product, or from visiting the centre previously, says Ali: “It’s a really simple, basic tool, but it can be invaluable.”
How important is visual merchandising for garden centres?
“Visual merchandising has a big effect on any retail business” states Ali: “But separate sectors have different approaches and levels of concentration on it. Supermarkets, for example, spend a great deal of time and money ensuring their stores and products are as visually pleasing and enticing for impulse buys as possible. A common trick within supermarkets is to make the floor tiles narrower in their luxury aisles, which makes customers subconsciously believe they’re walking faster than usual in that aisle, causing them to slow down and thus increasing the opportunity for products to be seen, picked up and purchased.”
Though some sectors spend huge amounts on their visual merchandising, Ali advises that small, significant changes can be made that are inexpensive: “Garden centres have to find what they’re able to afford within their budget for visual merchandising, but making sure that the centre is a pleasant environment and that displays and products look neat is a cheap but vital way of improving impulse sales.”
Garden centres in particular are retail environments that are largely enjoyable and relaxed for their customers, Ali states, so it’s extremely important that their products and displays reflect this, looking great and inviting impulse purchases: “Garden centres now more than ever are destinations for their customers. Some may only intend to visit to meet a friend in a cafe, or take their children to the play area. As a destination, the majority of garden centres have already convinced their customers that they should be relaxed and should slow down. It’s not the same environment as a supermarket, where customers will rush around getting what they need and leave as soon as they’ve finished shopping. Customers in garden centres will be much more likely to take their time and wander round, and more likely to stop and look at products or displays they find interesting.
Tips for great visual merchandising
On best practice for visual merchandising, Ali recommends that garden centres focus on which products their customers are exposed to between destination points, and ensuring they always look their best: “The path between the front door and the café, for example, is a critical opportunity to slow down customers and catch their eye with impulse purchases.”
“Another hugely advantageous method to lead customers round a garden centre is to use the most interesting, popular products as anchors” Ali continues: “Garden centres should spread these products throughout the shop floor as destination points, which will draw customers into different retail sections, meaning they see more of your product range and increasing the potential for sales.”
Ali also advises there are some simple merchandising rules for putting together a display that can improve impulse sales: “Making displays multi-level will attract more interest in customers, as it’s more visually stimulating – to really capitalise on that retailers could go one step further and add movement to the display, for example by using a rotating turn table, which can increase customer attention by 30%. Those few extra seconds of attention can make the difference between in an impulse purchase.”
“There’s also the three-layer rule, which largely applies to window displays” says Ali: “Garden centres with window displays should have three layers of depth to that display – the first needs to be something similar to a window vinyl, followed by the second ‘main event’ layer, the products displayed, and the third is the backdrop, which for a lot of retailers is the direct view into the outlet. In those instances it’s exceptionally important to keep the shop area visible to the passing public well presented, as if it looks messy or disorganised this will discourage potential customers from coming in.”