Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who Is The Customer?

Now that everyone's home from the IGC Show in Chicago, there are some interesting conversations going on.  We're all trying to digest what we saw and heard, trying to apply what we learned to our own situations.

There seems to be a bit of a "style vs. substance" debate going on amongst the gardening intelligentsia.  Marketers describe merchandising the outdoor room and talk about reframing gardening as a lifestyle activity.  True believers react in shock and horror when garden centers stock more decorative doodads than seeds.  Social media experts advise us to reach out to Gen Y.  Consultants speak instead of "ageless marketing."

I think there's been too much focus on what we wish our independent garden centers were, rather than what they are, or even what they could be.  I don't think we'll see a one-size-fits-all approach:  what suits a small urban store probably won't work on the rural/suburban outstkirts.  And local competition, like it or not, also shapes the strategies of each IGC owner.

One thing is certain: the IGC must be profitable, and that means paying more attention to what customers want to buy than to what we may think they should have.  Sure, there's a great opportunity in our business to educate folks about earth-friendly practices.  I believe it's not only part of our mission but a major competitive advantage we have over our big-box competitors.

But you have to meet people where they are.  Frankly, some of my colleagues have some pretty condescending attitudes toward their potential customers.  Especially if said customer has a different idea of what a garden should be.  The best strategy has always been simply finding out what your own particular customers desire, and figuring out a way to deliver it.  Profitably.  Kindly.  And perhaps with just a bit of edification on the side.

IGC = Independent Garden Center, as opposed to 
chain retailers or big-box stores.  Sorry for the jargon!


  1. And if your customers ARE us gardeners, we will seek out the nursery that does speak our language!