Looking for the perfect mix between trends and price point in German garden centres

Garden centres sell both software (flowers and plants) and hardware (decorations, furniture, etc.). The green assortment is a constant whereas the hardware assortment changes each season. How do garden centres cope with trends? What role do flowers and plants play? We met Martina Mensing in the historic city of Bad Arolsen in Germany. She is co-owner of nine garden centres in Middle Germany and President of the Association of German Garden Centres.

 You recognise relevant trends by thinking outside the box, am I right?

“You should also recognize what’s happening in society; you should travel and visit shops, preferably in other sectors. Clothing stores show you which colours are hot and which are not. Look at them with an open mind and adapt these trends in your stores. Our business is in a small city in the countryside. We adapt to that. People in Bad Arolsen don’t like things just because they do in Tokyo. In our garden centre we seek the perfect mix between trends and price point, with lots of inspiration thrown in because I sell dreams.”

Would you say that trends in ornamental products develop slower than trends in hardware?

“Preferences and trends differ by country, especially in decorative and Christmas products. In Italy they build little cribs, in Holland little Christmas houses. The Germans only put up  their Christmas trees  on December 24. People in different countries also have different opinions about colours, shapes, etc. The Germans and the British like a classic tint of red, the Dutch use a different tint. No doubt the Japanese or the Mexicans use other tints. When it comes to garden plants, be aware of location. Plants that survive the Italian or Irish winters will undoubtedly die in our North Hesse climate.

You can add value with flowers and plants, for instance by offering garden plants that are bee- and butterfly-friendly. In creating special ‘bee and butterfly’ tables, we make the client feel better which is good for sales. Certain animals are not sold in our garden centres, because we cannot verify how these animals were raised.

In a garden centre you have to offer mainstream products but you continuously have to renew yourself. That’s what trends bring you. In a garden you can create colours and blooms, a place for working and relaxing, but only if you have patience. But not all consumers are as patient as they used to be. Therefore, people buy plants when they look their best and if they bleed out they buy the next season’s beauties . So you have to have a wide assortment of blooming garden plants and trees in optimum quality at fair prices. Grower concepts can help you adapt to trends, but so many growers develop concepts that it sometimes looks like overkill which is disturbing for the consumer.”

The Verband Deutscher Garten-Center (VDG, Association of German Garden Centres) is aware of trends, can you elaborate?

“VDG has a covenant with the German government about bee and butterfly protection. We also advise our members about staff policy. Consumers want to be advised about the merchandise they purchase. That’s where our employees come in. They also have to be familiar with trends. Therefore, VDG has the Gartencenter Akademie where they can follow all kinds of courses to improve their skills.”

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