Creating a Great Fit Out

In the fourth of a series of features, for Garden Centre Retail, our Director Paul Pleydell looks at retail areas – making the best of the space available and giving some structure to the retail layout to improve performance.

Great retailing is about having the right product, at the right time, in the right place and at the right price.

In this months feature I will be looking at ‘the right place’ – how to display the products that are for sale in a garden centre. This will involve looking at display fittings and retail techniques that can be used to drive sales.

Good display should achieve two simple things. Firstly it should present the product for sale in an attractive way to entice customers and secondly it should convert browsers into customers, getting the product from the shelf into the basket (or trolley).

It is perhaps stating the obvious that garden centres sell a diverse range of products and these are extremely seasonal. Often the result is that teams of staff spend lots of time moving stock and fittings around the garden centre. This is costly and takes them away from their key role on the shop floor which is to support customers. Or the centre falls back on the ease of using a supplier’s stand. Except in very special circumstances I am not happy about suppliers’ stands. They are inflexible and promote the supplier brand name, colour and retail style and not yours. In fact they do more than that, they erode your brand. Yes, I accept there are certain products that are suited to a specialist stand and some suppliers have gone for a subtle quality that fits well in most centres. However your garden centre should be a 3D expression of your brand.

An easy way to tackle display fitting is to adopt an approach that has permanent fittings so that the stock moves, or expands and contracts to suit the seasons but the fittings stay the same.

This works well if a modular approach is taken and fittings are used that are flexible in the ways they can display products and adaptable to suit a wide range of products.

Fundamentally there are only three types of fittings you need:

Wall units – these maximise the use of available wall space, or can create partitions in your retail space to direct customer flow and frame views or perhaps hide columns, drainpipes or heaters.

To maximise flexibility wall units should be capable of taking shelves, hooks and brackets so any type of stock can be displayed. The first units of this type used in garden centres had metal back panel and then perforated back panels to take standard display hooks. More recently we have seen an almost complete move to slat (or slot) wall, an MDF panel faced with neutral cream melamine or finished in more attractive wood laminates. Slatwall can take small shelves and a wide range of brackets and fixings so is very versatile but has now become so common it seems a little bit dull – even if it does do the job well. In my mind slatwall is the shopfitting equivalent of a standard saloon car – very worthy and well made but I just can’t get excited about it. More recently retailers are foregoing the flexibility of slatwall in favour of more textured and ‘rustic’ finishes that complement the look of the centre. But why stop there when in theory you can use any materials to create a stunning look and still maintain a standard way to display products.

Mid height units – these can be metal system gondolas with shelves, display tables or gift display cubes. These will hold the bulk of your stock on the shop floor.

Low level displays – usually plinths, or pallets for bulkier and high stock turn items which display larger products, heavier products, or those which have a high stock turnover on a busy weekend. No product should be on the floor.

Generally higher fittings and the display of larger products and ‘demand’ products should be sited to the edge of the retail space. But there is still a place for higher features within the centre of the retail area and these can then become feature displays or accents to highlight a certain product group or a promotion.

The materials your fittings are made from should add to the character of your garden centre but should suit the product – utility for ‘bog standard’ goods, but glass and timber for top end lines.

We would normally work with a 1.0m or 1.25m module so that all wall units, gondolas and plinths are inter changeable and shelves and brackets can be used across the whole centre.

But this is only the skeleton and there is a further layer of ‘accessories’ that will bring this to life. Smaller tables added on top of larger tables will give displays height and allow you to highlight key products ( a well known Scandinavian retailer does these at a great price). Crates are also very popular at the moment with the current vogue for vintage and ‘upcycled’ style. These are being used by retailers like Selfridges and Cath Kidston as well as many garden centres.

On the main route around the store identify ‘hot spots’ and promotional ends – points that most customers will walk past. Use your authority and knowledge to tell them what they should be buying – don’t leave it to chance. Once your hot spots are identified make sure you plan ahead, work with your suppliers and use them well. The supermarkets really go for this with a ‘power aisle’ featuring ‘must have’ offers.

Also focus on ‘the line’ the eyelevel zone where customers are most likely to see products and make their purchases, sometimes known as the ‘sight and take shelf’. Use this zone to promote good products but also those with good margin or perhaps to encourage customers to buy the next size up.