A new trend may be emerging in the garden center industry: personal shoppers. The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC) recently kicked off a series of online discussions with retailers by looking at the Personal Shopping Program at Armstrong Garden Centers, a 33-unit chain of retail nurseries in California. After only two months, Armstrong has already conducted more than 20 one-on-one appointments with customers who want specialized in-store attention — and are willing to commit to spend at least $250.
"It took a good six months to discuss all the aspects and work out the bugs and get it off the ground," said Gary Jones, VP at Armstrong, who explained the program's mechanics, marketing, benefits and challenges. Jones offered some surprising numbers when asked what Personal Shopper customers spend: the average sale is $1,000, he said, although some go as high as $1,500 or $1,800. Demographically speaking, customers who use this service tend to be females in the 35- to 45-year-old range. "Generally speaking, I would say it is the older Gen Xer," Jones observed.
Some of things Jones said he avoids offering are landscaping plans, drawings or in-home services, all of which can be referred to third parties. Consultations are kept to one hour and are always set up in advance.
The program was the result of an effort to showcase Armstrong's expertise. "In any economic environment, but especially this one that we're in right now, it's important to say what you do best and why," said Jones. Analysts also believe that the availability of personal shoppers is a creative way to distinguish oneself from competitors.
"Personal shoppers up the ante," Home Channel News, December 19, 2009. Website: www.homechannelnews.com.