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1: Position

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1 

Position

1.1  The Evolution of the Garden Centre

Plants have been an essential component of life throughout human history,

­initially as a food source, but increasingly for their ornamental and aesthetic values. The development of home ownership and single household occupancy dwellings helped create the ornamental horticulture market that is seen today.

While plant nurseries are a long established concept, the use of the term

‘garden centre’ is far more recent and ill defined. Stewarts garden centres in

Dorset are amongst a number of businesses who claim to be the first in the UK, having seen the concept of growing hardy plants in containers for sale in Toronto,

Canada, in the mid-1950s (Stewarts Garden Centres, 2014). An embryonic industry using similar techniques was developing in the USA at this time. Regardless of the precise date, the sector has developed rapidly and has changed in all recognition from the earliest examples.

What have been these drivers for change?

1.1.1  Development of technologies for container plant production

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6: Developing Staff

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Developing Staff

People are still the driving force behind any organization. Even if a department does not have direct contact with the purchasing customer, they still have a wide range of ‘internal’ customers within the organization with whom they interact.

The efficiency of all these interactions has a dramatic effect upon the success or failure of the business.

The challenge with any form of staff development within a business is calculating the financial benefits. It is easy to define the costs of staff development, through the collation of invoices and measurement of time spent off the job, whereas the improvements to production are less easy to measure. For organizations where there is a pressure on cash flow, the budget for personal development is an easy target as there are fewer directly measurable gains – the Return on

Investment (ROI; Kaufman and Hotchkiss, 2006).

However, lack of skills can bring a number of inefficiencies into an organization; while these are not easily measured, all combine together to prevent the organization from working at its full effectiveness.

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9: Productivity

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Productivity

Productivity management, in essence the optimal use of resources in meeting the needs of the customer, is a preoccupation of all managers. The outcomes of this optimization should result in a surplus or profit for the business. In whatever sphere, although a loss may be sustainable in the short term, a continuing reduction in capital will put the whole business or initiative in jeopardy.

However, the obvious challenge for many garden centres is to understand how well they are doing. Clearly turnover can be measured against projections, but as these were defined by the business itself, this becomes an exercise in identifying how well the retailer is performing against their own estimates.

Other sources monitoring the retailer’s performance, such as the bank, are again only measuring against the business’s own projections, potentially against a business case that was presented in order to secure the loan or overdraft.

What would be more useful, therefore, would be to evaluate performance against others in the sector, thus giving a better understanding of where the business has the potential to improve significantly – changing the focus of management time and effort.

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3: Customer Care

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Customer Care

The purpose of a retail organization is to offer goods and services for the customer to use in a manner that is profitable to both parties. Fundamental to this is the understanding of what a customer actually wants. This is often dependent upon knowledge of likely consumer behaviour (Chapter 2) and then presenting the product offer in a way that will be attractive to them. This is commonly known as marketing (Chapter 4).

Between these two stages the manager has to evaluate and identify the method and level at which their organization will provide products and services.

These decisions will affect the way a potential customer will view that garden centre’s ‘offer’ and help shape their view as to its position within the marketplace.

3.1  Customer Motivation

According to consumer behaviourists, a successful transaction will only take place if the garden retailer is able to match a suitable product to the wants or needs of the customer.

Understanding the motivation of the customer is the key to making an effective match. However, this may become muddled in many retailers’ minds as there may be a mixing of needs and solutions. The perception, for example, that

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4: Marketing

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Marketing

4.1  Introduction

Whilst everyone uses the word, trying to define what marketing actually is proves to be more complex. Some will cite ‘advertising’, others ‘promotion’ or ‘display’. In many ways it is all these things and far more. The Chartered Institute of Marketing offers this definition:

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.

In other words, by studying and evaluating the market forces and factors affecting a business, the business is able to put itself into a position whereby it may optimize the benefit of its position.

Without good marketing, it is extremely difficult for a business to understand and meet the needs of its customers; with a potential gap between their needs and what the business has to offer, there is the opportunity for another competing business to meet their needs more closely.

While the focus is often on advertising or selling, marketing is a key process that in effect starts with the development and procurement of goods and services to meet the needs or wants of the customer. Interpretation of this may be very important, as the customer is not always aware of these themselves, and often the development of a product meets a need that thus far has not been recognized.

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