You don’t have to sell eggs. You can – they’re a good example of a specialty product to sell at your retail greenhouse or nursery to keep customers returning all summer. But, you might choose something else that better suits your area, employees or customers. How about local honey, Pueblo green chiles or other value-added Colorado Proud products?
As far as classes go, they also can be customized to your business and customer base to provide the best bang for the buck. Whether you choose to offer education for free or with a fee, customers are often very appreciative, especially those who are newer to gardening. And, you don’t have to do formal classes – customers also return for educational flyers and consulting with staff members who are prepared to share timely information about keeping plants healthy and yards beautiful every summer month.
Learn about how three Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association member companies attract customers after the spring rush with their educational and product offerings. Perhaps you’ll get some ideas for new or enhanced events or merchandise to incorporate into your business.
Hands-On Garden Classes & Field Trips
The mission of New Castle Gardens is to educate gardeners on natural and organic methods of gardening, so classes are a natural for the garden center, located west of Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Classes for adults are generally scheduled on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Children’s lessons and field trips are tailored to homeschool groups and other students.
New Castle Gardens Co-owner Michelle Cox writes many of the curriculums, plus she invites guest teachers. Field trips often include a visit to the neighboring alpaca farm.
“Our customers love the classes. They really came in handy last year when there were so many first-time gardeners coming in,” explained Cox. “The classes are successful in part because we are the only garden center in the area offering them. They are also successful because our reputation as quality educators is shared.”
She’s even considering offering some yoga classes at the garden center this summer, since one of her employees is a yoga master.
The classes bring in new and current customers for new knowledge. Since the curriculum is centered around the products carried by the garden center, the class participants generally buy products and plants during their visit.
To ensure class attendance is high, “we do a huge amount of social media and advertising,” she said, listing all the places the class announcements get posted: the garden center website, Constant Contact emails, a Facebook event and posts, SpinGo online event promoter, and local newspaper events calendar.
“Gardeners want to learn. Providing quality, relevant education not only brings in new customers, it also helps to create customer loyalty,” she concluded.
Everyday Customer Education
Harlequin’s Gardens, located in Boulder, Colo., has cut back on its classes and events, like most places due to the pandemic. Zoom classes are not great for bringing in customers to shop, said Co-owner Mikl Brawner.
The garden center is considering offering its popular pruning class in July this year. “After people get their plants in the ground, a lot of people are scared to prune. They appreciate when someone can show them how to do it correctly,” explained Brawner.
Harlequin’s participates in the annual pollinator week, promoting the importance of pollinators and making a special display of pollinator plants. This year, the national event is scheduled for June 21 to 27, and more information can be found at https://pollinator.org/pollinator-week.
Whether or not classes make it on the schedule, he and his staff focus on educating customers about how to be successful in the garden throughout the summer season. Customers are encouraged to use the Mycorrhizal fungi products to help plants establish in the heat of the summer.
“The fungi and plants have a symbiotic relationship that gives plants the advantage. We have proved it in our own plantings. When everybody is scared to plant in July, our new plantings with Mycorrhizae applications are doing just as well as those planted in May without Mycorrhizae,” he said.
Since tomatoes and peppers reach the fruiting stage during the summer months, customers are advised to add organic fertilizer. “Most people know to put on a base of fertilizer when planting in the spring, but don’t realize the benefit of side dressing during the fruiting season,” he added.
Mulch, another product that most people apply only in the spring, is important in summer, too, because that’s when the soil starts drying and overheating. Mulching or re-mulching in July protects the microflora and living organisms in the soil, so plants do much better.
July and August are also when customers are experiencing pest problems. So, the staff not only promotes nontoxic pest management products, but they also help customers with pest identification.
“Our customers know if they bring in examples, we will pull out our microscope or hand lens, diagnose their problems, and then supply them with a product or cultural change to help them with that pest problem,” he said.
Beyond general plant health, staff can also educate customers on how to make their yards and gardens more beautiful in the summer. Harlequin’s Co-owner Eve Reshetnik Brawner, Mikl’s wife, wrote a list of plants that bloom in July, which is available to their customers.
“People come out in spring when they have spring fever. They like to buy plants that are blooming, and then stop coming to the garden center when it’s hot. Then they wonder why their garden looks boring in the summertime. We encourage people to come out in July and August to see all of the plants that bloom at that time,” he said.
One-of-a-Kind Specialty Products
Customers flock to Wilmore Outdoor Living Center for farm-fresh eggs. Stocked year round at the garden center in Littleton, Colo., four to six dozen are available daily in summer when chickens lay more due to the longer, warmer days.
“We own about 60 chickens and just got another 20 chicks in March!” said Manager Lon Vincent, CCNP. “Since they come from my ranch, we can be sure that the quality of the eggs is exceptional and make sure that we have happy, healthy chickens. The same day the chicken laid the egg is the day that they are being bought. Having a high-quality farm-fresh egg means that the eggs will have more nutrients such as higher protein and lower cholesterol than store-bought ones.”
The eggs fit into Wilmore’s customer service philosophy by providing a high-quality item that is unique to the business. The eggs are all colors: brown, white, speckled, green, and blue, and customers love purchasing them as gifts for out-of-town friends and family.
“Absolutely, customers come back specifically for the eggs. Oftentimes we will have a waiting list for our eggs because people love them and keep coming back for more,” Vincent explained.
Egg customers tend to buy other products, too. When buying eggs, customers also commonly buy local honey, jams and pickles, as well as plant products.
“The eggs help extend our season by having a specialty product. Customers come in with the intention of buying one dozen eggs but end up browsing for hours and leave with eggs and numerous other items,” he said.
“We always make sure to have an impulse, grab item near our eggs. For example, last season we did a gorgeous, blooming orchid on sale. Customers come in to get their eggs, see the gorgeous orchid (at a great price) on their way to check out and have to have it. Also, eggs are something that people need year round so customers keep coming and get to see what we have new in each season,” he concluded.