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What Can We Learn from European Garden Centres?

September 26, 2018

What Can We Learn from European Garden Centres?

A blog post from Gardenzzz Founder Katherine Szabo.

So exciting to see how garden centres in Europe inspire their clients and serve their needs! 

Before the Spoga+Gafa trade show in Cologne, I decided to visit some garden centres in Europe and learn about how they do things there, and what works for them. I had the privilege of visiting a few centres in France, Belgium and Germany, and was warmly received by all.

There was a lot that I observed and learned from these inspiring spaces that I think could be helpful to our Canadian garden centres as the industry looks for ways to introduce gardening to younger generations, and new clients, especially millennials.

Some of the unique strategies that I observed and that I know I would love to see myself on our side of the pond as a consumer included:

  1. on-site dining that allowed basking in fabulous green spaces, both indoors and out;
  2. garden centers that are in city centers, next to their urban clients, not just in suburbs or rural areas;
  3. large beautiful glass indoor spaces that can be enjoyed year-round;
  4. amazing play spaces for the little ones;
  5. managed traffic flow to guide customers through all the merchandising areas;
  6. wider product mix, including lifestyle and outdoor living hard goods; and
  7. the use of air drone footage to showcase their centres online. 

If you notice a similarity of technique to a large blue and yellow furniture and lifestyle retailer/manufacturer, you are not mistaken. A lot of the techniques that IKEA employs, and that have made it so successful across a multitude of generations (helping their clients in the imagination department with creative spaces laid out on site or in catalogue; making it easy to shop by providing food and a family-friendly retail environment that kids ask their parents to go to; creating a year-round destination space; and managing flow to the point that this technique is immortalized in many-a-lost-in-IKEA comedy routine) are used by the European garden centers to great advantage. In a nutshell, the philosophy is one of a real focus on the garden centre as a destination. One that encourages novice as well as expert gardeners to visit and spend a few hours and dollars…regularly.

The industry there still has its own challenges, but there are certainly a lot of lessons that we can learn from our colleagues in Europe. A special thank you to the Moens family in Dilbeek, Belgium (@Ingrid Moens); the very talented Peter @GartenMueller in Cologne for an amazing tour; @Dingers in Cologne; and @GammVert in France.