Hello to everyone.
Do you know why I was call to speech to this Conference? It is because I have a background in the Garden Centre business. I own one as well and thanks to some activities I do, my job, I have met and visited Garden Centers all around the world. Many of these Centers are today my clients because they purchased our line of exhibition systems for plants and flowers.
I visited hundreds of Garden Centre; I worked with them and for them. I designed and developed layouts of Garden Centre in Russia, in Italy in America, Brazil, in Ukraine, in Dubai in Chile and many other countries. When I was 15 years old, my father, for Christmas, gave me a gift, one to my brother and my sister as well. Just a piece of paper with a short inscription "one free ticket for a holiday in America". You should know that my father, whatever he does, he always has a double thought. Imagine, he told us that he had already organized working meetings for our American holiday, such us several visit to Garden Centers. Out of 7 days’ vacation, four were dedicated to visits. Afterwards, I understood what was going on and started to organize my own holidays without the influence of my father. Anyhow, for every time I go anywhere I drop a visit to a Garden Centre.
Do you know why?
Because my father was right. Very often, I find new ideas and original solutions to bring home to the Valle dei Fiori, my own garden center, besides I am getting new idea to develop our line of exhibition elements. Seeing and understand the dynamics of colleagues helps me to improve mine. Some other times, I just want to see if the Staff is properly trained, I mean, in a professional manner. Today, I hope that my speech will bring ideas to improve your Garden Centre and business. I could give you a full report of all the Gardens I have visited and show you hundreds of images but you know what I think? When I go to a convention and listen to the speakers about large retailers, big markets overviews and so on, I realized that out of 20 or 30 minutes speech, I remember two or 3 topics only. Then, when talking with the other participants, I realize that it is the same for them. Only few topics memorized.
Therefore, today, I'm not going to talk about 20 Garden Centers or more that are apparently normal and, should I say, boring. I am going to talk about three garden centers that match a simple question: "where are the most interesting garden center you've ever seen". Immediately, my thoughts goes to Squire's Garden in London, Flower Power in Australia and my own Garden Centre, the Valle dei Fiori of Mantua,. Why should I mention these three Garden Centers? Because they transmitted me, a total different view of doing compared too many others and –by the way- if I start to talk about every garden I have seen, my speech will become quite uninteresting. Last March I won a trip to England, nothing more than a cheap plane ticket from Milan to London and I decided to go. Actually, everybody knows the spring 2013 has been one of the rainiest season in the last decade and for my company was a quiet period. Not a lot to do and deal with and that was for me the perfect occasion to travel to London and, of course to visit some British Garden Centers.
I love to step into a Garden Centre, look around and find out what is going on. Browse plants and check how people behaving and even buy few products. Well, it was a rainy Tuesday. The parking lot packed with cars. I had no appointment but I was determinate to see that specific Garden Center. While I was walking through the garden, an elderly person approached me and asked: "may I help you?" I was surprised by the question and answered no, I was only there for a short visit and to see what they were doing due to the fact – I said- that I own a Garden Center in Italy as well
The gentleman shacked my hand and replied: "I am Sir Colin, the owner of the Squire's Garden Center, may I offer you a cup of tea?" I spent the whole afternoon with him, he took me to visit another new store, opened only few weeks before my visit and he told me the whole story of Squire's Garden Centre that, as today, has 14 stores with a turnover of .... and over 600 employees. I was surprised because a man of his age, nearly 80 years old, owner of 14 gardens with 600 employees, is still there in aisles asking clients if they need advice! To a men like him, there is no need not ask what the key of his success is.
Driven by the desire to learn more about Sir Colin I met him again. I made a short interview I would like to share with you.
2 or 3 minute interview
Sir Colin's answers lead to an obvious consideration: create a local business and manage it with a lot of passion. Despite the determining competition from the DIY, Sir Colin has been able to differentiate themselves and retain its clients. Cordiality and attention to detail are the hallmarks of the Squire's Garden Centre
Now let me take you far away, to Australia (photo). In 2003, I went there for the first time in my life, to Sidney. Fantastic place! Since, I went back to Australia many more times. Nick Sammut, founder and owner of the chain Flower Power, is a very special person. Born in Malta, at the age of 18, immigrated to Australia. Penniless in the pocket was able to create an empire in the world of Garden Centers. His business represent a turnover of $ 80 million dollars with 12 Garden Centers located between Sydney and Melbourne. Before to tell you about his centers, allow me to mention a particular event: in the summer of 2010 I was sitting with Nick in a bar, drinking coffee with the owner of that place. The Owner of the bar explained to Nick that he was renovating the building because the business was too much for him and wished to retire and transform the property into an apartment complex, been directly on the beach, with exciting Ocean view. Nick simply asked him what an apartment would have cost him and the old man replied with a price. That is all right, Nick said, I buy two units.
On the way back to the nursery, I asked Nick why he bought two houses on the beach, since he owns several properties already. He told me that it was a safe investment! In Australia is not permitted to build new structures on the seaside and the two apartments he purchased will gain 10 times their value within 10 to 20 years. Nothing wrong with it, except that Nick is 75 years old! Nick’s skills are equal to none. He has the ability to see things in the right perspective and think on long terms without fail! I called Nick and asked him few questions:
You are one of the most far-seeing people that I know, what was the most profitable vision you have had?
Revolutionizing the nursery industry, I had a passion for plants, flower and gardens and realized how garden centers did not motivate people. Therefore, I introduced new concepts such has:
Turning an opportunity into a reality
Self-service – a choice for customers to select their own plants etc
Drive through service for landscaping supplies
I Introduced Delivery Services and Landscaping & Garden designers
I Introduced plant into plastic pots.
I Introduced Café’s at Garden Centers
Throughout the last 45 years, I never lost my motivation for improving my garden centers. I travelled the world looking for innovative ideas to be introduced back home.
My mind constantly works on making my garden center more attractive and inviting for my customers. Offering them every service available so as it would a one stop shopping experience for them in a beautiful and relaxing environment.
What is the latest good news?
Our sales have steadily grown in the last year and we have just broken all our sales records this weekend.
We ran a very successful sales campaign with our garden lovers members, loyalty club membership is an invaluable asset to any organization. It is a proven fact that you offer a loyal customer a reward for spending money with you – they will return to redeem it. Thereby enticing return business
Looking to the Garden Centre today, are there more or fewer opportunities for growth than 20 years ago?
I strongly believe that there is always room for more growth; I still have countless ideas, which I am contemplating at present. You are restricted only by the lack of imagination
How can we stimulate new Russian entrepreneurs to invest in this sector?
To their homework, study and research other countries with similar climates to Russia. Visit their nurseries, garden centers, attend conventions.
Then determine what plants/vegetables etc will grow well in their climate and then sell what is viable and appealing to the public.
Consider more indoor plants or indoor growing areas for the winter months.
Encourage them to employ strong marketing consultants to promote the products.
In addition, QUALITY ALWAYS COUNTS only sell the best at reasonable prices.
Provide them with financials and reports, which will assist them to achieve profits or returns on their investments.
Nick was able to focus on the product categories that was most profitable and invested in that direction. Nick realized that he could gain huge profit in selling soil, well, he started a facility for production of shrubs and today, all the bags of soil in his Garden Centre are self-produced. Arbogrand, nursery belonging to Flower Power, also Nick, produces more than 70% of the plants sold in his Garden Centre. The foresight in guessing what the most profitable investing sectors were allowed Flower Power to keep the control of the costs and margins being the main actor in the supply chain.
Now, let me take you to my hometown. I could not let you go without a short relation about my own Garden Center and my father, who created it and made it to his life reason. Approaching Mantua, you will find one of the biggest Garden Centre in Italy. It covers an area of 25,000 square meters. 11 thousand under roof and the rest outdoor nursery. The parking lot can accommodate up to 500 cars. Even considering the whole province Mantua is a small town, the inhabitants are 200,000 only. There was no place to think big! This drove my father to try different communication channels from traditional newspaper, local radio and other mass Medias. He needed something on a national level. The problem was that he did not have money enough to implement his ideas and, therefore he created a serial of events that could reverse the headlines. The National television RAI and Berlusconi's private Mediaset raced to get any news from the Valle dei Fiori!
Who is the hero? It did not take long to convince my father to be interviewed by Arturo Croci, the most quoted journalists in the international arena and in the world of Flowers.
5 minutes video
Well known "the advertisement is the soul of the Commerce" and the Valley of flowers is a typical example of extraordinary communication.
Try to be the number one and let the others talk about you!
The Garden Centre Valle dei Fiori is one of our activities. With my mom and dad, my brother, my sister and with valid collaborators, we are in the floriculture business with four different companies:
· Garden Centre Valle dei Fiori, already mentioned
· Giardini Valle dei Fiori designs and produce gardens and layouts
· Entrgreen is a strategic consulting firm for garden centers
· Organizzazione Orlandelli designs and implements specific handlings carts and display systems for plants and flowers
Proudly, among our clients we have some of the most beautiful Garden Centre and some of the world's most efficient DIY stores, worldwide.
Latest, we are represented with a daughter company in the United States.
Concluding, today we have seen how three different establishments may characterize a retail location. Three different characteristics, different from each other, three different entrepreneurs that, remarkable, succeeded in the Garden Centre business due friendliness and attention to details, farsightedness to invest in more profitable sectors, art of communication and so on. I wanted to talk about these three Centers to demonstrate that if you want to reorganization by your customers, you need to be unique! The uniqueness of something pushes people to choose a point of sales rather than another. I hear to talk about adopting Garden Centre concepts from France, Germany, Holland or England. I do not believe none of these concepts will work in your country. You will need to find your own Russian concept and run your business with the philosophy we were discussing. I have seen companies fail because adopting the wrong concepts from foreign countries. Be aware of it.
In Italy, for instance, The Mc Donalds chain was force to change the typical menu. It became more Mediterranean, sandwiches with Parmigiano-Reggiano or with Parma Ham; otherwise they would have not survived! Sometimes ago, I was on a consultant task for a DIY chain in Ukraine. The project was ambitious: create the first chain of Garden Centers in that country. Epicentr Garden Centre is our project and when we started, it had 18 stores. Today, after four years of consulting, Epicenter counts 40 outlets with each their new plant and flower spots. It is obvious that I transmitted my experience but what implemented is accordingly, what the Ukrainians told us about their habits and theirs Consumer trends.
You should do the same! Please, look around you and get inspired by others. Before I said that, I visited Garden Centers worldwide…. Do the same and get inspiration but never forget that the Russian market is unique and therefore different from other countries. You should look around to understand what the right condition is for your clients and adopt the right communication to transmit your signals. The Dacia, for instance, is a Russian phenomenon and only you can say how the Russian consumer lives and think, only you can, commercially speaking, exploit the business opportunities in the best possible way. I am not saying that the similar settings should not be used but, simply, adapted to your own country. This is the philosophy we are trying to pass on to our customers.
Be unique in respect to your own personality.