Snow, rain, wind and sun – there is one thing that is predictable in the UK and that is the unpredictability of our weather. In an industry that is reliant on good weather to help drive customers instore, it’s safe to say that the garden centre sector spends more than its fair share of time looking to the skies. But what if there was an alternative solution? One that enables garden centres to maximise their entire retail footprint all year-round, no matter what the season?
The negative impact of the weather
The HTA Garden Retail Monitor report highlighted how garden centres see the biggest impact of the weather within the period of April – June, with plants and core gardening feeling the pinch the most should the weather take a turn for the worse. Non-gardening ranges, such as giftware and catering help to minimise this risk by insulating garden centres from the risks associated with poor weather in the spring period.
The weather’s impact on consumer confidence
Inclement weather often means one thing; consumers will defer their buying decisions, particularly those related to their garden and outdoor space. A deferral in buying decisions not only reduces the amount of money passing through the tills but it also interrupts the prime purchasing window for products. Bedding plants, for example, is one category that garden retailers say is hit the hardest when poor weather strikes. With nowhere else to store the products other than outside, and no customers making purchases, bedding plants can often mean wastage and a lost investment for retailers, and a reduction in consumer confidence as they eventually purchase plants outside of their prime meaning expectations are not met and disappointment ensues.
Steve Toone, Managing Director of Fordingbridge said: “Whilst retailers understand the issue relating to weather, it is difficult for them to educate their customers about this. As we now exist in a retail environment where the consumer expectation is higher than ever, knowledge of product seasonality is becoming increasingly rare, and garden centres are expected to deliver product year-round – which is where Fordingbridge comes in!”
There is a solution
Fordingbridge offers a wide range of canopies and walkways that make it is possible to weatherproof outdoor areas. Offering a complete bespoke package of steel and timber structures, Fordingbridge can design and install large span canopies to house a wide array of retail areas, from extra seasonal shopping displays to restaurant or play areas in-store.
The tailored designs come with a choice of roof cladding – polycarbonate or Opal 60, exclusively developed for Fordingbridge. The unique Opal 60 finish is waterproof, fire resistant and allows 60% light transmission through, which will prevent discoloration of products and plant stock from stretching to reach the light, resulting in rapid and spindly growth. With the UK in the grip of the longest heatwave since 1976, Opal 60 also keeps staff and customers shaded from sunlight.
A canopied area, or covered walkway also enables retailers to optimise the biggest possible floorspace, providing them with additional space to develop cross merchandising displays in areas of transition in the store e.g. outdoors into indoors. With over 50 years’ experience in the industry, customers can be assured of the high quality of Fordingbridge canopies as they are long lasting, maintenance free and come with industry leading guarantees.
The result of such an investment makes much more usable spaces whatever the weather, in doing so improving the customer experience instore and driving year-round sales. Protected from the elements or strong sun rays, customers will be more tempted to peruse core garden products and plants, no matter what mother nature may be doing outside.
A canopied area or upgraded walkway is also demonstrative of a garden centres investment in its future, providing confidence for customers who rely on the store as a place to relax, shop and spend their leisure time. Fordingbridge has the capabilities to create “off the peg” designs, no matter how big, small or awkward the size, that suit both a contemporary and traditional setting. Whatever the design or need, the addition of a Fordingbridge canopy will provide a sleek and eye-catching asset to any retail space.
Stephen Toone added: “We all know the positive and negative impact weather can have upon garden retailing. We can help garden centres to be more adaptive and provide a more enjoyable shopping experience for their customers. From providing a weatherproof space, to increasing the footprint of the store, our simple yet effective solutions can help drive year-round sales and help strengthen and futureproof garden retailing in a time of notable change for the wider retail picture. An investment now can safeguard against harsh weather in the future.”
To find out more about Fordingbridge’s extensive portfolio of high quality canopies, walkways and tensile fabric structures please visit www.fordingbridge.co.uk.