Wight’s Home & Garden strives to create a “wow” experience for their customers
A look into Wight’s outdoor nursery area.
Of all the IGCs I’ve visited across this great country of ours, it is Wight’s Home & Garden that reminds me most closely of the garden center once owned by my family. While unassuming on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
“WOW.” That one word describes what Wight’s strives to create for patrons who visit the store. And providing an extraordinary shopping experience that generates home and garden inspiration is a prime way they are distinguishing themselves from their competition – big box or otherwise.
Wight’s product line breadth is horizontal, not vertical, and as such its diversification, along with spectacular displays, gives shoppers a reason to come back again and again and not just during spring or the holidays.
General manager Maria Fox says Wight’s has employees whose sole job is merchandising inside the store. Outside in the nursery, they work as a team coming up with ideas for plant area layouts which are then brought to life. Consequently you have displays that lead shoppers throughout the entire store because they’re left wanting and wondering what they’ll find around the next corner.
When asked how they set themselves apart from other garden centers, Fox says, “We don’t spend a lot of time being overly concerned with what our competitors are doing and instead focus more on how we can be our very best. Having said that, we are aware of what’s going on out in the local marketplace and try not to compete item for item at the same time.”
Fox concedes they do sometimes buy for the store based on price, in particular nursery stock, but also ask themselves the important questions “do we like it” and “can we sell it?” Additionally, even though Wight’s displays look like a million bucks, they are conscientious to have products available in all price ranges that will fit every size wallet.
In the end, Wight’s has created a homey, inviting and imaginative store atmosphere that is a not only a feast for the eyes but involves products that are obtainable and affordable by consumers from all walks of life, each and every day of the year.
Q: What actions has Wight’s taken to stay in business?
A: Buy smart and sell at a fair price; keep merchandise fresh and up to date; create a shopping experience with great visual merchandising and provide excellent customer service.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the last year, and how did you handle it?
A: As for all of us, the weather is always an X factor for spring success or failure, says Fox. Last spring we had quite a bit of rain, which hurt sales. We are fortunate that when the weather is good, so are sales.
Q: What factors do you take into account when you choose inventory for each year?
A: Fox says that Wight’s staff first analyzes sales for the previous few years, keeping in mind variables like weather and local economy. Then they evaluate their sales by category looking at individual SKU’s and forecasting whether they expect an increase, decrease or sales to stay the same for the coming year. After that they determine a budget. From there, new products are introduced on an item by item basis, based on cost, retail value, customer demand and/or appeal and fit with their current product mix.
Q: How do you get feedback from customers?
A: Facebook has proven to be a great forum for gathering customer feedback. Occasionally, Wight’s does a customer survey for more detailed shopper input.
Q: What has been your most effective marketing tool?
A: Wight’s has had great success advertising with their E-club and Facebook page. They also feel TV and radio have been effective for branding and regional exposure.
Wight’s offers a diverse product line and showcases them in unique displays
Q: What do you do to keep company morale up?
A: Keeping employees involved in the big picture at Wight’s is a priority. As a seasonal store, many of their employees work in multiple departments throughout the year. This cross-training has several benefits. For one it keeps workers employed year round. Secondly, it fosters a team atmosphere where everybody is invested in the success of the store as a whole as opposed to individual departments.
Additionally, Wight’s hosts several annual events that have become traditions for many families including their Wonderland of Christmas, Easter celebration, Harvest Fair and Halloween party. They also hold several events each year that benefit local charities. The past five years they have designed a Display Garden for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.
All of these endeavors take a collaborative effort in which storewide input and participation is encouraged and appreciated. As their tag line reflects, Wight’s is a “Store for All Seasons” and can offer their staff -year round employment as retail emphasis changes between the seasons.
– Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, article by Maria Zampini, July 9, 2013.