Retail nurseries and garden centers are two major customers of the wholesale nursery; they are also the final link in the marketing chain. Through the retail nurseries, the privately owned garden centers, and the garden centers operated by regional or national chain stores, nursery products reach the consumer. It is to these businesses that the homeowner comes when wishing to purchase trees and shrubs, sprays, fertilizers, grass seed, garden tools, and similar items for the home property (Figures 16-5 and 16-6).
Retail nurseries and garden centers seldom have growing areas of any significance. Instead, they have sales yards where the materials purchased from the wholesalers can be displayed and maintained (Figure 16-7). The method of display will vary with the place and with the type of material involved. Plants growing in pots or other containers may be set on an asphalt or crushed stone surface. Trees and shrubs sold in balled – and-burlapped root forms or as bare-root stock may require holding in deep bins of peat moss or sawdust to prevent their drying out.
Some retail nurseries and garden centers also have a greenhouse from which they sell tropical houseplants and potted flowers. Like the outdoor salesyard, the greenhouse is usually open for customer browsing and promotes sales by providing a realistic setting in which to display the plants (Figure 16-8).
The location of the retail operation is important to its success. It must be near developing residential areas and easily reached by car. If located on a major thoroughfare, it has a better chance of
attracting customers from the passersby. A remote location for a retail outlet increases the amount of money that must be spent on advertising.
In addition to supplying plants and other materials to retail customers, the garden center or nursery is usually the local center for garden advice. “When should I plant?” “What colors will the flowers be?” “What kind of fertilizer does my lawn need?” “How can I attract bluebirds to my backyard?” Questions of this type besiege the retailer and present an opportunity to promote good customer relations. Some retail operators write garden columns for local newspapers. Others are frequent speakers at garden clubs and on radio and television programs. Successful retailers of nursery materials have a thorough understanding of ornamental plants, their culture and care; but equally important, they have good communication skills and an interest in working with the general public.
It is primarily in the degree of customer service that privately owned garden centers and nurseries differ from those operated by chain stores. The chain garden center may not be in operation for the entire year. Instead, it may concentrate its sales effort on the two periods of heavy customer demand, the spring and the fall. The chain garden center may be staffed by personnel with limited horticultural knowledge since they spend most of their time in some other sales area such as hardware or clothing. There is seldom much interpersonal contact between sales personnel and customers in a chain store operation. Still, the quality of the merchandise may be as good as in a private garden center, and often the prices are lower since the larger operation can take advantage of discount buying.
The landscape nursery may grow plants, buy them from a wholesale nursery, or both. In addition to providing a retail outlet for plants, the landscape nursery provides an installation service for homeowners
who do not wish to develop their landscapes themselves. Such a nursery must employ several types of workers: retail salespeople, landscape crews, and often a separate crew for nursery production or sales yard stock maintenance.