Time for Change?

Time for Change?

by Danny Summers

Is it a Time for Change at your Center? Spring 2023 has come and gone and now is the time to be thinking about how you can make your Center more efficient for the coming seasons. It's not always about increasing Sales to improve the bottom line.

We hear Tim Quebedeaux talking about streamlining your plant and product selections to turn more, have less shrink, and improve GMROII – by category.

Sid Raisch is often pushing Centers to improve operational systems and functions as well. Robert Hayter works with Centers in studying the facility layout to improve traffic flow as well as reducing labor.

How is your Guest experience throughout your Center?
Does the flow lead your Guests through the Center in the most ideal way possible, while exposing them to the plants and products you want them to see (and buy) and when they are ready, handle their check out in a pleasant and efficient manner?

Studying all this takes time and attention. Even though every Center is unique, learning from what others have done in these areas can help you as you consider changes for your Center. Collaboration and sharing within The Group certainly can be a great resource for you.

Back on October 21st, 2022, we had an extended conversation in GroupEs initiated by Russ Bedner, Bedner's Farm & Greenhouse, on how to improve checkout and cashier areas. During this GroupEs discussion, Pat Pearsall of Gardener's Supply shared details on how Robert Hayter helped Gardener's Supply's largest store (Williston, VT) redesign their cashier area to a single-line queue. Pat said,

"A single line queue always gives more throughput than multi lines for each register but requires space and engineering. While it’s true that the line can look long the investment in a line monitor to let the customers know how fast the line moves is well worth the dollars. The labor we spend in line management is more than offset by reducing the number of POS operators and the increased volume. In the northeast, our peak season is so short we need to maximize our volume to survive and the 20-25% increase in throughput allows us to flip parking spaces much faster, which is critical to our success during peak weeks. On a peak day with 100 parking spaces and 150 vehicles parked throughout the facility we’ll push through over 1600 transactions in 10 hours. During peak hours we’re somewhere around 225 vehicles. We believe we’re increasing our throughput during those hours by 40-50 transactions with a single line which means we’ve freed up a parking space for 40-50 more customers every hour.

To maximize our peak days, we’ve dedicated our time and resources to throughput and ensuring we have more than enough large nursery carts to accommodate the maximum number of customers we can park on-site. It made all the difference. In our largest store between 2009 and 2019, annual volume increased just under 50% but our peak weeks increased over 100%."

One of the Group Centers we will see during The Fall Event 2023 Tour Day, Natorp's Nursery Outlet, is another "Poster Center" for Hayter's knowledge and expertise in these areas. While you will not necessarily hear Hayter give individual details this week (during GROUPtalk LIVE on Thursday) about Natorp's changes he helped foster, it will be part of his message and it is an important part of what we want you to learn on The Fall Event Tour Day.

And while Natorp's operation is much larger than most Centers, the concepts can be important for you. So study and learn as you consider needed changes for your Center. I had heard just a few of the results from changes made after Natorp's invited Hayter to work with their team for improvements to their Cashiering area. Last week, Kyle Natorp provided us with the following recap of their improvements, before and after the implemented changes:

"First, I want you to know we operate on a seasonal basis today. We are only open 5 days a week, seven hours a day in the spring for thirteen weeks, and 4 days a week for 7 weeks in the fall. This works out to 93 days a year and 651 hours, compared to the 2,912 hours many Garden Centers are open.

In 2011 we still were operating 2 traditional year-round Garden Centers. We made the decision that spring to change things and spent the next 8 months planning our Nursery Outlet model. As part of the plan, we operated the two stores through the spring season of 2012 and then closed them. The first season for the Nursery Outlet was fall 2012. We worked with both Robert Hendrickson and Robert Hayter during the planning process and developed a 5-year strategic plan. When we transitioned from a full-time retail nursery to the Outlet in the fall of 2012 we started in a checkout area with 8 registers. Over the years we squeezed in an additional 4 registers as our customer count grew. These registers were added basically within the same footprint.

As our sales increased each year our checkout lines would grow longer and longer. Because of the way things were laid out the checkout line snaked through our main sales area stretching all the way to the back of the building and around during busy days. The checkout lines were becoming our biggest barrier to increasing sales.

In the spring of 2020, we asked Robert Hayter to come in and help us redesign our checkout area and improve traffic flow. He spent a Saturday during the spring season watching and analyzing our checkout process. After taking into consideration suggestions from our team and feedback from our customers he helped us develop a new checkout building. Our goal was to build something big enough to handle the next 10 years of growth. We estimated that in ten years we would need to be able to ring out $250k in sales a day. Based on our average sales and traffic flow calculations it was determined that we would need 16 registers and 2 customer service checkouts to handle this traffic load. The new building also needed to include an employee lunchroom and offices as well as larger customer bathrooms. Lastly, we incorporated a 60-yard, 2-lane checkout runway (double queue lines) into the new design along the side of the building.

We finalized the plans with Hayter in the summer of 2020 and began construction as soon as we closed for our fall season in mid-October. The building was completed in March of 2021 just in time for our March 31st opening date. The $250k figure was calculated by taking our previous largest day ever of $174k and figuring an average growth rate of approximately 4% a year. In 2021 we broke that record and hit $192.

This spring, in our third season, we ended up hitting our 10-year goal early. On May 13th we did $258k in sales and checked out 1,956 customers on Mother’s Day Saturday. To do this we were ringing out 1 customer every 13 seconds for 7 hours with an average customer wait time of under 5 minutes. We now feel that we can easily handle $300k or more with the new footprint."

Here's a photo of Natorp's 2-lane Queue Line and their new Cashier Area.

Hayter had mentioned early about the work he was doing with Kyle and his team, and I heard a few comments on its amazing efficiencies along the way. Tom Hilgeman, Executive Director of the LANCO and Midwest Landscape Group, two Cincinnati-based organizations that many of the area Centers belong to said, "Danny, you have to see the Natorp's Checkout operation and there is much to learn from it for all Group Centers."

Last fall when I traveled to Cincinnati to do planning work for The Fall Event 2023, Kyle walked me through the area to see for myself. That, coupled with the details of the improvements of efficiencies he recapped above, it is certainly easy to see... it is amazing!

Granted, the size and scope of Natorp's is much larger than most Centers, but the concept in their checkout redesign can help every Center be more efficient, move more Guests through more efficiently and create a more pleasurable shopping experience.

You have several opportunities ahead to help you move toward changes your Center needs to be more efficient and more profitable. The first is coming this Thursday when Robert Hayter will present at our next GROUPtalk LIVE Series. Titled:

Improve Your Customer's Experience Through Your Shopping Environmental Design

This presentation contains content Robert has collected and developed in his many years of helping Garden Centers with their store design and operational efficiencies. He will share with you a number of the important areas he considers as he helps Centers with new designs or redesigns.

And, that GroupEs conversation I mentioned earlier helped frame not only this GROUPtalk LIVE Series session this week but also extends to a Breakout Session at The Fall Event 2023 Robert Hayter will lead. Participants are encouraged to bring details of their site challenges, their ideas and, of course, questions for Robert's review!

Is it Time for Change at your Center?

Don't miss this Thursday's GROUPtalk LIVE Session with Robert Hayter and a chance to dive deeper into this area at The Fall Event 2023 as we explore all the creative ideas and management strategies with all The Group Pros and Group Peers and see a group of amazing Centers on Tour Day!

Mark Your Calendar for September 25-28... you'll be in Cincy!


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. If you have any trouble logging into The Group WebSystem, please let me know. Are you and your staff all subscribed to our eLists such as GroupEs, Retail-Grower, Retail-Landscape, Owners-Only, and a number of others? Need help subscribing? Let me know so I can show you how you can sign up.

Thanks for sharing!

Danny Summers
[email protected]
Tel: 678-909-7770
Cell: 678-761-7145

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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