Who's Your Competition?

Who's Your Competition?

by Danny Summers

When asked this question, I know the usual answer you might give is the garden center across town or even the big box down the street. It is a natural reaction. But the best answer may be quite different. It is normal to think about others who are in the same business as you and consider competing with them in a battle for the same business or customers.

I believe the garden center across town or even the big box down the street might not be your biggest competition but instead looking at the marketplace as a whole, we might see a totally different picture.

I'll give you an example. We live in a small subdivision here in Acworth. It is located 31 miles north of downtown Atlanta. The subdivision is made up of 48 singe-family homes, most built 2005-2007. If we were to gather tomorrow morning and walk the three streets of the community and assess their properties, rating each family's level of gardening activities or their outdoor living spaces, we would see no more than about 6 or 8 homes that we would think are regular garden center customers. At best, that's no more than 17% of our community who ever steps into a garden center (local independent or box). For those 6 to 8 homes it is obvious they have added trees, shrubs and color well beyond what the original builder supplied. They may have done some improvement themselves or had a contractor do it for them, but they have found value and enjoyment in creating a beautiful garden around their home. And probably less than half of the 6 to 8 of the gardening families recognize gardening as part of an active, healthy lifestyle. Let's call it "Gardening Fitness" for lack of a better term.

If only 17% of our homes are regular "garden center" customers... what about the Other 83%? Where do they spend their discretionary income, or, better yet, their discretionary time?

Let's look a little deeper at the "Gardening Fitness" idea. Take a minute to think about how many new fitness centers you see in your community. I bet you can't count them on two hands. That's true for our area and I see new ones every time we travel.

Here's a chart I found illustrating the growth in the fitness industry over the last 60 years and projecting the next 20 years to continue the upward trajectory. The caption says "Health and Fitness facility attendance has become the biggest adult sport in the western world... bigger than football, tennis and golf combined."

One of our Group Centers has already been promoting "Gardening Fitness" in their messaging. Recently Dickman Farms newsletter subject was "Garden, Eat, Sleep, Repeat". The supporting message pointed to all the couch-potato activities many have adopted this spring and summer as the Covid-19 restrictions have kept most people close to home. The message also included "Burn Calories & Eat Healthy in Your Own Backyard." They also coined the phrase "Garden=Gym" and gave ideas on how a gardening lifestyle could be better than any gym membership! Here's a portion of their message on left. You can see their entire message HERE.

This is just one illustration of how we can introduce gardening to the Other 83%. Considering the vast number in your community that is not thinking about plants, flowers, gardening, nature or even outdoor living. How can you share a gardening experience with them? You will be helping spread the "Joy of Gardening" to many more that need it (an expand your customer base at the same time).

Obviously, this spring has drawn many new faces to gardening and you can confirm this in just thinking about what you have seen in your center. But that's just a start and again, I bet it was a small portion of the Other 83%.

Are you beginning to understand my idea... who is your competition? If you only attract a portion of the 17%, you will see cutting up that pie into even smaller pieces doesn't allow for bigger opportunities. Instead, attracting a portion of the Other 83% is a much better and more fun!

In doing some searching for supporting elements for this story I ran across a TedxTalk that supports this general idea. It is one presented in 2019 by Alex Smith of Basic Arts, at Tedx-Folkestone in Kent, England. The theme for the event was 'A Reimagined Future'. His title was Love Your Competitors - How Great Businesses Do Strategy. You will see his idea is not to compete but rather create a different position, one that is unique so you are not seen as just the same as others who sell garden products. One slide shown is the one below... "You Win When You Refuse to Compete". It's about 17 minutes long, but well worth the time and helps support the idea of being different in order to create a unique position in your marketplace.

There is no doubt that you have loyal customers who are connected to the plants and related products and all of your knowledge you offer to help them be successful. That position sets you apart from everyone else in your community who offers gardening products.

Back to the challenge... Who is your competition? Who is your Other 83% and how can you connect with them? Your number (percentage) may be different in your community, higher or lower than 83%, but there is no doubt the number is larger than those that are currently garden center customers.

And it's worth spending some serious time to consider how to reach them and share the joys of gardening. They will thank you for it and your business will as well. This subject is worth some GroupEs discussion soon. Let's start the conversation.


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. 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 as 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 Steve Bailey, Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, Robert Hendrickson, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!




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