Running a multi-faceted business in 2019 requires a lot of information. For Sandi Hillermann McDonald, president of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, collecting and collating that information would be a nightmare without a modern point-of-sale system.
“Everybody should have one,” she says. “To me, it’s a no brainer.”
The ability to streamline and automate processes with a POS system is especially valuable to a business as diversified as Hillermann. The Missouri company has several divisions: nursery and greenhouse, garden center, flower shop and wedding, lawn and garden equipment center, and landscape, lighting and irrigation.
Every division includes numerous examples of how the company’s response to changing times led to diversification and increased customers. Landscape design, installation and maintenance came in 1953, with florist services in 1958, greenhouse growing in 1960 and equipment sales in 1970. The list continues up to the addition of the pottery shop and classes in 2013 followed by beer and winemaking.
This willingness to try new revenue streams is one of the reasons Hillermann Nursery & Florist has thrived. The company was ranked No. 55 on Garden Center magazine’s Top 100 list last year.
In fact, Hillermann McDonald was one of the early adopters of POS software. She chose the company’s current system because of the diversity of reports that are available, which made it a good fit for her business.
“We were probably one of the first garden centers that [the company] even went into,” Hillermann McDonald says. “And so we were kind of a guinea pig with it.”
Hillermann’s retail area includes the gift shop, floral shop, nursery and garden center, where customers can find canning equipment and beer and winemaking supplies, plus a pottery-making shop where customers can make everything from wheel-thrown plant containers to tableware and birdhouses.
Hillermann’s landscape division includes both commercial and residential projects, and a full breadth of services like installation, irrigation, lighting and lawn maintenance. It’s also the most difficult segment for the POS system to handle.
She says the system works especially well for her service department, equipment center and retail operations, and she has been working with the company to figure out a way to handle the complicated logistics of her multi-faceted landscape division.
One feature that has helped her business is the way the POS system augments Hillermann’s loyalty program.
The Garden Club program gives Hillermann the ability to capture its customers’ information and track their purchasing history.
“One of the biggest advantages of that loyalty program is that they no longer need to hold onto their receipts,” Hillermann McDonald says. “So if there’s problem with a plant guarantee or a customer asks, ‘How many yards of mulch did I use last year? What color did I buy?’ We are able to go back and track all their sales without them having to worry about keeping any of that information themselves.”
This, in turn, lets Hillermann anticipate what its customers will want and when they will want it.
For instance, the company is able to use its POS system to target customers with specific interests, like birdfeeders or bird seed, with a promotion designed to trigger a purchase.
“Through our POS, we are able to pull just the people that have purchased birding in all categories and send them a flyer or a special or just a reminder that now is the time to put your bluebird houses up,” Hillermann McDonald says. “We do it with our floral department too. Before the big holidays, like Valentine’s Day, we use it to target the people that are floral customers of ours.”
Hillermann drums up new members in its loyalty program by making the rewards attractive. Within the POS system, they are able to offer members special pricing on specific items throughout the year. Those discounts encourage people to sign up.
“They can buy potting soil $2 to $3 cheaper than anybody that just walks in off the street and doesn’t want to join,” Hillermann McDonald says.
Garden Club reward customers receive frequent emails informing them of the savings they could find if they stop in.
“Those types of things through the POS system — through the marketing end — are also so very important to us,” she says.
Training her staff to use the POS system has been a painless process, Hillermann McDonald says. When she first started researching and testing different point-of-sale systems, it took a lot of data input and a lot of time. But the process has improved significantly. And many of her employees have been raised online and are quite proficient with the tools and technology used.
“The training is almost minimal,” she says. “It’s just so quick. I’m an old dog. Teaching me new tricks sometimes isn’t easy, but the staff that we are able to get in are younger and really seem to pick up on it rapidly.”