Mobile point-of-sale technology helps Petitti Garden Centers track what’s on the tables.
PHOTO courtesy of Todd Volkmer and Kate Spirgen

Having the right data on production and inventory has been a game-changer for Petitti Garden Centers, helping them stock, staff and sell. Accurate information on everything from peak times to what’s on the tables to which promotions are performing well, the Northeast Ohio garden centers are using point-of-sale technology to boost their profits.

“Without those tools, we’d be sunk,” says A.J. Petitti, president.

Petitti Garden Centers produces 90% of what they sell and overproducing used to be a big headache for the nine regional stores. Accurate inventory data goes directly to the production model, helping them determine what’s moving, what’s not and what they need more of in real time.

That means less waste, less labor maintaining extra product and less stress on teams to bring in extra materials. And at the end of the day, they can evaluate mistakes, overproduction and waste.

“Now we’ll go through days where we’ll process tens of thousands of transactions in one day and it’ll be smooth as silk,” Petitti says. “And so the product flows in when you need it, it’s sold, it’s replenished and everything just works really well.”

And on busy weekends like Mother’s Day, having accurate data is invaluable. The store will sell 35,000 baskets in just two hours, so without information on everything from inventory, sales, distribution and logistics, it wouldn’t be possible, Petitti says.

“So by having that good information, by having those good systems and practices in place, we’re able to flow that information out from 7 to 9 a.m., sell that quantity of baskets and then by the time 9 a.m. starts, the store looks perfect,” he says. “It looks like nothing was shopped and you’re ready to go about your day for Mother’s Day weekend like nothing happened.”

Tracking trends

There are surprises every year at Petitti but by establishing and tracking trends, they can see the effects of promotions and displays outside of gross sales. They can track not only what’s going out the door, but what each customer is taking along with a sale item, whether it’s another plant, some garden decor, a container or supplies to help that plant thrive.

“If we’re running 50% off on lilacs, you can see if they’re just buying that one lilac or if our team is really doing a good job of upselling the steps for success and having the soil, having the fertilizer with that lilac,” Petitti says.

Petitti Garden Centers is constantly throwing new promotions out to see what works whether it’s a gift card deal, a percent off sale or something else. But to know if it’s something they should try again, they have to look at how sales performed.

Having the tools to measure each sale’s efficacy, financial return and boost in sales determines which sales they’ll run again and which ones flopped.

“Running a promotion isn’t just about selling lilacs at 50% off; it’s about getting traffic in, introducing hopefully new customers to your store, capturing their information and also really upselling and inspiring them to do more in the landscape instead of just selling lilacs,” he says.

Petitti Garden Centers uses POS information to track which promotions are the most successful.

Picking point-of-sale

Considering monthly fees, usability, customization and support and training, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to purchasing the right point-of-sale system for your garden center.

For Petitti, choosing a system with great support and easy setup was a game-changer from their first POS system, which Petitti calls a “glorified cash register.”

“We paid really high monthly fees every month for the maintenance,” he says. “With the old system, we had to customize everything.”

Before they implemented the right point-of-sale system, Petitti was struggling with software that jumbled up inventory when it batched overnight, leading to inaccurate counts and problems with stocking.

“We’d take cycle counts; we’d come in the next day and the counts would be inaccurate,” Petitti says. “It created so many different challenges for us in terms of filling the stores, stocking the stores. So instead of making really good decisions based on good information, we were making decisions based on gut feelings. You’re overstocking the stores.”

Now, with the right system, the garden center knows it’s shipping the correct quantity of products to have the right material at the right time instead of making an educated guess. In the past, the garden center would have 40 to 50 carts of extra material sitting in the back after a big Mother’s Day weekend. Now, that number is down to just two or three carts without ever having an empty space on the tables.

“The difference it makes is just huge,” Petitti says.

And instead of going off of a gut feeling, Petitti knows exactly what they have on hand to ensure they’re not overproducing, overstocking or shorting themselves across all of their stores.

“We ran into all of those situations,” Petitti says. “To try to manage those inventories across nine locations, making sure that everything is getting out at the right time, making sure everybody is appropriately stocked, having that inventory information — it’s critical.”

And no matter the size of your garden center, Petitti says it’s a game-changer to find a system that works for you.

Plus, the mobile abilities make it easier to track inventory across stores that can be 15 acres instead of dragging materials to a terminal.

“I would say you can’t afford not to do it. Having that information, having the system — especially if you’re on a system that’s working really well — I would say just make sure that it’s maximizing your operation. And if you’re on a system that’s not working well — you can’t afford to be on a system that’s not working well. You can’t afford to not have good inventory. You can’t afford to not have good information to base your decisions off of.”


Operational costs

When you’re planning your budget for the year, analyzing your peak times and planning out your staffing, you have to really dig into the data again, Petitti says. From ramping up for the busy season to scaling back during slower periods, that information is key to staffing decisions throughout the year.

And because the team at Petitti includes growers, he’s aware of the fact that throwing away plants dampens morale, along with hurting the bottom line.

“They put a lot of passion into growing,” he says. “We’ve got teams that care, maintain, unload that product, looking for that product to sell and nothing will kill morale faster than all that work that goes into it, all that time that goes into it and because of mistakes made on poor information, if we’re throwing that product away, that will kill morale faster than anything.”