We ventured out of Ft. Lauderdale to nearby Davie, Fla., during the 2017 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition to visit Flamingo Road Nursery. During a tour of the store, founded in 2005, manager Erik Dietl-Friedli sounded off on strategies and departments that have been successful for the garden center.
Big on bonsai
Flamingo Road Nursery has a passionate bonsai expert in-store — Tyler The Bonsai Guy — a requirement for such a challenging, specialized category. The bonsai enthusiast sells his own specimens, which sell well for Father’s Day, and bonsai was also one of three top-selling categories around Valentine’s Day.
Strong support for pollinators
Pollinator gardening is important to Flamingo’s customer base, and they do everything they can to cater to this interest. Milkweed is one of the top 10 SKUs at the garden center — they moved 7,000 1-gallon plants last year. Pollinator-friendly plants are clearly displayed and have their own section at the store, and they even have a table with monarch caterpillar-riddled plants, which happen to be customers’ favorites. They also sell butterfly enclosures and have an expert on staff who hosts workshops and answers questions. A glass-enclosed beehive operates right in their farmers market, and collected bee pollen and honey are jarred and sold to customers. A kid-friendly, pollinator-themed garden that changes with the seasons is also on the property, and it’s a big draw during the holidays.
Small, colorful, simple sheds and even a moveable porch-like display are located throughout the 5-acre property at Flamingo. Structures help create backdrops for plants and points of interest for people to visit, Dietl-Friedli says. They also help customers navigate the store — staff can indicate that plants are near specific buildings to help customers find what they’re looking for. If customers need help but can’t find staff, they don’t have to go on a journey. They can simply ring the bell at the question booth for assistance.
Wind chimes are also a popular category at Flamingo, and Dietl-Friedli believes that’s because customers can actually hear them ring while browsing through the store. Because of the mild South Florida climate, Flamingo has an open-air store designed like a pole barn used for horses, and the chimes play when even the most gentle breeze blows through. Wind chimes were a popular gift item during Valentine’s Day this year, too.
Fountains up front
Fountains can be a challenging category for some garden centers. Thirty-two percent of respondents said that fountains and statuary declined the most for them in the 2016 spring season, according to our State of the Industry Report. Not for Flamingo. After they moved fountains to the front and committed to keeping more than 200 running during store hours, sales went up by 40 percent, according to Dietl-Friedli.
Extra plant stock is displayed on large trailers in one of the main walkways of the outdoor nursery area, in what Dietl-Friedli refers to as a “parade of color.” It makes it easier for staff to replenish plant tables, especially during busy days, and it creates a beautiful area of interest for customers.
Life-sized garden décor like statues depicting Big Foot have been spotted at many garden centers, but we had yet to see the 14-foot-long triceratops displayed at Flamingo. That’s exactly why Dietl-Friedli decided to take a chance on the dinosaur, which they have named Trixie. It also helped that the store sold two velociraptors, so Trixie likely won’t be an attraction there for long.