When Eric Hill bought a “run-down, weed-infested nursery” with his wife and help from their parents, he crossed his fingers and hoped for the best. Then he decided to offer design build services — “just for a few years until the nursery could hold its own.”
The add-on service turned out to be rather profitable, so they stuck with it. Now, landscape installation accounts for half of the business at Autumn Hill Nursery. The cross-selling potential between the retail and service-based sides of the business, in particular, spells success.
“The nursery advertises our landscaping. We do nothing outside of our website and nursery to market our landscaping,” Hill says. “Having landscaping services for 24 years gives us experience that you can’t get just selling plants. So the nursery gains experience, and the landscape division reaps the rewards of the nursery staff selling their services.”
By pricing design services affordably, Autumn Hill reaches customers in the market for landscape projects, as well as DIY customers who just need plants and inspiration.
“We offer a $175 design service that allows people to get started without investing a huge sum,” Hill says. “While we make no money on the design, about 30 percent turn into landscape jobs. Many more purchase plants from us and install them.”
Autumn Hill also holds several “Tweak Your Yard” days every spring and fall. Customers bring photos and rough measurements of an area no larger than 1,000 square feet. They pay $25 for half-hour appointments with a designer, and walk away with a sketch of design ideas. They also get help bringing ideas to life.
“They get a discount on plants purchased that day as an incentive to act,” Hill says. “Usually about three of these turn into installs, and two-thirds purchase plants that day.”
Roses provide another key cross-sale opportunity. Autumn Hill receives bare root roses in January, and keeps them potted and pruned in a covered cold frame on drip irrigation until they’re ready.
This year, Autumn Hill pre-sold 800 roses. Add-on sales alone averaged $24.40 per rose customer, maximizing each transaction.
“While we do about 2,000 roses, we do very limited numbers on any one variety, so people know they have to shop early before they sell out,” Hill says. “We grow the roses out until the first week of April, then people who pre-purchase have a week to get them before they’re available to everyone else.”