Russell’s Garden Center makes an effort to beat local competition on plant selection, stocking the most trendy and popular varieties.

With a history stretching back to the Centennial of the United States, Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, Mass., has had a lot of time to get it right.

Originally opening in 1876 as a farm market dealing mainly in flowers and vegetables, the long-running IGC has gradually expanded into garden goods, nursery and greenhouse supply, gifts, birding, seasonal décor and more.

Russell’s operates one retail location with roughly five acres of space and has an average yearly sales volume of about $8 million, says Operations Manager John Mehigan. In the late 1980’s, the business “morphed into” a retail hub known for its wide selection, high-quality plants and knowledgeable staff, he adds.

“[We’re popular for] selection and quality,” Mehigan says. “We’re kind of a one-stop shop. You can get everything you want here. It’s a broad selection and we go for a higher quality. The customer service, having good people here who know what they’re talking about. Having a good selection to back that up.”

Being in the general vicinity with several big box store chains, Russell’s sets itself apart by giving customers what they can’t find anywhere else, and delivering the convenience of variety that completes the shopping experience.

“[There are box stores] within four or five miles, but none in our immediate area, I would say,” Mehigan says. “Obviously, on hard goods and stuff like that, we’re competing all the time. But, on plant selection, they don’t have the selection we have and they don’t have the quality we have. People can come in here and do everything from their lawn to the nursery in a one-stop shop. You get the quality here.”

Left: With more than 4 acres of space, Russell’s stocks a selection wide enough to serve as a one-stop shop. Right: Operations Manager John Mehigan

When a business has been open as long as Russell’s, it sees many changes in the retail landscape, and marketing is a prime example. Mehigan says the company has had to adapt to bring younger gardeners into the store by reaching out to them online and tailoring inventory presentation to them. Younger shoppers are less interested in the science behind planting and more interested in what plants will look like in their gardens and what it takes to grow them, Mehigan says.

“In our market, your whole advertising [strategy] has shifted over the last 10 years,” he says. “Most of your consumers now don’t have as much time, so you kind of have to cater to people who are not what you call ‘traditional gardeners.’ They don’t really need a plant called ‘X,’ ‘Y’ or ‘Z,’ they want a blue plant and they don’t really care what it’s called. They want it to be ready to go, and they want it to work.”

Looking to the future, Mehigan says the Russell’s management plans to expand services offered on the store’s website with a regularly updated blog, which is intended to go live later in the spring. However, no matter which new methods take shape to engage the market, Russell’s Garden Center is keeping sight of what it does best.

“Overall, our customer service, good people, good plants, good experience … that keeps them coming back,” Mehigan says.