Established in 1984, Country Boy’s Home & Garden Center has two locations in South Carolina and is now well-known for its selection of annuals, but it began as “simply a farm market, offering local fresh produce,” as noted on its website’s About Us page.
“Originally, we were food growers in the Spartanburg area, and we lost three crops in a row,” says Allen Walcher, who owns the garden center with his wife, Lucy. After losing their inventory, he says he and Lucy had to consider other options.
Over the years, Country Boy’s integrated plants, herbs and décor until they discontinued produce sales in 1995, sticking to annuals, vegetables, herbs, perennials, hanging baskets and décor. After switching their focus to plants, Walcher says their sales doubled.
“We found out in a hurry that we couldn’t be everything to everybody,” he says.
Giving customers optionsCountry Boy’s carries a wide range of varieties of every plant in their store, including vegetables and herbs.
When customers visit the store, “They’re looking for quality, and they’re looking for color,” Walcher says. “If you go to a box store, you’re going to see two varieties.”
Customers will find many varieties of each annual, up to 60 varieties of vegetables and 135 herbs, he says, and customers can mix and match plants throughout the entire store for flat rates depending on the pot size.
“We tried to keep everything standardized so that we only have eight prices in the store. In other words, 4-inch materials, all the same price; four-and-a-half inches, all the same; six-and-a-half, all the same; 10 inches, all the same; 14 inches, all the same,” he says. “And we allow mix-and-match all the way through the store.”
Country Boy’s also offers a quantity discounts when customers mix and match. “It moves your volume,” Walcher explains. “When you offer a quantity discount, you increase your volume by as much as 20 percent.”
He says plants account for the majority of the business, at about 60 percent of sales, and accent plants like ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine and creeping Jenny are among the best-sellers.
Walcher says accent plants are the most popular in the store because of the increase in customers using containers instead of growing plants in-ground.
“The majority of it is going to two pots on their front porch, and then they’re filling in their pots with different things on their patio,” he says.
Christmas in July, December, and every other month
At County Boy’s Home & Garden, Christmas is a year-round celebration, and Walcher says making it a permanent instead of a seasonal department at both locations sets them apart from other retailers and drives revenue during slow months, keeping sales balanced throughout the year.
“The majority of garden centers run 65 to 70 [percent of their sales] in the spring,” he says. “Then 30 to 35 percent in the second half of the year.”
“We want people to feel at home when they come here and to feel like they’re part of our family.” – Allen Walcher, co-owner, Country Boy’s Home & Garden Center
Walcher says Country Boy’s is close to sales being 50/50 through the year. “Last year, I think it was 54/46, which is unusual for a garden center, especially when you’re using soft goods. We sell no shrubbery, no trees.”
The Christmas Shop is prominently promoted on the company’s website and features holiday ornaments, wreaths, artificial trees and décor.
Walcher says a challenge the garden center faces is keeping up with consumer trends. He says it’s easier to keep track of hard goods preferences because everything has a SKU in their computer system, but he has to pay close attention to the plants.
“You [need to] have your hands on it. You’ve got to be out there with it and be looking at it daily,” he says. “You need to know what you have on hand, what is sold and what the direction the customer is going.”
When a garden center knows what customers are looking for they can merchandise accordingly, he adds.
“We think our displays and our quality of our product sells. We don’t put pressure on anybody to buy something,” Walcher says. “We want people to feel at home when they come here and to feel like they’re part of our family.”