Time to reinvent lawn & garden?

By Steve Bohling September 13, 2017 Lawn & Garden

Is the core gardening demographic old hat? What’s happening in the lawn & garden categories? Steve Bohling reports.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

In this round-up, we tell two stories of rebranding in lawn & garden and relate an instance of a garden retailer seeking to increase value to store visits without losing focus on their core audience.



It was interesting to learn recently that Kings Plant Barn has been among the first adopters of electrical vehicle (EV) charging, with two rapid charging stations in place at its Silverdale store.

This is part of Vector’s programme to install EV charging stations at locations including fast food restaurants, petrol stations, visitor attractions, and its head office.

The choice of locations varies, but it’s interesting to see that thus far Vector at least (there are other providers) hasn’t installed charging stations at a hardware or DIY retailer.

“To install a charging station, we look for a good site (safe access, in a popular location, with proximity to a power supply and ideally in an area underserved by charging stations), and a willing site owner,” explains Vector Group Manager, EV Projects, Diane Green.

Is it worth it? Kings Plant Barn’s Jon Kirman says that the free to use charging points at Silverdale seem to be “working really well” and have been “really well received with some really good feedback from the people who’ve got these electric cars”.

Vector has to some extent subsidised these charging points thus far, he says, and Kings Plant Barn for one is keen to add more to especially some of its more remote sites where there are not many charging options.

In this respect, alongside adding a hairdresser at Silverdale, Kings Plant Barn sees EV charging as a value add and diversification for the business without getting too far away from its core demographic and at the same time differentiating itself from neighbouring DIY retailers (note that the phrase “big boxes” isn’t often used in a positive way within these circles).

All this of course is on top of offers like King’s new organic station in the dry goods area, ensuring the quality and the size of its carefully established plants, not leading with price, maintaining high service levels, at-home garden advice etc.

Then there’s market broadening stuff like indoor plants and readymade and potted gardens for the younger demographic, not to mention Kings’ new website called Plant Doctor (https://plantdoctor.co.nz/), where the main solutions for gardening problems are organic-based.

That’s Kings Plant Barn keeping its roots covered in other words – the traditional gardener. You can go too far with add-ons, acknowledges Jon Kirman.

“We’ve tried to always keep our focus on plants. You look at some garden centres overseas and the plant proportion of the site may only be 5 or 10%. We’ve always tried to keep our plant proportions a good 50-60% of the garden centre and just keep our focus on what we originally set the business up as.”



Another brand that’s leading with a new content- and solutions-led website is McGregor’s (www.mcgregors.co.nz). Soft launched at Mitre 10’s recent expo, AHM’s heavily refreshed McGregor’s brand has been the subject of major investment across new look & feel, new packaging and point of sale, from seeds to trowels.

With a fresh tagline to boot (“Garden Genius”), the new-look McGregor’s is clearly the result of substantial effort, encompassing as it does packaging and digital, with a new and coherent approach to the photographic aspects of the brand just one of the obvious elements.

The scale of this rebrand is not to be sneezed at, given there are 600-odd McGregor’s-branded products and a presence in no less than 55 different garden product segments.

Take the new hangsell seed packaging which has been redone from top to bottom and now boasts clear differentiation between products at different price points.

Then there’s the website which, to match the “Garden Genius” promise, is a solutions offer designed to make things easier, whether it’s seed selection or online tools, and targets a slightly older and female skewed demographic.

With a blog writer yet to be announced, the website’s on-trend content comes from a number of different sources and then there’s the new partnerships with Five + A Day and with Garden To Table which also show a broader and more considered approach to the brand.

Although there’s no new product at this point, the cohesive outlook for the brand will also extend to products which should benefit from a more programmatic approach to lifecycles and development going forward.

With much hard work still in train, the roll-out of the new McGregor’s branding should be complete within the next season says AHM’s Nico Pierik.



Another player in the process of rebranding is Palmers, whose stores will be adopting a new look over the next six months.

The Pakuranga store with its new owners is one that has already been rebranded, repainted and has almost all the new signage up (see photos above right).

The key changes to the Palmers branding are a new logo (by the look of it adapted from the Palmers Planet identity), new in-store signage and the introduction of the pink colour from the Palmers Planet ID into all stores.

As the “new” Palmers brand with its 100+ year-old associations rolls out, the new-fangled Palmers Planet brand (where “Planet” was far more prominent visually than “Palmers”) will gradually disappear, says Palmers’ Ron van Zuilen.

The reason for this reversion to type is research that concluded it was hard for a consumer to know what Planet actually stood for.

“Mitre 10 to MEGA Mitre 10 makes really good sense ... but to go from Palmers to Palmers Planet is a really difficult story to tell,” says Ron van Zuilen.

On the other hand, he says: “You know the Palmers brand is so strong and even the younger generation still know what it is.”

As a result, any new developments will wear the tried and tested Palmers brand.

According to Ron van Zuilen, the new brand will be applied across all of its 14 current stores.

The two stores that have dropped off the list in the last six months are Taupo and Palmerston North. The latter was in need of a rebuild so has closed down for a rebuild over the next 12 months. There is also a site in Petone that’s under development.

And, with the recent arrival of a new CEO, Chris George, former CEO of Aqualine Products, Burns & Ferrall and BBQ Factory, it will be fascinating to see what’s afoot for Palmers in the coming years.

We hope to find out more in time for the next issue of NZ Hardware Journal.


From tiny seeds…

This Spring Yates has launched 14 exciting new seeds. The star of the range is the Ginormous FlowerZilla, an F1 hybrid that is absolutely gigantic and will grow up to 5m tall. FlowerZilla is a very hungry feeder, so make sure to fertilise heavily! A new flower seed in the same family as the Swan Plant is Asclepias Silky Mix, which attracts monarch butterflies and other beneficial pollinators with its gorgeous deep red and gold coloured blooms.

And to make the most of your new seeds, a fully revised edition of one of New Zealand’s oldest and most loved books is now on sale. The 79th edition of the Yates Garden Guide features new recommendations for pest and disease control, updated problem-solving charts, advice on keeping chickens and encouraging bees, establishing a community garden, new and revised hints from top Kiwi gardeners and much more.


(Above L-R: Mitre 10 MEGA Taupo Garden Managers Blair & Tina Robertson, owners Caroline & Craig Ladbrook and Retail Manager Deane Egerton.)

Setting the highest standards

Mitre 10 MEGA Taupo was named the co-op’s top 2017 garden centre at Mitre 10’s annual awards and the garden centre team acknowledged for “delivering a friendly, first class service to customers”.

Mitre 10 CEO, Neil Cowie, says: “The Taupo team really proved that their exceptional customer service was above the rest, and that’s what won them the title.”

Taupo Garden Managers Blair and Tina Robertson were away on honeymoon when we called to congratulate them, but Mitre 10 MEGA Taupo Retail Manager, Deane Egerton, says of his team:

“The guys have got a really good understanding of what grows well here and we’ve built a strong relationship over a number of years with local growers for some of our plants and for potted colour as well.

“So the biggest thing is that whatever we give them has got to be of the highest standard and they make sure that it stays that way when it’s in the store.

“They’ve just set themselves very high standards around merchandising displays and plants. And they’re always looking to do things a little bit different to the other garden centres around here.”


Everything a gardener needs – in one box!

The new GARDENA Gardening Tool Kit consists of a trowel, a fork, a pair of secateurs with an extra-narrow cutting head and a hand brush. The products are stored in a small but spacious plastic box whose lid can be used as a dustpan! The box can also be mounted on a wall. All tools feature high quality materials and convenient, ergonomic handles with integrated soft components. Made in Germany, comes with a 25-year warranty.


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