Walking into a store one can quickly size it up. Same old, same old, or something "unexpected"? Unexpected because we have grown complacent concerning our experiences. We seem happy enough just to get out of some stores without spending too much, and having a "decent" experience. Unfortunately, we have become so jaded that often a "not so bad" experience is the best we can hope for.
What separates one garden center from another? Often it's the "unexpected" that makes the difference. It might be, "unexpected plants" a term coined by plantsman Barry Yinger. That special plant that you either didn't know existed and catches your eye, or perhaps a plant from the past you might have thought had faded from production. It doesn't have to be an unexpected plant however that makes the difference.
If rudeness, complacency,and boredom are the norm in most shops, the "unexpected" would be politeness, exploration, and excitement. When was the last time you we're bowled over by a polite, aware, and excited salesperson? When was the last time you walked into a garden center and said, "wow, I had no idea you could do that?"
Lot's of bad stuff can be unexpected. Lot's of great stuff can be unexpected. The middle way is seldom unexpected. We have all learned to expect that our change will not be counted back to us by the bored cash teller. We expect that the selection at The Boxes won't be anything to write home about. We expect that the stuff we buy won't last long under regular use. There is a lot of expected mediocrity in our world today.
Do something that let's people know you "get it" when it comes to the shopping experience. How about an "unexpected" knowledge of how to grow plants in your particular area? Unexpected new way's of doing things like selling compost tea. How about delivering what the customer just purchased that same day? How about being unexpectedly upbeat about the future, and showing people a better way?
The places that stand out are the ones that provide you with that feeling something wonderful and unexpected will happen while your there. A friendly smile, helpful hand, enthusiasm, knowledge, or a weird and wonderful collection of plants, or garden supplies. The secret to building your business is providing the customer with the knowledge that visiting your store will provide something unexpectedly wonderful during their visit. Of course, once you do that they will "expect the unexpected". It's not easy, but it's the only way to stand out in a world filled with the "expected".