Every year I spend some serious observation time in the trenches by the registers and out into the parking lot. It’s amazing what you see. Only last week I watched a lady struggle out to her car against a strong wind with a heavily laden shopping cart. She had just donated over $100 to the store’s cash flow that morning and no one helped her – but I digress. This blog is about an oldie but goodie: tie-in sales, AKA, add-ons, attachments, adjacency items, link sales (hello Brits! “Think Link”!)…. the list goes on.
The sad truth
For years I have done a non-scientific survey of tie-ins counting the number of units of ‘helper’ products that were in the cart with the “main” purchase – usually plants. Sad to say but nothing much has changed in 20 years of doing this in independent garden centers, though I suspect the Home Centers have really improved their “attachment” rate. In the early 1990s it was about 1 cart in 5 with any such items – even one little bottle – in the cart and in 2013 it is about the same.
I understand that some of those shoppers bought new gloves recently, own a perfectly good trowel or still have half a bag of plant food at home from last month’s visit. I also know that some of these customers were about to drive to the loading zone for their bags of mulch; but one tie-in for every five carts brimming with gorgeous plants? Come on, retailers, that’s just depressing. It’s not setting the customer up for success, but more importantly it’s not setting you up for profitability.
I am not advocating “loading up” every customer with things they don’t need, nor asking every shopper if they “want fries with that” like a fast food place. But we can do better than one in five!
This is not another nagging rant about cross merchandising, employee training or a finger-wagging to Think Like Customers (ooh I like that phrase) and give shoppers what they will need to succeed. It’s about cold hard business. It’s a numbers game.
And it goes like this
A garden center doing $2 Million in sales a year at $50 average sale has about 40,000 shops (Ka-Chings) a year.
At least half of those Ka-Chings (20,000 shoppers) will buy at least one unit of annual/perennial color, veg or herbs
- If just 20% more of those 20,000 shoppers buy ONE plant food, that is 4000 extra units (333 cases): got your attention?
- If 20% more buy just 3 bags of soil in a year, that’s 12,000 more bags of soil or mulch (or both!): truck-loads of the stuff – any takers?
At least 25% of the Ka-Chings (10,000 shoppers) will buy a tree or a shrub
- If 20% more of them buy 1 plant food that’s 2000 more units of plant food
- If 20% more buy just 3 bags of mulch, that’s 6000 extra bags
That’s not to mention repellents, gloves, kneelers, pruners, watering cans, soaker hose, stakes, support frames… need I go on! The shoppers will need this stuff anyway and will just go and spend that money in a competitor’s store when they discover they don’t have everything they need for the project. I am not advocating filling every cart with all the hard goods they will truly need to succeed, even I don’t buy that. But these are very conservative incrementals, just one bag/bottle or thingy for a few more shoppers.
Money is left on the table, bed or shelf every day by retailers and there are a hundred reasons why I’ve heard that “tie-ins” can’t be done. Maybe these numbers will finally appeal to someone to drive a tie-in culture down from the top?
Garden retailers spend millions of dollars and hours of work trying drive more people in the door but seem to roll over when it comes to driving extra sales from those already there. Go figure – literally.
Someone cheer me up and give me a tie-in success story, please!!