Listening to the customer and treating them right, key: O’Neill

Cory Hurley
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If there’s any industry where it is all about the customer, Anthony O’Neill says gardening and greenhouse is it.

One’s image of a garden centre is as varied as what can be found there, according to the partner and co-owner of O’Neill’s Gardenland in Spaniard’s Bay. That image needs to be rectified, he told delegates of the Greenhouse Conference in Corner Brook Thursday.

It is by far not just a place to go buy flowers. It should be a centre where everything one needs for gardening can be purchased. The closer a centre is to that, the better a business should be, said O’Neill.  Garden centres are the face of the horticulture industry, he said, while providing a producer’s perspective on marketing products and a business.

“It’s the place where we have the most important opportunity to really give value to the products, give value to the concept of landscaping, give value to the farmers who are producing the product,” O’Neill said. “We really have the ability to be able to train our customers.”

In the horticulture industry, one of the biggest challenges is that products are often devalued. It is really important not to under sell what a product is worth, he said.

The O’Neill family business began by selling plants outside a corner store, and has been ever growing since. He said it is now a destination for the most intense and amateur gardeners alike — where the shopping experiences are enjoyable for all ages.

O’Neill encouraged greenhouse and garden centre owners to produce as many of the products they can to maximize profit. He also said it’s key to provide unique products and services and extremely important to do so at a high quality. He also said merchandising products can catapult sales to an enormous level.

“How you present your product to your client is going to make a big difference in their decision as to what they are going to buy,” he said.

O’Neill also said container gardening is the way of the future.

“There are less and less gardeners, and more and more garden lovers,” he said. “We are very thankful to the gardeners, because they took us to where we are now.”

Essentially, people want to have beautiful gardens, but many are not going to get their hands dirty doing it, said O’Neill

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