Smith & Hawken’s retail renaissance

Outdoor sporting goods merchants Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s aren’t the only marketers creating destination superstores. Smith & Hawken, a cataloger/retailer of upscale garden products, is rolling out a “renaissance” retail concept, with new stores measuring at least 10,000 sq. ft.

Novato, CA-based Smith & Hawken opened its first two “renaissance” stores in the spring: one in Mill Valley, CA, and the other in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Last month it opened another in Cleveland. A fourth is scheduled to open in spring 2007 in Manhattan Beach, CA.

“We will continue to open several new stores each year over the next five years or so,” says spokesperson Noelle Smith. The $145 million company has 60 stores; except for the newer stores, they averaged about 5,000 sq. ft. “Going forward, all new stores will be 10,000 sq. ft. or larger,” Smith says.

Besides doubling the space, the new Smith & Hawken stores bring elements of nature inside. Skylights above an enlarged plant area offer bright, natural lighting, while multiple fountains provide the relaxing sounds of running water, and antique-inspired fixtures and tile flooring help convey the feeling of combined indoor and outdoor spaces. “More and more people are creating outdoor rooms, which blur the lines of indoor/outdoor living, and the store design reflects this,” Smith says. Customers can now “touch, sit in, and experience, which is the main difference.”

Smith says the larger stores “fully convey the breadth of products we offer, as well as allow our customers to better visualize how to put together outdoor rooms, regardless of size.” Service in the new stores will include an on-site consultant to work with customers by appointment.

Some of Smith & Hawken’s current stores will be renovated, Smith says, to “better serve the communities they are in, but not necessarily to make them larger.” For example, the store in San Francisco was remodeled to reflect an urban garden boutique, which fits the Fillmore Street neighborhood and surrounding areas.

The retail concept isn’t the only aspect of Smith & Hawken to have experienced a rebirth. The company also redesigned its Website and catalog this year.

“Our customers are always looking for solutions and ideas, so the catalog and Website are also undergoing changes to better show off our wide product selection and offer more tips with increased editorial presence,” Smith says. “The overall look has been freshened up, and the Web product pages have options for larger views and additional product shots, which weren’t offered before. In terms of the catalog, there are more, larger hero shots that cover entire spreads. We show how the products work inside the main catalog this year to make it easier for customers to select gifts.”

Founded in 1979 by Dave Smith and Paul Hawken, Smith & Hawken has been owned by Marysville, OH-based lawn care products manufacturer Scotts for more than two years. The $2.3 billion Scotts bought the business from DDJ Capital in summer 2004. Smith & Hawken would not release response rates or catalog circulation figures, but retail accounts for 65% of its business, with 20% generated by Website sales and the remaining 15% from catalog sales.

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