“DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.” When it comes to retail, the vast majority of shoppers ignore this old adage. Ninety-five percent of consumers said a store’s external appearance influences their decision on where to shop, according to an Omnibus survey. In other words, curb appeal is key to a retailer’s success.
“There is a saying in the retail industry that ‘your store is your brand,’ meaning the condition of the physical environment of a retail location delivers a strong brand message to the consumer,” said Mike Popadak Co-Founder & CEO of iVueit, a site auditing platform for landscaping contractors and their clients. “The appearance and condition of a retail location’s exterior landscaping, including irrigation, parking lots, signage and lighting, play an important role in delivering a positive brand experience. –Mike Popadak”
Missy Henriksen, Vice President of Public Affairs with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), reflected this sentiment. “Not only does a well-maintained landscape provide aesthetic beauty for retail employees and customers, but it can also add 15 to 20 percent to a retail property’s overall value,” she emphasized. “Poorly shaped trees, overgrown shrubs and weeds can detract from a property’s overall appearance and ultimately turn customers away.”
Lara Parker, Regional Property Manager of the Southeast Region with DLC Management Corp., added that landscaping is much more than aesthetics for retail centers. “Landscaping not only enhances the customer’s experience, but serves as a protection from storm water runoff, controls erosion, and in certain locations controls temperature extremes.”
TAP INTO TECH
When you think about flowers and shrubs, technology probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the latest tech tools can enable retailers to improve landscaping, boost sustainability and reduce overall costs.
“Technology and readily available resources have drastically changed this industry,” Parker said. “Landlords no longer have to rely on contractors for information regarding landscaping material and local government regulations or to research other centers’ landscaping choices.” Cutting-edge apps provide landlords the ability to visualize and make direct changes to landscaping projects.
“We know the challenges facilities managers and their landscaping service partners face to reduce costs, maintain best practices and improve sustainability across thousands of properties,” Popadak said. “Unfortunately, thousands of dollars and hours are spent on site visits attempting to amass photographic records of all landscaping and exterior projects. The results are incomplete, costly and delivered too late to provide real insights and meaningful decision support.”
This is where modern technology can help. “There is technology available that enables retail facilities managers and service providers to efficiently verify the status of hundreds of projects nationwide,” he said. For example, crowdsourcing services like iVueit deploy an independent crowd of local consumers, armed with a smartphone, an app and a task list, to deliver real-time photographic verification of a property’s exterior status with the click of a button.
“These services enable property managers to ‘see’ hundreds of locations simultaneously without leaving their office,” he added. “And service providers can improve compliance with their Service Level Agreements, which require photographic verification of all work performed.”
PICK THE PERFECT PLANTS
When it comes to creating a stunning yet sustainable retail landscape, it’s important to select the right plants.
“Appropriate design is essential when designing a landscape that is cost effective, functional and sustainable,” said Mark Tomko, President of Metco Landscape, LLC in Aurora, Colo., a member of the NALP. “Select the right plants for the right place and climate. Plants that are not adapted to local environment require more resources such as more water, soil and fertilization.”
Landscaping is all about location, location, location. “One size does not fit all when it comes to landscaping,” Parker said. “Tenants, customers, environmental challenges (such as climate, flood prone zones, heavy foot traffic, no irrigation, etc.) and local ordinances play an integral role in cost.” If you want to reduce overall cost while maintaining visual appeal, it’s critical to have a working knowledge and understanding of each property’s needs.
AVOID WATER WASTE
If you want to slash landscaping costs, keep water usage in check. “Eliminate the need for water wherever possible,” Tomko suggested. “Proper irrigation maintenance is crucial.”
Water use can be reduced by eliminating broken sprinkler heads and leaking lines, he explained. “Ensure proper zone coverage and head placement, and periodically inspect the irrigation system, preferably weekly.”
Popadak also suggests retailers create customer surveys about landscaping at store locations. “In addition to providing photographic verification, crowdsourcing services enable retail facilities managers to quickly collect qualitative and quantitative information, in the form of short surveys, about the landscaping for a specific location,” he said. “This is a great perk and inexpensive way to get the customer’s point-of-view about your brand from a landscaping perspective.”