Seasonal decor makes an inviting entryway at the floral and gift shop. Large, colorful displays - to capture the attention of commuters on the busy highway alongside The Rhoads Garden - are key elements of the merchandising plan.

merchandise managed

Staff at The Rhoads Garden master the challenges of displaying a diverse array of products in a way that entices customers.
  by Shelley Urban

    How do fresh-cut flowers, baby clothes, wall art, cookbooks, home furnishings, jewelry, flip-flop sandals, and green and blooming plants all fit together cohesively in a retail space? That’s the question that Assistant General Manager David Ramsey, who handles the shop’s merchandising, and the rest of the floral and gift staff address every day at The Rhoads Garden in North Wales, Pa.

    While it may seem like a bit of a puzzler, the crew at The Rhoads Garden answers the question so effectively that judges in the “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, co-sponsored by Florists’ Review and the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), chose the company as our 2009 winner for Outstanding Merchandising and Display. The Rhoads Garden was nominated by Younger and Son, Inc. in Lansdale, Pa.
floral and gift go big
    The 7.5-acre complex, located in an affluent suburb about 15 minutes outside Philadelphia, is a visual potpourri of products for beautifying spaces, both outdoors and in. Anyone who passes by on the busy highway will be drawn by the wealth of merchandise on display, which includes, throughout the complex, nursery and landscaping products, items for garden décor and design, fresh flowers and giftware, and much more.

    According to Tom Rhoads, who is a second-generation owner along with his brother David (their father and an uncle established the business in 1939), The Rhoads Garden’s most popular merchandise ranges in price from $20 to $500. Blooming plants are among their best sellers, but Mr. Rhoads notes that wall art is also big. In addition, “Pottery, garden gifts and bird feeders are also popular,” and these, he says, typically sell in the $20 to $150 range.

    Many of these wares can be found in the 13,000-square-foot garden center, which comprises three greenhouses and, depending on the time of year, is filled with sweeping waves of colorful bedding plants, hanging baskets overflowing with greenery and/or blooms, intriguing garden décor and much more.

    Attached to the garden center, accessible via sliding glass doors, is the two-story atrium and floral and gift shop. The space, a replacement for one of the company’s original greenhouses, totals 10,500 square feet of showroom and includes, above the flower shop, another 3,900 square feet that serves as a floral design center. The expansive atrium/floral and gift center is filled with the broad range of merchandise for which The Rhoads Garden is now known, and Mr. Rhoads reports that floral and gift sales account for 30 percent of the company’s total revenues.

go with the flow
    On one side of the large building, a seasonally decorated entryway welcomes customers into the floral and gift shop. Immediately to the left of the main entrance, a display cooler showcases fresh-cut flowers and arrangements, and a sales counter dedicated to serving flower buyers is positioned nearby.

Permanent arrangements are cross-merchandised with stylish home decor in this section of the massive floral and gift shop.

Autumnal colors and textures, gathered in bold bursts across the 7.5-acre grounds, demonstrate the range of decorating options for the harvest season.

The shop's array of furniture goes beyond the typical patio fare, but the collections merchandise wonderfully with the myriad plants, floral arrangements and accessories also on display.

The sun-filled atrium houses a wealth of exotic green and blooming plants. The wall of clear glass, along with statuary and fountains from the garden center, suggest a conservatory setting.

In the garden center, a koi pond is a centerpiece around which plants, fountains, statuary and more are displayed.

    Beyond the floral shop is the gift area that, according to Mr. Ramsey, “surrounds the whole flower shop area.” Closest to the checkout counter, shoppers will find the “boutique” department, filled with many items considered “impulse” buys such as beautiful jewelry, stylish handbags, hot new SwitchFlop sandals and other “affordable luxuries.” Across from that is “Rhoads Buds,” a section for babies that features clothes, blankets and bedding, gifts, and more. There are also departments filled with fun books and games, primarily for children; cool kitchen and bar ware; candles and cards; home décor items such as permanent florals, wall art, and home furnishings and accessories; and so much more.

    The key to maintaining order and making the various types of products easy for shoppers to find, according to Mr. Ramsey, is to keep everything organized by department and to create distinct zones. In addition, he notes, “Related departments are located near each other, so everything seems to work together.” The departments flow naturally from one to the next.

    Helping maintain the flow are the well-defined paths that guide customers throughout The Rhoads Garden. “Ceramic tile walkways lead shoppers through the floral and gift department,” Mr. Ramsey describes. “And products that we want to focus on are positioned near the walkway,” he adds.

color sells
    The walkway leads into other parts of the retail area as well, including the grand atrium. Here, bright sunlight streams in through banks of tall windows, and potted plants of all types, especially tropicals and other exotics, drink it in. The ceiling is 25 feet high at its peak, and, oftentimes, plants are suspended overhead, maximizing the already vast floor space.

    “Customers are drawn in by colorful displays of blooming plants, which are visible [through the windows] from the highway,” shares Mr. Rhoads. At the floor level, large potted plants are clustered, so they’re easily noticed while smaller pots are placed on tables, risers and cedar benches. “Smaller plants are grouped together, and cedar benches of different elevations create height and depth,” he points out.

    Colorful plant groups are placed together along the walkway, at the entrance and along the windows, so they’re also visible from the highway. “We focus on bright, colorful displays, indoors and out. Color sells everything in floral, gift, atrium and nursery,” Mr. Rhoads reports. Among the blooming plants, orchids and bromeliads are top sellers.

careful cross merchandising
    While the need to separate and distinguish the various departments is apparent, cross-merchandising is still a necessity. “We constantly bring items into the showroom that are usually displayed outside, such as fountains and garden décor. We try to give customers ideas how to use our products at home or as gifts,” Mr. Rhoads explains.

    Nevertheless, items are carefully paired, to prevent departments from becoming cluttered and indistinguishable from each other. “For example,” shares Mr. Ramsey, “in the atrium, we have a big display of orchids, and we have all the items needed for them. We have orchid pots, orchid bark, [orchid-specific] plant food and decorative moss.” Fountains nearby add ambience and contribute to the conservatorylike quality of the atrium.

    Likewise, in the bird section, which is located in the gift shop, very near the atrium, most products are for the care of wild birds, such as houses, feeders and food, and related items such as reference books and cameras. Mr. Rhoads confides: “We just sold a ‘bird cam’ for $250.”

    But, says Mr. Ramsey, “we also have gifts with bird motifs. For example, in the hummingbird area, we have coasters and towels with hummingbirds on them.” Statuary and fountains or bird baths are ideal near this location as well.

    Placing these items in the gift department, rather than the garden center, is a surprise to some newcomers, but getting shoppers to think of them for both gift and self-purchase has had a positive impact on sales. “They’re selling really well in the gift department,” Mr. Ramsey confirms.

    Pottery is also natural for cross-merchandising. Ceramic vases and pots are typically found in groups by the floral display cooler and are included, according to their color palette, in the home furnishings and décor department.

change is good
    Seasonal transitions across all divisions of The Rhoads Garden keep the company’s 50 employees working hard throughout the year. During the upcoming holidays, banks of bright poinsettias will beckon passers-by, and grapevine reindeer are likely to be found grazing in the atrium’s loft. “Displays are usually changed every other week,” Mr. Rhoads confirms.

    Some departments change even more often. “The boutique area changes the most,” shares Mr. Ramsey. “We get something new almost every day.” While Mr. Rhoads concedes that during busy times, revisions happen a little less often, he says, “It’s critical to stay fresh and keep [our departments] up to speed.”

    With so many different products to move around, maintaining a fresh feel is probably easier than maintaining a cohesive presentation that seems logical to shoppers. But with careful planning and organization, along with strategic cross-merchandising, the diverse product mix is effectively managed.
  The Rhoads Garden

Owners: Tom and David Rhoads
Number of locations: 1 retail center, including gift and floral shop, garden center, and nursery
Location: North Wales, Pa.
Opened: 1939
Shop size: entire retail grounds encompass 7.5 acres: 10,500-square-foot floral shop, gift shop and atrium; 3,900-square-foot floral design center; and 12,800-square-foot garden center
Clientele: professional affluent men and women
Average sale of all merchandise: $75 to $100
Average fresh flower sale: $60
Number of employees: 50
Web site:

Contact Shelley Urban at or (800) 367-4708.

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