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“In this way an overstimulation can be prevented at Christmas time” – an interview with Oliver Mathys (Marketing and Sales Consultant)

Oliver Mathys – Photo:

The summer is gradually coming to a close… And the first Christmas items are already on sale in the retail outlets in mid-September. And it won’t be long before the corresponding design at the POS follows. In November at the latest the Christmas business is in full swing in the green industry. Even though this increasingly early Christmas hype tends to irritate many of the customers. We discussed the theme with Oliver Mathys. As a marketing and sales consultant, he develops sales concepts and supports companies with the implementation thereof.

Mr Mathys why does the retail trade start pushing the Christmas business so early? Especially for garden centres and DIY stores there are many other important themes in the autumn that they could concentrate on for their POS design.

Mathys: Yes, it is a little bit crazy. Particularly the autumn is one of the loveliest seasons and offers the garden centres and DIY stores an abundance of themes. However, the products are often banned to the outdoor areas. On the other hand, many shops outside the industry have discovered the potential of the autumn over the last years and focus their activities accordingly.

But several garden centres and DIY stores are also trying things out and opening an autumn market for instance, which from mid-October onwards also offers Christmas items. Initially one increasingly relies on cocooning and well-being products: Scented candles, glassware, cushions, blankets… The focus lies on typical autumn shades such as orange, aubergine, dark purple, Bordeaux or brown. Highlights are set with magenta or gold. Themes such as autumn and winter vegetables, baking or wellness also play a significant role.

Of course, in terms of the Christmas offer, the garden centres and DIY stores also always compete against the big Christmas markets in the city centres that attract the customers among others with their mulled wine and fast food stalls. Since they are seldom located in the city centre, from the first Sunday in Advent onwards the frequency of customers declines strongly. The main turnover with the products is there frequently already made in October and November.


You live in the Netherlands and travel around the whole of Europe in your capacity as an acknowledged market expert. Are there differences in the pre-Christmas business and POS design in the individual countries?

Mathys: Yes, definitely. The garden centres do very good business in December particularly in the Netherlands and Italy. Here, there is however also less competition from local Christmas markets. In the North of Italy, almost every garden centre manages to lend its Christmas exhibition a touch of original flair. The markets mostly surprise with their clear structures and a very wide assortment of products. Children are often the centre of attention – there are workshops, visiting Santa, etc. I really like that. The workshops take place centrally in the garden centre and not in some old back rooms or warehouses. And plenty of processing materials are offered – that motivates the visitors to get active and perhaps even craft things at home themselves later too.

In my opinion, the Christmas supplies in the Dutch garden centres are in comparison often too lush. The companies have to ask themselves at some point whether this pays off. Or one has to consider taking a small admission fee from the customers if one has gone to extensive design efforts. This is a model that one encounters in Great Britain sometimes. Because nobody can live from the visitors that just take a look round, perhaps visit the café and just block the parking lot.


How can a garden centre or DIY store distinguish itself from its fellow competitors in terms of shop design? And which trends can we expect for the Christmas business?

Mathys: Regarding the sales area, structure and clarity currently play a major role. The consumer has to be able to find his orientation fast and simply and the decision-making process should be made easier for him. It is for instance helpful if the products are sorted into colours and themes. In this way an overstimulation can be prevented at Christmas time. It also becomes increasingly more important today, to have individual sections for different types of customers that offer products especially compiled for them. Because it makes the hairs stick up on the neck of the purist if he ends up in the department of the romantic – and vice versa of course. Packaging material and transport are essential purchasing criteria for many customers. Some people for example don’t want to choose the Christmas baubles from the decorative tree in the shop themselves and prefer to opt for packaged goods instead. One trend this year is the integration of plants into the Christmas exhibition. And also the themes eating and enjoying are becoming increasingly more important for the garden centres and DIY stores. The customers let themselves be inspired by winter cooking courses or BBQ events in the cold winter months.

General social developments also play a role in the Christmas business of course and these should be observed by the garden centres and DIY stores: Sustainability, handling nature responsibly, to-share or Local4locals are just a few keywords here. For example, a current trend is for house communities to share a Christmas tree instead of everyone putting one up in their own apartment. Those who like alternating the tree decorations exchange them perhaps with friends and acquaintances rather than buying new ones. Or under the motto “Rent your Christmas tree” one simply hires the decorations and returns them after the festive season. That is not necessarily cheaper, but definitely more sustainable and one doesn’t have to store baubles and co. in one’s own four walls all year round. I think, specialised shops should be in a position to pick up on such new ideas and the customers’ wishes and react to these: How about a service for instance that delivers the Christmas tree on a desired date, puts it up and decorates and collects it again after the holidays? Especially in the urban environment, such or similar offers will no doubt open up new fields of business in the future.


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