Susan Pyle -- Casual Living, December 15, 2006
From the Winter 2006 issue of Garden Decor
IN 1885, HENRY Bachman began growing vegetables on a 4-acre plot of Minnesota farmland that continues to yield a bountiful harvest for his progeny.
The farm is now the Minneapolis headquarters and flagship store for Bachman’s garden centers, where fourth and fifth generation family members run one of the largest traditional floral and nursery operations in the world. Fresh flowers, live and silk garden plants, gifts, collectibles, accessories and supplies bring in more than $80 million a year at 19 locations, staffed by more than 1,000 employees throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.
A nursery and landscaping division added in the 1930s has grown into a 513-acre growing range with a 17-acre sales area, and seven acres of greenhouses that produce 95,000 poinsettias, 15,000 Easter lilies, 100,000 mums and 70,000 azaleas a year.
In 1976, the store introduced six little hand-painted ceramic buildings in its gift department, launching a wintry empire of Snowhouses and Snowbabies that became known as Department 56.
Not only a seller of fresh flowers, Bachman’s carries everything from silk garden plants and fountains to floor mats and outdoor games.
One thing that sets Bachman’s apart is its appeal to a broad aesthetic, from the darling to the daring.
Named for the accounting system used by Bachman’s to identify its divisions, these very first pieces of the original Snow Village were assigned to “department 56 — wholesale gift imports.” In 1992, Bachman’s sold Department 56 for $250 million to New York investment firm Forstmann Little & Co.
Bachman’s main store is a 200,000-sq.-ft. floral, gift and garden center where special events, seminars and garden society meetings are an everyday occurrence. Hungry shoppers may dine among blooms at Patrick’s Bakery and Café, where Cordon Bleu instructor Patrick Bernet and wife Azita serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the store’s greenhouse. Store tours, booked in advance, take visitors behind the scenes to the floral design areas and phone center, where more than 800 orders are processed each day. The 45- minute tour also includes a stop in the delivery area, where Bachman’s fleet of purple and green trucks are dispatched with 5,000 deliveries a week.
The choice of purple as the company color was a decision made during the 1940s when Albert Bachman’s paper choices were limited due to wartime rationing. Purple, chosen for its availability, remained the sole color for packaging, logo and delivery trucks until the spring of 2006, when a corporate makeover lightened the look by adding chartreuse green to the brand’s identity.
The rebranding was fueled by two years of focus group research that suggested it might be time to tone down the purple, expand the gift selection and pump up the floral design.
Faye Krupp, director of communications, described the changes. “We freshened our look, redecorating many of our delivery trucks in a wild new pattern and putting higher style arrangements in our floral coolers. We still offer FTD and Teleflora designs, but now we promote our own arrangements in our coolers.”
The store also launched WINK, a new gift boutique lit with hot pink chandeliers, in six of its garden centers.
Krupp said one thing that sets Bachman’s apart is its appeal to a broad aesthetic, “from the darling to the daring.”
The store maintains a reputation for excellent service and quality products, and as a place that is fun to visit. “We also offer beautiful gift wrapping, custom permanent and fresh flower arrangements and landscape design and installation.”
Best-selling decorative accessories include gnomes, glow-in-the-dark garden stakes, gazing globes, frog figurines, Talavera pottery, bamboo fountain kits and tabletop fountains. Also hot are outdoor sculptures, three-season floor mats and miniature garden accessories.
Slow movers are marked down starting at 30%. “Once an item goes to 50%, it’s moved to a department called Lemons and Leftovers which is a fun clearance area,” Krupp said. Advertising is mainly through direct mail, a spring catalog, newspapers, radio, billboards and local editions of national magazines.
A donations program offers groups an opportunity to earn money (15%) by selling Bachman’s gift cards.
Upcoming events and extensive gardening information are posted on the store’s Web site, www.bachmans.com, as are details about Bachman’s return policies, delivery prices and more. Thecare and keeping of plants, flowers, lawns and gardens also is covered.
Bachman’s main store covers a 200,000-sq.-ft. area and includes a bakery and cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the greenhouse.
| BACHMAN S
No. employees1,600 during springand summer; 1,100 the rest of the year
Annual sales$82 million projected forcurrent year
Key vendorsCraven, Lotus, ThreeHands, Pacific Rim
Trade shows/marketsAtlanta, Minneapolis,Las Vegas
Dominant style themes on the floorright nowAsian, rustic, outdoor games
Inventory turns2.5 times in the finergardens category
Average retail price points for accentcategoriesgarden decor $20-$30, tablefountains $35-$150, topiary frames $50,specialty statuary $120-$150