Four Seasons The Plant Bug is located in Mount Colah, NSW, and is owned by Kylie and Rob Macri who also have Four Seasons Garden & Landscape Centre in Belrose, NSW, and Four Seasons In Bloom, in Brookvale, NSW.
The Plant Bug has been managed by Cameron Riddett (pictured above) for almost five years. Cam manages the day to day running of the store, including plant and stock purchases (quite different to the Belrose store, 20km away), and their 10 casual/part time staff work in the nursery and the café, only accessible via the shop or through the nursery. Cameron began his horticultural career quite by accident when, after school, he landed a job at Hornsby Garden Centre (now closed, but not due to anything Cameron did!). Cam wasn’t looking to get in to horticulture, it just happened that way, and he’s never looked back.
Prior to becoming store manager, Cam hadn’t given much thought to what’s really involved in running the business. For years his primary focus was learning all aspects of his then roles including the building of his mental database of plants and related products. When not playing football, he was absorbed by his horticultural experiences, beginning as a trainee under Rob Macri. Sixteen years later, Cam’s passion for the industry is obvious, and his management skills have broadened his horizons. Cam says his “on the job” experience has been five times better than Tafe, all those years ago, although a refresher course or new training is never out of the question as far as Cameron is concerned.
Being promoted to Store manager sent his commitment to a new level, and opened Cam’s eyes to the processes, responsibilities, products, and networking required to run a profitable business. Of course this includes not just measurable actions, like the smart buying of appropriate plants (barcoded using Univex POS) to suit the clientele and area (which is surrounded by the bush), but the stocking of strongly branded products that are silent salespersons, with a high focus on delivering quality customer service at all times By carefully introducing new products to the business Cam has found that a good mix of old and new has supported the steady growth and evolution of the business.
Cam is well aware of the changing demographics of Mount Colah and surrounding areas. Once a working class suburb scattered with timber clad 2-3 bedroom homes, new McMansions and average sales prices around the $1.3m mark are now common. Around 35,000 people reside between Hornsby and Berowra, and the Plant Bug is smack bang in the middle, with the oodles of units also now being built in the area presenting new opportunities for indoor plant sales. Naturally these changing demographics influence Cameron in his decision making about the kinds of greenlife and complementary products that the store needs to stock now and in the future. From general purpose maintenance for existing gardens, to unit living, Cam works hard to maintain the balance of relevant products to suit both lifestyles, particularly as the new generation of apartment-dwellers realise that they too can have a diverse collection of plants.
The Plant Bug’s clientele differs during the week (older and senior people) to the weekends when the younger families and middle-agers who are building, maintaining, renovating and landscaping their properties, arrive with bulging wallets. Cam doesn’t want to disappoint them, so The Plant Bug Gnome Rewards Loyalty Programme encourages repeat visits, as does a 10% discount on Tuesdays for Seniors, and yes, Cam and team are hip to the tricks customers try to extract that discount on other days with pre orders or ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses! Tuesdays used to be the quietest day, but is now one of their busiest.
Cam says the biggest and constant sellers are herb and vegies, closely followed by Australian native plants (main supplier is Tarrawood Native Nursery), which is not surprising given the area is surrounded by Ku ring gai & Berowra National Parks. “Quality plants at the right price, and second to none customer service” is the Plant Bug philosophy and policy that Rob Macri has instilled in Cameron.
Aside from taking advantage of the IGC group trading terms from IGC preferred suppliers, all three Four Seasons stores participate in personalised IGC catalogues. Cam loves the IGC catalogues because they look like they have been produced in-house by Four Seasons (but at a fraction of the cost!), and the mix of informative detail (written by Peter Whitehead, ex-Rast Bros Nursery in South Turramurra, NSW), and product offerings encourage people to come in store for a look (with the aforementioned bulging wallets!). Cam also likes that not every item is priced because it gives the store the opportunity to set their own prices and prevents the consumer from just being price driven.
The Plant Bug is heavily involved in their community (the same one that the Macri’s raised their family in), so there’s a strong personal connection. So too for Cameron who grew up, and played footy and cricket (and still does!) in the local suburbs. By supporting local primary schools’ fetes and trivia nights, The Plant Bug maintains its local connections, and also uses marketing, store gift vouchers, and detailed plant and product pamphlets with purchase incentives to encourage people back into store. By utilising these opportunities to market their business, The Plant Bug maintains presence and exposure with front-of-mind positioning in their local area in a cost effective manner.
Located in Sydney’s upper northern suburbs, The Plant Bug is well worth a visit, not only to get some new ideas and exchange information, but to broaden your general Garden Centre networking. Cam’s approach to this great industry is like his footy team; we’re all in this together so let’s make the most of it. If you want to meet with Cameron and see his operation, please ensure you arrange a time first either via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 02 9477 1222. The Plant Bug is located at 525 Pacific Highway, Mt Colah.