I don’t participate in the latest fads. I keep current with what the newest trends, destinations, colors or even plants are, but unless the opportunity to experience them is temporary I don’t feel the need to go in the first week, month or even year. I like to let things mellow a bit before jumping into the fray. That’s why I decided it was finally time to see if all the hype about Terrain at Styer’s was true.
Located outside of Philadelphia, it’s been over a year since Styer’s, which was already an excellent garden center, was transformed into what should be a new garden center paradigm. Much has been written about Terrain. Its parent company is Urban Outfitters, the hip retailer that also owns Anthropoligie. They are merchants who understand their retail concepts generating 1.5 billion dollars in sales in 2007.
I allowed about 45 minutes for the stop and could have used twice that. What makes this garden center different? Unlike most others it has a distinct retail viewpoint beyond the seasonal selling of plants. The Terrain concept is realized at every turn, from the way the store environment is laid out to the design of the store fixtures to the merchandise, it all supports the Terrain retail philosophy. Plants are huge part of the merchandise mix and are displayed in traditional (read practical) garden center set ups on tables and nursery rows as well as in containers, as props and as interior structural elements. Terrain’s unique point of view begins to reveal itself in the parking lot and continues throughout the entire retail experience.
Reclaimed siding, stick fencing, willow wattles, salvaged architectural elements are teamed with quirky new merchandise creatively displayed throughout Terrain–the same way they do in the Anthropologie stores. Natural is juxtaposed with artificial, new with old. Every opportunity to create customer discovery experiences and garden vignettes is maximized. Merchandise is richly layered and ideas abound. I found some wonderful rosy sandstone spheres under a plant table that not only displayed plants but containers and other garden ornaments. This was intentional and not a space saving trick. The merchandisers at Terrain also understand the power of negative space–and there’s plenty of it to allow eyes to rest and the imagination to re-group.
Within the larger environment, there are several garden shops, a cafe and a full landscape design studio at Terrain along with enough plants to satisfy any gardener. Shops are housed in cleverly designed shed-like structures and each has its own focus. The main shop displays garden ornaments, plants, small pots, furniture, books and an area for spa products wiht a green wall of staghorn ferns and other epiphytic perennials.. A hot house for tropicals and house plants has a wonderful planted arch, terrariums, containers and more accessories. The potting shed houses garden practicalities like hand tools and amendments. The design studio is a separate building adjacent the nursery area. There’s also a shade house and the day I was there, a sale tent. The sales staff–all in Terrain shirts or aprons–were knowledgeable and willing to answer any and all of my questions.
Most garden centers need to take some cues from Terrain. Garden shoppers are sophisticated and want great design and inspiration along with their 2 gallon perennials and bags of bone meal. I say Bravo!