Garden centres provide all sorts of equipment ranging from trellis panels to garden lights, and hand tools to power tools. Some of those working in garden centres may specialise in understanding different types of equipment so they can advise customers about their options and how the equipment is used.
Scope of Work
Garden equipment suppliers can include:
Manufacturers/Distributors - Often large international businesses, make or import equipment and supply to retail outlets, or occasionally sell direct to the public
Specialist retailers - May distribute and service equipment from one or several brands (e.g. a mower shop, a "Stihl" distributor, a hydroponic shop selling only hydroponic equipment, etc.)
Garden centres - Independent or chains
Garden equipment includes everything that is used to undertake gardening or landscaping tasks. Work may include manufacturing, marketing or repair.
Garden centre staff who sell equipment (e.g. power tools) need a unique specialised knowledge to be able to advise customers, and liaise with suppliers ordering this equipment.
Specialist expertise may not be expected from others working in smaller retail environments, where jobs are shared or there are no specialist departments as such.
What You Need to Learn
Engineering science - Machinery & equipment, power, torque, engine sizes & capacities, types of engine
Horticultural practices - Identifying and growing many different plants with different techniques
Uses of machinery - Machinery for improving soils, aeration, installing drainage systems, cultivating soils, digging post holes, cut and fill, mowing, cutting branches, drilling
Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation & correct use, detailed knowledge of maintenance & repair of tools
Types of machinery - Know different types of machinery available to the gardeners and landscapers
Equipment maintenance and repair - Sharpening, servicing, cleaning, replacing parts
Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell equipment and equipment repairs, earn repeat business, network with suppliers of parts and equipment, place orders, keep inventories, marketing, advertising
Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Management - Time, financial, stock control
Starting a Career
Start by :
Learning about equipment - Formally or informally; read, study, observe, absorb everything you can
Experience equipment - Seeing it, handling it, understanding it, using it
Get out there - Connect with people in the industry, display enthusiasm, build your networking
Any experience or knowledge with equipment or gardening may give you a start:
Using garden tools at home, visiting garden centres or shows
Join a garden club, volunteer planting trees in a park
Take a short course
Some move into this sector from outside of gardening; but bringing skills and experience useful to working with garden equipment:
Farm equipment sales reps
Experience using tools and equipment in similar industries (e.g. construction) may give you a start. With enough experience you can approach garden retail outlets to take an entry level job. Showing enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, may encourage employers to give you a start.
Progressing a Career
To make a long and rewarding career in this field it is important to keep learning. This can be done through attending workshops and seminars. These may be provided by employers or arranged by keen individuals themselves.
Another option is to take courses and, in particular, you should ensure you have good knowledge of each of the points listed under ‘things you need to know’. It is important that any learning undertaken is relevant and of a high standard. It should be provided by reputable course providers who have qualified staff who are able to give up-to-date feedback. This will cement your knowledge and ensure you are desirable to employers.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in horticulture like every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. It is therefore a good idea to be involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Within horticulture retail there are opportunities to move up the ladder from general assistant to supervisory roles, team leader, or management. Some may even seek to move out and set up their own businesses dealing with equipment.