Classic Urn - Snap ShotIn the January issue of Green Profit magazine, Jennifer Polanz points out that in the current marketplace, “porch pots” have the potential to help boost your off-season sales throughout the winter months if you take the time to properly merchandise the category. A few of the top ideas:

  • Conduct design workshops in which you offer customer a wide range of suitable planters, greenery, and accessories.
  • Have your staff design and build amazing porch pot arrangements – use social media to share them with your customers and drive traffic to your store.
  • Rotate the greenery and accessory offerings as Winter progresses – Jingle bells may be a great addition in December, but they won’t drive sales in February!

Here’s a link to the complete article.

Ceramo 2014 Christmas Grid

Square Orchid Pot- Violet - SnapIt’s a funny thing that we, as a society, have developed of tradition of celebrating love every February 14th by giving those most precious to us a handful of dead flowers.

It really seems that a more fitting horticultural celebration of our everlasting love would be to present them with something alive, something that has a future beyond the next 6 or 8 days – something very much like a potted plant.

If your garden center already has a floral department, you’re probably already pushing bouquet after bouquet out your doors in the week leading up to Valentines, and you are obviously well aware of the massive potential that this holiday offers. But if you’re not offering a selection of potted plants as well, you could still be leaving a chunk of potential profit on the table.

If you don’t have a florist, then Valentine’s represents an incredible opportunity for you to get an early leg up on your spring season. Most likely, you’re already have staff on hand working to prepare your center for the season, and stocking your shelves with suitable plants and containers will give your team something to sell to the swarms of flummoxed husbands.

  • Blooming roses are an obvious selection, but unlike the stereotyped “dozen long stems”, they can last forever with proper care.
  • WEB - Violet Rainbow Cone Pot with Roses - SNAPOrchids are a great choice – they’re gorgeous, they color-coordinate with the pinks, whites, and purples of the season, and everyone loves them.
  • Cacti in brightly colored pots are a popular option for folks with brown thumbs.
  • Dwarf Jade Bonsai are an elegant, sophisticated selection, especially if your market trends towards the upscale.
  • Use your imagination – just about any plant can be turned into a “Valentine’s” offering simply by dropping it into a seasonally appropriate container – look for pinks, red, purple and white glazes.
  • Make sure that your customers know that you’re a Valentine’s destination – even if you’re just putting out email blasts and Facebook updates, your customers need to be made aware that you’re a better holiday option than 1-800-FLOWERS.
  • Some of your customers are still going to insist on bouquets – be sure to stock a range of pots and containers for their arrangements. Their significant others will appreciate a container that doesn’t look just like the one at the grocery store floral counter.

Winterized Pot CrosssectionOnce you’ve determined that you have a flower pot that will most likely survive the worst that winter has to offer, it’s important to note that it’s generally not OK to just leave the pots in the same condition that they were in during the growing season. Obviously, the best option is to bring your pots inside, or to cover them with a tarp. If those aren’t options for your containers, or if you really like the way the pots look, and you want to keep looking at them all winter, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that your beautiful pots continue to look great and last through the winter:

  1. Keep the Drainage Holes Open – Hands down, this is the single most important factor in determining if your pots are going to make it through the winter. Do NOT plug up the drainage holes in any way on pots that you intend to leave outside through the winter. Please note that this does NOT mean that the pots need to be totally empty, but if you pour water into the pot, it should start dripping through the drainage holes within minutes. This is best accomplished by placing a layer of small rocks, broken pots, Styrofoam peanuts, or similarly-sized materials on the bottom of the pot, which will prevent the drain from getting blocked with soil clots. Ideally, this layer will be about 10-15% of the interior height of the pot.
  2. Use A Potting Soil Blend that Allows for Drainage – You should be doing this anyway, but if you aren’t, Fall is a great time to change out your potting soil. Again, the goal here is to make sure that water can drain fully to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Malaysian Pots in SnowNo Saucers – Seriously. Saucers do a lot of great things – they help to keep your plants hydrated through the hot seasons, they protect your decks and floors, and they look great with many flower pots. They are also your flower pots’ worst enemy during  a deep freeze. Any residual water left in a saucer when the cold hits will freeze. This will not only cause the saucer to become stuck to the pot, but it can also pressure the foot of the pot, causing breakage or crumbling. The ice-filled saucer will also plug the drainage holes on the bottom of your pot, allowing the pot to retain water, and in turn presenting the opportunity for ice to expand and break the pot from the inside out.
  4. Use Pot Feet – Again, there are a lot of reasons for doing this. First, using pot feet keeps the bottom of the pot elevated, which enhances drainage. This elevation also keeps water from pooling below the pot, eliminating the risk of the pot freezing to the ground.
  5. Don’t Light Fires in Your Pots – Cold ceramic planter + burning log = broken planter. 100% of the time. Get a fire pit.

Blue Wash Cache PotAnother winner from “Today’s Garden Center” magazine, as Sid Raisch posts another excellent edition of his “Management & Profitability” column called “4 Stellar Opportunities for Garden Suppliers in 2015“. As you would expect from the title, the article presents ideas to help L&G suppliers better communicate and fill the needs of their IGC clients.

In essence, ensuring our mutual success in this crazy business boils down to effective 2-way communication. We, as suppliers, need to a better job of relaying inventory positions, strategies, and market trends to you, the retailers. Your part of the equation is similar, and the column includes a sidebar that I am going to quote directly – I don’t think that I could frame it any more succinctly:

  1. Engage. It is impossible to see things from the other person’s point of view if you don’t get out there and see things from the other person’s point of view. Visit them and have them visit you. Ask and learn about the forces that make their life complicated, and you’ll earn the right to tell them about what makes your life complicated so they can help you solve those problems. Otherwise this is going to be a standoff because they just won’t understand you well enough to help.
  2. Anticipate and Commit. The supply is going to get much tighter than it already is. Anticipate that you’ll probably sell 80 percent of what you buy, and get that product committed now so the supplier can know and anticipate what they must do for you. Don’t expect them to carry all the risk of producing those items on their own with no commitment from you.
  3. Use Supplier Marketing Support. It is frustrating for suppliers to offer the marketing materials that retailers say they want, then see those items go unused. Most retailers could use more point-of-purchase and other supporting materials to sell more product. If it is available from your supplier, order it and use it. How about you go get it out of the back room and put it up now?
  4. Pay Your Bills. Too often money is sitting in the bank instead of paying a bill that is now overdue. Your suppliers are not banks and should not be operating like them. If you want a great supplier, then commit to be a great customer and show it first by paying on time, if not earlier.

Terra Cotta Flower Pots at RetailThe August issue of “Today’s Garden Center” magazine includes an article titled “8 Ways to Increase Pottery Sales“, which has some terrific pointers from Sloat Garden Center CEO & President Dave Stoner. I’ll address many of his ideas in a later (and longer) post, but I wanted to quickly relay the information included in a sidebar called “5 Suggestions From Sloat’s Dave Stoner” – these idea are all absolute gold, and should be seriously considered by any garden center active in the pottery category:

  1. Jump in with both feet. “It’s not a huge investment to bring in a container or two of pottery, and you cant make a statement without quantity”
  2. Always be deep in it, and don’t play the weather game. “You will sell pots year-round, especially in temperate climates. Make sure you have a plan for storage and restocking, especially if you have multiple locations. It doesn’t need water, and it doesn’t die.
  3. Think of pottery as a negative space filler. “It can make your nursery look  full in the off-season when you have less plant material”
  4. Don’t try to carry everything all at once. ” Try to get a sense of what your customer wants, or work with your supplier to get a sense of the best colors. Build the line as you go, changing or shuffling along the way.
  5. Always stock saucers and pot feet “I can’t stress this enough!”

Fountain SnapshotIt’s amazing how easy it can be to impact the sales of large planters in your pottery department when you take the time and effort to also merchandise them as fountain components.

For many garden centers it can make more sense to carry a range of large pots and a limited offering of fountain supplies than it does to invest in an inventory of complete fountains. This strategy has several advantages:

  • Your customers have more options and more outlets for their creativity – being able to customize a fountain to their specific tastes and size requirements is a great selling point.
  • It’s easier to control your inventory – selling fountains, pumps and basins ala carte gives you flexibility in your purchasing.
  • It’s generally cheaper to purchase components from your suppliers than it is a complete fountain kit – but your customers don’t necessarily know that, which allows you to build you margins in the category while remaining price competitive.
  • As long as you have some pots on hand, you have a potential fountain.

Here’s a terrific article how-to article and video from “Fine Gardening” magazine which walks you through the step-by-step of building a fountain out of a planter. This technique will work with planters of any size or shape, although we recommend using a purpose-built in-ground fountain basin instead of the tub / cinder block / grate combo they use in the video.