Apple Computers famously used “Think Different” as their advertising slogan for several years. Adapting this concept as part of your pottery marketing strategy can help you expand your sales in the flower pot category.

Think Different

Every year, millions upon millions of flower pots are sold at retail, with better than 50% of them moving through the doors of a handful of “Big Box” chains. Your goal, as an independent retailer, should be to limit these big box sales as much a possible and to establish your store as a “pottery destination”. Independents who thrive in this category give their customers reasons to buy from them, and the easiest way to do that is to “think different” from the big boys.

You need to separate yourself from the idea of reacting to the big boxes and to develop your business by reacting instead to your customers’ desires and demands. Remember that pottery is a style-driven category, different from almost everything else in a typical garden center.

Your customers are looking for unique items, for beautiful items, and for items that offer a touch of personality to their yards and porches. When you find customers in your pottery department, take the time to ask them what they are looking for. You will find that many are trying to match a trendy paint color, while other are interested in brightening a dreary patio, some are looking for a perfect complement to the plant in their shopping cart, and still others will be looking for a pot like the one that they saw on TV last night. Your pottery customers are looking for something different – they already are thinking different.

It is important to note that even though the big boxes account for the majority of flower pot sales in the US,  the majority of these sales are the result of “convenience purchases” – the customer is buying a pot from the big box because it’s there and because they’re there, not because it’s something that they can’t live without.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that Lowe’s and Wal*Mart have a special insight into the mind of the buying public that directs their product buying decisions – there are a wide range of factors that go into product acquisition in these big companies that just aren’t in play at the independent garden center level:

  • Mass-production – Wal*Mart needs to buy pots that can be produced in large enough quantities to fill 4,000+ stores, while you have the ability to select more complex, sophisticated pottery that better suits your customer profile.
  • Lead Times – Because they use so many pots, the big boxes all place their pottery orders with their vendors close to a year before the pots actually hit the shelves. It is impossible to remain current with market trends under these circumstances.
  • Inventory- Take a look at the glazed pottery department of any of the national big boxes and you’ll see the same few colors in the same basic sizes on a few different shapes. These stores are limited in the variety that they can offer in any given category by the need to maintain a uniform inventory. You should be packing as many different pots into your stores as possible, creating a “treasure hunt” mentality among your customers.
  • Price Points – The big boxes will typically look for pots that fit their target price points rather than establishing price points to fit their flower pots, causing them to make compromises in manufacturing that result in quality issues. Lots of factors weigh in a retailer consumer’s mind as she makes a style-based purchase, but small price differences aren’t among them. Don’t compromise on your quality and style requirements just to save a buck or two, and your customers will reward you.
  • Supply Chain – Several of the big boxes have dramatically cut their ceramic pottery departments because too many of their low-quality pots were breaking as they were moved from warehouse to warehouse before finally hitting the retail floor. You don’t need to have this concern – work with pottery distributors that offer high-quality products and easy processing of claims when breakage does occur.

Visit the big boxes in your area – look at the pottery department – and do the opposite. If Wal*Mart zigs, you need to zag. If Home Depot is pushing basic terra cotta, you need to focus on higher-end goods. If Lowe’s is pushing plastic and fiberglass pots because of their supply chain demands, focus on decorated clay pots. The best way to beat them is not to battle them head-on, but to outflank them, out think them – “think different” from them.