This post is targeted specifically at garden centers in the northern half of the country – if your store is in the Sunbelt, feel free to ignore the next 600 words. We’ll cover ideas for you in a separate post.

Many garden centers do everything in their power to clear their entire pottery inventory before winter strikes, often moving many of their remaining pots out the door for little more than wholesale cost. While this can be a sound inventory management strategy, and can make the year-end financials look good, it can also be a huge mistake.

Many retailers recognize that early fall can be a great time for pottery sales and offer sales and promotions to capture business from gardeners who are in the process of bringing plants indoors, planting bulbs or replacing old and/or worn pots. Fewer garden centers continue to push the category into the winter months, often costing themselves the opportunity to generate additional profits through the lean months. There are a few keys to doing this successfully, a few of them painfully obvious:

  • Be open: Seriously – if you are closed during the winter months, none of the following ideas will work for you. And if you are open in the winter, be sure that you actually ARE open during your published business hours.
  • On an aside, publishing your winter hours is a great excuse to update your web site or to return to that blog/Facebook page/Twitter account you started last spring and forgot about.
  • Bring your pots inside: Your customers aren’t going to walk around the outdoor areas of your center looking for your pottery department, and they certainly won’t pick up freezing cold pots. Find space for them indoors, and your customers will find them and buy them.
  • Carry a wide variety of pottery: In the winter months, it is particularly important to focus your collection on indoor pots, as those are the pots that the vast majority of your customers will be looking for. Look for pots that range in size from 6” in diameter to 12” in diameter, and that are either have saucers with them / attached to them or are cache pots. Don’t exclude outdoor pottery from the mix, but be sure that any pots which you include in your merchandising assortment are freeze-proof and durable enough for outdoor wintertime use.Classic Urn
  • Offer cross-promotions with seasonal plants: If you’ve managed to establish a business for either mums in the early fall or for poinsettias before Christmas, congratulations – if your customers are choosing your location over the big box prices for these plants you’re definitely doing something right. Whether that’s offering superior quality, top-notch service, or something outside of the norm, these customers are looking to you to steer their buying decisions. Merchandise your remaining pots near the seasonal plants and drop a few into pots – Maybe offer a discount on a pot if purchased in conjunction with a mum or poinsettia? Your customers will make the connections and your pottery sales will bump.
  • Gift Baskets: Empty your shelves of last year’s small items / arrange a selection of them artfully in a flower pot / put a ribbon around it / sell as “Gardener Gift Baskets” / Repeat. This works.
  • Landscapers: Bring in larger freeze-proof pots and partner with local landscapers to get them out in the market. Large-scale glazed pottery offers a great way to add color to a winter garden or patioscape, and they look great when planted with small evergreens or grasses.