Archives for posts with tag: Retail Tips

It seems like Summer just started, but as always, Fall is just around the corner. In the Houzz story below, 5 ideas for Fall planters are discussed – lots of great ideas that can help to grow your pottery department’s profits during the traditional “off season”.

For the past year and a half, succulents have been lighting garden sales on fire across the country. While we do carry some pots which we consider to be specialty succulent planters, the reality is that these plants can beautifully occupy just about any container. This article from Houzz offers some great pointers and ideas on how to best pair your succulents with appropriate flower pots. Please note that not all of the pots shown are ours, but we do carry containers which are similar to most of those included in the article.

Following a year and a half of red-hot sales of succulents and cacti, many garden centers are starting to notice an increase in consumer inquiries about bonsai trees and bonsai pots. These traditional shallow planters can also be used for many other sorts of plantings, including fairy gardens, succulents, and some forced bulbs. The following ideabook from houzz.com offers a concise overview of some bonsai basics:

Classic Urn - Snap ShotIn the January, 2015 issue of Green Profit magazine, Jennifer Polanz pointed 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.

We’ve been out doing some comparison shopping over the past few days, part of an annual rite of summer in which we look at what the competition has in the marketplace. We’ve visited dozens of garden centers, craft stores and national chain outlets, and we’ve been blown away by the condition in which we’ve found some of the chain store pottery departments. This post will focus on “Standard” terra cotta pots, which many garden centers ignore as a commodity item, rather than considering them as yet another way to differentiate themselves from the big boxes.

Given the condition in which we found many of the big box pottery departments, it should be no problem for a typical garden center to offer a superior shopping experience. A couple of  examples:

This particular disaster is from a Wal*Mart outside of St. Louis, MO. It’s not really surprising that Wal*Mart is selling cruddy low-grade red clay (note the inconsistencies in the color of the pots and saucers – in standard red clay pottery, this is indicative of a producer isn’t firing all of its pots to the same temperature – taking shortcuts, essentially). I am surprised that they apparently assume that their customers will be excited enough to buy the pots even though the pots are covered in mold and dirt.

The second example was spotted on the shelves of a K-Mart store, and while the pots have been cleaned, they also demonstrate  the lack of quality found at the lower end of the red clay market. It’s easy to see the cracks in the pots on the right, and it’s inexcusable that a K-Mart employee hasn’t pulled these broken pots from the shelves – Again, they’re implying that they believe that their customers are dumb enough to pay $.79 for an already-broken saucer.

Also of note in this photo are the black spots on several of the saucers. This too indicates that shortcuts were taken during the manufacturing process, as the black is a chemical impurity in the clay which gradually leeches to the surface of the pot or saucer. A high-quality terra cotta pot would have been crafted from a clay that had these and other impurities removed, and would have a smooth, uniform finish. The  photo below shows another example of the black markings migrating to the surface of a K-Mart pot.

There are several points to take away from these photos:

  • First, Selling ugly red clay can undermine the credibility of the rest of your pottery department.
  • Second, be sure that you are carrying high-quality red clay – your customer will recognize the difference.
  • Third, if you insist on selling crappy red clay, at least show your customers the respect of cleaning your pots before you put them on the shelves, and for god’s sake, don’t put broken pots out at your full retail price.

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!”

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.

Luna Sphere Indoor Flower PotAn article by Kylee Baumle in the June issue of “Garden Center” magazine raises several great points about the benefits that houseplants can offer to your customers. She makes the point that in addition to beautifying the interior of a home, houseplants are also good for our physical and emotional well-being, as they filter the air, produce oxygen, increase humidity, and improve productivity. The article is definitely worth a read.

She also suggests that garden centers can do more to bring these benefits to their customers’ attention, such as building a display vignette featuring an indoor setting (her recommendation is using beneficial plants and a desk or table), or adding signage near plants that explain some of the healthy perks offered by interior plants.

Health benefits aside, “drop-in gardening” is a growing category that shouldn’t be ignored. A broad spectrum of consumers are drawn to indoor gardening for a range of reasons – it tends to be an easy if not “idiot-proof” way for them to brighten their homes and to bring a bit of Summer indoors during the colder seasons. Indoor container gardening is generally affordable and convenient, further broadening its appeal. Add in the fact that these customers are also often in the market for affordable pots and saucers , and you’ve got a recipe for winning sales.

Fairy Garden Crafted From terra Cotta FlowerpotThe March 2014 issue of Green Profit magazine featured an article by Katie Elzer-Peters called “Mini Gardening Gateway“, which offered a great overview of the opportunities presented by the ongoing expansion of the miniature gardening category.

While her article raises many worthwhile points, the key focus is that, in essence, success in this area comes down to properly selecting and merchandising your products.

Many of your customers will be new to this category – use signage to suggest appropriate pots, accessories and even plants (and be sure to stock small plants). Keep a ready supply of planters on hand for these customers – classic terra cotta Low Bowls are an top-seller in part because they are an affordable option. Be sure to stock multiple sizes, including smaller ones geared for kids, who as a general rule LOVE the fairy gardening concept. And speaking of kids, remember that everyone of them that you get hooked on gardening because of fairy gardening is a potential life-long gardening enthusiast and customer.

A few other suggested fairy garden pots from our collection:

Heavy Rimmed Low Basin – 3pc set

Squared Basin – 2pc Set

Terra Cotta Planter Bowl

A really terrific profile in today’s Charlotte Observer highlighting New Hope Greenhouse in Gastonia, NC. This is definitely worth a read if you are searching for ways to compete with the national chains: Link to Story