POND PLANTS: CUSTOMER
Educating customers about the different types of live pond plants and how to grow
them can lead to add-on sales, said Kathie Dienes, marketing manager at The Pond Guy
in Armada, Mich.
“Customers need to know what types of plants they need, how many and where
they should be planted within the pond,” she said. “If they’re planting a new pond,
Chris Troll, manager at Bridges Pets, Gifts & Water Gardens in Snohomish,
“When it comes to live aquatic plants, we speak to our customers about the
importance of providing their pond with plant foods, and we also inform them about the
lighting requirements of live plants,” he said. “There might be a lot to learn, but we trust
the effort is rewarding.”
Dienes makes sure her customers understand the difference between floating
plants, oxygenators, marginals, and waterlilies and lotus.
“Floating plants provide shade and cover for fish, submerged plants are fantastic
oxygenators and provide a habitat for fish, bog plants thrive in wet environments
around the perimeter of a pond, and hardy and tropical lilies and lotus add colorful
blooms to the water garden,” Dienes said. “Education about the different plants is
important because aquatic plants are a key part of a balanced pond.
“Flashy displays get attention, but education sells the product,” she added.
POND PLANTS: DISPLAY
Whether promoting live aquatic plants or artificial, Chris Miller
of Pacific Store Designs in Garden Grove, Calif., said retailers
should keep five expert merchandising truths in mind, including
making the plant display visible and accessible, keeping the
tanks and surrounding area tidy, creating a dynamic merchandiser, stocking with abundance and using effective signage.
Here, he breaks down those truths and how they can be
applied to a pond plant display:
• ON VISIBILITY:
A pond plant display ought to be eye catching and accessible, Miller said. Customers should be able to look at it from
above and from the sides, giving them an idea of how they can
replicate the setup in their own water garden.
“Set up a live display with running water trickling down to
create noise and movement, to attract the eyes and ears, to
give it some life,” he said. “It’s like creating a mannequin for a
pond: Use the plants and props you have in the store to create
something that people will want in their yard.”
• ON APPEARANCE:
In addition to setting up a live “pond mannequin,” Miller
said retailers should purposefully merchandise their artificial
plants near the live plants.
“Group them vertically by color,” he advised. “And group
them by size, style and usage. Have the big ones on the bottom,
the medium ones in the middle, and the small ones on top.”
For retailers that offer plants at good-better-best price
points, Miller offered this expert tip: “People read from left to
right, so stock the less-expensive plants on the left and more
expensive plants on the right.”
He also said that retailers should put together an idea book
that shows customers how to integrate the various plants in
their water garden.
“Retailers could suggest some designs, or they could have a
• ON ORGANIZATION:
picture book or an LED screen showing a PowerPoint presen-
tation of different setups,” he said. “They could also have a
pre-made worksheet—a pre-made shopping list—with a list of
things to consider when installing pond plants.”
Rather than clutter aisles and shelves with too much
inventory, Miller suggests efficient space savers, such as swing
panels, sliding panels and tiered racks that transform a 4-foot
section of retail real estate into 13 feet of merchandising magic.
“Retailers just don’t have enough space,” he said. “And
when they use big rounders or floor fixtures that violate the
aisles and customer space with no rhyme or reason as to why
they’re there, there’s not enough room to display respectably.
Instead, a pond plant display should tell a story and make it
easier for customers to shop.”
• ON ABUNDANCE:
It might be tempting to stock one of two of many different
SKUs of pond plants—but Miller said stocking abundantly is a
“Don’t give customers too many buying decisions, too
• ON SIGNAGE:
much selection and not enough abundance,” he said. “Instead,
have four or five items and have a greater quantity of them.”
“There’s a balance between selection and abundance,”
Miller said. “If someone buys those three plants that are on the
shelf and the retailer can’t get the order fulfilled for a week, then
that shelf sits empty and there’s a chance of losing a sale. It’s
really tough to sell if it’s not in stock.”
Signs that describe the plants need to be clear, concise and
easy to read, Miller said.
“Provide a brief description about the usage and benefits
of the specific plant,” he said. “And limit it to three bullet points
so it’s easily absorbed. Don’t give too much information, but
tell a story about why that plant would benefit somebody in
their pond. Some examples would be, ‘Great for live-bearing
fish,’ ‘Great for keeping the oxygen levels up’ or ‘Helps keep the
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By Patrick Donston, owner of Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N.J.
I often hear about how hobbyist clubs (especially online forums) can be detrimental
to local fish shops. The common complaints seem to be that they’ve built their own
community, trading and buying among themselves. They group buy, want cheap prices
and even purchase directly from our suppliers, and they just do not support retailers.
There is no doubt some of this is true, but there still are advantages to connecting
with your local club. Look at it this way: If they’re not going to support you 100 percent,
Club support is all about the intangibles. Go to a meeting (they’re actually fun)
and get to know the president. Invite clubs to your shop, maybe before you open or
after you close, and offer members a nice discount. They’ll sense your support and feel
special. Like their Facebook page and join their forums. Listen to the critics and do your
best not to get angry. Just listen.
Once you’ve attempted to connect with them on social media, they usually will
reciprocate by liking your Facebook page or by signing up for your mailing list. Your
network now is larger, so when you want to publicize sales, new fish or products,
you are likely to generate more interest and foot traffic. Once you’re in their circle,
they might feel comfortable telling you things an average client wouldn’t. I’ve
learned so much from such comments and also have altered strategies because of
it. I find constructive criticism to be very beneficial and important in order for our
store to improve.
After establishing a relationship with your club, ask members to review you on
Facebook, Google or Yelp. The more reviews you have, the stronger your web presence
(the more likely you are to be found through search engines). Another favorite engagement method of mine is employing the secret shopper method. Ask the president of
the club to pass out review cards to members. When members visit your shop, they review your service, and when the members give the review cards back to the president,
they receive a free gift or discount coupon to use on their next visit to your store. Trust
me—club members love this stuff.
Keep your review card simple, like so:
Were you greeted within 10 minutes? _______ By whom?___________________
Were we helpful? _______ Who was most helpful? _______________________
Did you find what you needed? _______ Who helped you find it/them? __________
We often value our clients based upon “dollars spent.” But we also should be
reminded of “commons creating,” “which is the ability to design systems to engage
and grow shared assets that can benefit all players” (Johansen, 2012, “Leaders Make
the Future,” 2nd Edition).
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CLUBS