Spring is just about over, and it’s already time to start thinking about next year’s pottery orders. We asked Jackson Pottery’s Erik van Zyl for his take on some of the trends he sees in the market, as well as his advice on purchasing and merchandising pottery in your garden center.
Q What are appropriate pottery stock levels garden center retailers should keep in their stores?
van Zyl: Stock levels are moderate these days. Most retail stores are not carrying as much stock as they used to. Customers still appreciate a business that is fully stocked at all times. That reliability factor will reinforce loyalty and great partnerships between customers and retailers. A solution for retailers who choose to decrease stock levels is to order on a frequent basis. Remember the old saying: “You cannot sell off an empty wagon.”
Q What is the best way to merchandise pottery in garden centers?
van Zyl: Impact displays will increase impulse buying. Color is powerful and should be utilized to create excitement and reaction with customers. Keep small and medium-sized pottery at eye level and place larger items in a position where customers can view the entire pot.
Cross merchandising is very important. It will enable you to maximize sales and sell more product, including plants, potting soil, fertilizer, mulch, watering tools, etc. We need to showcase our products in order for customers to view examples of completed plantings, combinations and setups.
We live in a “now” society. People are willing to pay the price for instant gratification. Price product right!
Q What are some new styles or trends within pottery that are new this year or in recent years?
van Zyl: Color is very important. Glazed ceramics offer these choices in a wide variety.
Modern, contemporary styles with simple lines increase in sales every year. This will apply to all different product lines.
Traditional styles still serve a small segment of the market, but showed a decrease over the last five years.
Lightweight products are very popular in different, modern colors. They are easy to handle and very effective in all living spaces.
High-end, handmade pottery from established European sources is popular again with customers who shop within these levels.
Our industry sells more self-contained fountains than ever before. The new disappearing fountain setup allows customers to convert any pot into a fountain regardless of the material it was made from.
Q How can garden center retailers more effectively purchase pottery?
van Zyl: It is very important to buy early. Do not wait until the last minute. Early buying will ensure better order-filling rates. Ask for payment terms and pay your invoices with a credit card on the due date. This will provide you with an additional 30 days before you actually have to use cash. Earn reward points on your credit card. Use these points to travel to the important trade shows every year and to visit suppliers. This will allow you to meet with suppliers face to face and order the right product for your business.
Interact with your customers on a regular basis. Ask questions and find out what their needs are. You will know what to do if you listen to your customers. Determine who your customer base is and serve all different levels.
Buy bulk early in the season. Stock shelves and display areas completely with as much product and as early as possible in the first quarter. Location and weather conditions will determine when this will be possible. Customers do shop early and will return to the locations they found to be most interesting early in the season. Buy less as the year progresses in order to deplete stock levels by December 24.
Do not be afraid to change. We live in an ever-changing society. Offer new products and trends on an annual basis. Communicate with suppliers for new, updated information.
Buy fewer styles, but more volume. This will ensure better availability, simplify and organize the overall look, allow garden centers to create “stories” with each product and not overwhelm customers.