Telling A Story With Statuary

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Telling A Story With Statuary

There is no one right answer for every independent garden center when it comes to merchandising statuary and garden art. There are, however, some important concepts to keep in mind when considering what to buy and where it should go on the sales floor.

For example, visual merchandiser Scott Daly of Homestead Gardens says the first thing to consider is product mix and cash flow to ensure retailers aren’t bogged down with a lot of large items that move slowly. The key is a good mix so smaller statuary like bird baths, benches and animal statues can move faster and turn back into cash. That gives larger statues and fountains more time to turn but still make a large margin.

“Our CFO has got some great spreadsheets and we stay aware of inventory so we don’t have the island of misfit toys – that’s the silent killer,” he says. “What are you going to do with that?”

Tell A Story

Once the right mix is purchased, the goal is to get it onto the floor to sell, right? In retailers’ haste to do that, they sometimes forget to tell a story about the product, says Benno Duenkelsbuehler, president and CEO of New Creative Enterprises. “It’s so important to visually entice the customer through a display that tells a story of either choice (within a category) or style and look (within an inspirational collection or a spring or fall collection),” he says.

Ways to do this include grouping by color and/or collection. Color stories even apply to the natural shades of statuary, Daly says, so even if it’s gray concrete, group the items by color. If it’s a collection of gray concrete, group them by collection and color.

Show its function if it has one. Have water in birdbaths and some fountains running to get that ambiance of running water. Plant up urns to show how beautiful they can look in the middle of summer. “Display statuary and garden art by ‘look’ within plant displays,” adds Duenkelsbuehler. “I.e. birding statuary within colorful displays of annuals, forest friends – bears, squirrels – statuary where you sell evergreens, traditional statuary next to classic perennials like roses, etc.”

Peter Cilio of Campania International also recommends displaying statuary, especially smaller pieces, on multiple levels to make it user friendly to customers. Get them off the ground and onto benches or cabinets mixed with plant material. “I really think there’s an opportunity for year-round sales,” he adds. “Our animal category is very, very strong. Put a red bow on it next to poinsettias and greens. There’s a lot you can do with smaller pieces.”

Dedicate The Space

Statuary is something that needs space to make an impact. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially if there isn’t much room to dedicate. But even smaller garden centers can make it work if done correctly. Jennifer Gamboa of Alpine Corp. recommends at least a 5 foot by 10 foot space for displays when it comes to garden art. “This will allow the dealer to show a variety of products, which gives more of an appealing look to the consumer.”

Daly says, too, for retailers with bigger statuary yards, a visual barrier behind the product is necessary to stop the eye. “It needs a decent backdrop – whether it’s plant material or fencing,” he says. “It allows you to focus on the foreground.”

Plant material interspersed throughout the statuary softens up the solid concrete or ceramic look, while brick pavers and fencing go a long way to help, as well. At Homestead, Daly actually had big 4 foot by 4 foot planters made with maple trees to bring the “ceiling” down outdoors and create a natural roof.

If the statuary is mixed throughout the garden center as well as in one specific place, don’t forget about it. Especially for larger garden centers with lots of products, it’s easy to put a couple of pieces in other departments throughout the year. “The beauty of it is it weathers well, so you can put it in any department,” Daly says of statuary. “But it’s also easy to lose that way. You could be putting a couple of classic urns in the perennial shade department and lose them until the end of summer.”

And finally, above all – regardless of if it’s a gigantic statuary yard or simply small garden art throughout the garden center – keep it clean. Don’t let algae grow in the bird baths and fountains, and make sure concrete pieces aren’t chipped or broken. Solid maintenance goes a long way in achieving sales growth in this category.

Jennifer Polanz is a freelance writer with Grasshopper Freelance. She can be eMailed at

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