Make Birding Sales Sing

The American public is infatuated with its feathered friends. The numbers are there to prove it. More than 80 million people in the United States consider themselves recreational bird watchers. An estimated one million more add themselves to that list each year.

So what’s a garden center with limited space for such a category to do? Just look up, says Larry Grossman, CEO and co-owner of Grossman’s Country Nursery near Rochester, N.Y., along with his partner, Frances Grossman.

His birding section takes up about 6 percent of the total retail space, but he says the percentage isn’t important when there’s vertical space available.

“It’s more functional and visible,” he says. “We go up to 11 feet in height; we’re vertical – it makes it much more cost effective.”

For Grossman, it allows for unique display opportunities by hanging some of the bird feeders and keeping the seed and other ancillary products close by at eye level and below.
For Hastings Nature and Garden Center in Atlanta, Ga., the problem was different.

“At our store, we have limited wall space for hanging merchandise, so we like to use display pieces offered by vendors,” says Retail Store Manager Jenna Bornschein. “However, we have very creative display units. For example, we put wooden shutters between the legs of an old wooden ladder. This is used as a shelf for merchandise such as suet cakes and seed cakes.

“It adds a rustic look with a creative touch.”

The birding category accounts for about 12 percent of the garden retail sales at Hastings, and the center is planning on expanding its birding section even more this year.

What To Offer

The world of birding can be confusing, especially for the garden center owner, manager or buyer who doesn’t have a lot of time to research the subject. Bornschein suggests taking a look at the local marts and markets for specialty birding items, like feeders and supplies. “The mart is a great way to see how product is displayed,” she notes. “The shows are very helpful because you get to see the actual product, and the sales reps can show you special features of the product and answer any questions.”

Of course, there’s also BirdWatch America, a trade show in Atlanta every January that features vendors from all aspects of the birding category.

But if all those trips start to overwhelm you, take a little advice from Larry Grossman: simplify.

“I looked at it as a layperson,” he says. “I like birds, I like looking at them; I don’t necessarily know what they all are. What we did was put together a connect-the-dots system.”

Quite literally, the system connects the dots. There are different colors of dots, and each corresponds to other products. For example, a bird feeder that pertains to certain birds is marked with a colored dot. That same colored dot is also on the bird feed that pertains to those birds. The dot also is on a picture of the bird, so customers don’t have to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed that they don’t know the name of the bird.

It makes it easy for the customer to find what he or she is looking for without a lot of support or waiting for sales assistance. It also keeps it simple when buying product.

“I created that because I wanted it to not be intimidating. It wouldn’t be intimidating to me, for someone who hardly knows anything about birds,” Grossman adds.

There’s always a fine line between stocking too many products and overwhelming the customer and not having an adequate selection. Bornschein recommends making sure the section is a one-stop shop, providing everything a customer needs to get started or keep going with the hobby.

“An example would be making sure to have suet cakes and suet feeders,” she adds. “You can satisfy your customers and keep them coming back for more supplies and recognize that your company is a leader in birding, not just a supplier.”

Know Your Stuff

It goes without saying; someone should have knowledge of the products you carry in your store. Just like it’s vital for sales people to know about plants, they also have to understand the birding category. They don’t have to know it all, but a general understanding of the avian population around the center is a good start.

“I think that employee training is very important when it comes to selling birding merchandise,” Bornschein says. “Employees need to be familiar with the types of birds in the region and supplies needed for that region. Also, signage allows for a self-service category for customers and a reference for employees.”

If the garden center has a Web site, it might be an opportunity to allow customers to start a community, posting pictures of birds and trading stories. That could be a valuable reference for employees to check and find more information on birds local to the region.

But above all, if you’re dedicating space to birding, you also need to dedicate some time to easy-to-use displays, buying the proper products and educating your staff to make the category take flight in the long run.

Leave a Reply

More From ...

July 2, 2015

At Great Risk, Ernest Wertheim Helps Others To Escape Nazi Germany [Book Excerpt]

Editor’s note: Ernest Wertheim met the famous Pastor Niemöller at his cousin’s wedding. Niemöller is credited with saying: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Niemöller told Wertheim about a ski instructor at a mountain resort that was half in Germany and half in Czechoslovakia. Here is an excerpt from Wertheim’s memoir, Chasing Spring, that recounts why Wertheim, renowned for his love of […]

Read More
Petunia ‘Pink Halo Ray’ (Danziger)

July 2, 2015

Improve Your Plant Knowledge At 2015 Summer Show Classes

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering plant knowledge that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More

July 1, 2015

Marketing Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering marketing that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More
Latest Stories

July 2, 2015

At Great Risk, Ernest Wertheim Helps Others To Escape N…

Editor’s note: Ernest Wertheim met the famous Pastor Niemöller at his cousin’s wedding. Niemöller is credited with saying: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Niemöller told Wertheim about a ski instructor at a mountain resort that was half in Germany and half in Czechoslovakia. Here is an excerpt from Wertheim’s memoir, Chasing Spring, that recounts why Wertheim, renowned for his love of […]

Read More
Petunia ‘Pink Halo Ray’ (Danziger)

July 2, 2015

Improve Your Plant Knowledge At 2015 Summer Show Classe…

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering plant knowledge that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More

July 1, 2015

Marketing Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering marketing that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More
Alden Lane Nursery Water Wise

July 1, 2015

Drought/Water Management Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering drought and water management that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More

June 29, 2015

All-America Selections Releases 2015 Annual Report

The annuals, perennials and edibles that are All-America Selections winners can help every segment of the distribution chain sell more product because of a back story that explains what it takes to become an AAS winner.

Read More
Lloyd Traven

June 29, 2015

Peace Tree Farm’s Lloyd Traven Will Be A Keynote Speake…

Speaking on Wednesday, Aug. 5, Traven will offer a wake-up call for the industry on how to capture and engage young consumers.

Read More
Botanica Collection (Landmark Plastic)

June 29, 2015

New Products Debuting In Summer 2015 [Slideshow]

These new products will be making their debut at this summer’s retail shows. Be sure to stop by and visit their manufacturers while you’re walking the trade show floor.

Read More

June 26, 2015

Share Your Memories Of Pink Flamingos To Honor The Pass…

Tonight I will lift a glass to Donald Featherstone, who created the iconic plastic pink flamingo that became a symbol of kitsch or bad taste, depending on your sense of style. He died this week at age 79 (Click here to read his obituary from NPR). I’ve long had an affection for the tacky lawn art. I lived in Austin, Texas, throughout most of the 1980s and and early 90s. While living there, I often drove by a house that was far away from the epicenter of Keep Austin Weird, in a quiet established community known for interesting architecture, good schools and its well-heeled residents. This house stood out because it had a plastic pink flamingo, out of place in this pocket of good taste. Over a few months, the homeowner added more pink flamingos until it was a sizable flock. Did I mention his house was on a major thoroughfare? […]

Read More
Feature image

June 25, 2015

Ernest Wertheim Rescues His Father From An Early Concen…

After Wertheim's father was arrested when re-entered Germany after a lengthy absence in 1937, his family heard there may be a way to free him. Here is an excerpt from Wertheim's book, Chasing Spring, recounting what happened next.

Read More

June 25, 2015

Human Resources Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering human resources that will be taking place at this year’s conferences

Read More
Chasing Spring and Its Not Just about the Hat

June 22, 2015

New Memoirs From Ernest Wertheim And Allan Armitage Off…

New books from garden center design expert Ernest Wertheim and plant expert Allan Armitage offer a glimpse into the two mens’ careers. More importantly, however, they also go into detail on each man’s life experiences that helped make them what they are today.

Read More
Hawthorne Gardening feature image

June 22, 2015

Scotts-MiracleGro’s Subsidiary Buys Hydroponic Co…

Scotts-MiracleGro’s Hawthorne Gardening Co. recently announced it has purchased General Hydroponic and Bio-Organic Solutions. The company is based in Santa Rosa, Calif., and is “popular with marijuana growers,” according to Columbus Business First. Hawthorne Gardening Co. was created in October 2014 and is led by Chris Hagedorn, the son of Scotts-MiracleGro CEO Jim Hagedorn. At the time, Scotts-MiracleGro said the division was created to serve a younger and more urban customer. Purchasing General Hydroponic will position Hawthorne to respond to the U.S. changing attitudes and laws to legal medical and recreational marijuana. Tom Knox’s article about the purchase in Columbus Business First says General Hydroponics supplies liquid fertilizers and has plants in California, West Virginia and France. You can read Scott’s press release on the purchase here.

Read More

June 21, 2015

Ian Baldwin’s Blog Spurs A Debate On What Matters…

Industry consultant Ian Baldwin wrote recently about the need to emphasize nature more in garden retail. He pointed out that most garden retailers would prefer to go backpacking or kayaking before going to a movie, yet that passion for nature rarely translates in their customers’ shopping experience. His comments stirred a vigorous debate about organic vs. local and how butterflies and wildlife marketing are working at the ground level. Read the debate below. If you would like to read the original block, click here. Ian, this an interesting dilemma. We have classes on creating a Backyard Wildlife and they are generally well attended, but I think the vast majority of gardeners consider these kinds of backyards to be too messy and unruly. Obviously this is a misconception and one that our industry could do a better job of clarifying. Keep up the good work, my friend. Steve Smith, Sunnyside Nursery The […]

Read More
Fire Ants

June 19, 2015

Imported Red Fire Ants Discovered At Delaware Garden Ce…

State agriculture officials made the discovery during an inspection of tropical plants imported from Florida. The state has issued an alert to local businesses reminding them to check any shipments they may be receiving.

Read More
Moana stacked pallets display

June 19, 2015

Display And Merchandising Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering displays and merchandising that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More
Webinar Laptop Graphic

June 17, 2015

Webinar: Proven Ways To Protect Your Data From Hackers …

On June 4, Today’s Garden Center broadcast a webinar addressing ways garden retailers can increase their online security. Listen to the recording of the webinar, where our panel of experts discussed the steps you can take to ensure your business, your data, and your customers are safe.

Read More

June 16, 2015

Digital/Social Media Classes At 2015 Summer Shows

Make plans to attend some of these educational presentations, seminars and panel discussions covering digital and social media trends that will be taking place at this year’s conferences.

Read More
Cultivate Trade Show

June 12, 2015

What To Do, And What’s New, At Cultivate’15

According to Aubrey Ballinger, learning resource specialist at AmericanHort, Cultivate’15 is the industry’s post-season pep-rally. “Because Cultivate’15 is unique in its attendees — representing every facet of the industry — and the sheer size of the event, we like to keep it on the cutting-edge of what it means to have an all-industry, educational, networking and business experience,” Ballinger says. Here’s what you can expect this year. What To Do At Cultivate New Varieties Zone: Get a first-hand look at more than 750 new plant introductions. See new colors, better habits, drought resistance and other aspects important to growers, retailers, landscapers and — most importantly — consumers. New Products Zone: This is your chance to preview the new innovative items ready to hit the market. Whether hard goods, technology, equipment or future retail best sellers, Cultivate’15 lets you be the first to see what’s coming so you can get a jump on the competition. […]

Read More