Since becoming garden center manager of Sickles Market three years ago, Mike Prandato has helped the company triple its bulb sales.
It’s all about becoming the go-to place for bulbs, and with smart management and merchandising, plus Netherland Bulb Company’s products and POP, the Little Silver, N.J., garden center has achieved that.
“We begin advertising the arrival of our spring bulbs toward the end of January, and then immediately offer a preseason sale to our customers of as much as 25 percent off to drum up enthusiasm for the season. The same tactic is used in the fall,” Prandato says. “Because of the unique character of our store, we try to bring in a similar mix of material for both spring and fall. The old standbys are of course a necessity, but for instance, we have noticed that alliums are popular, not only for their numerous varieties, but also because of their deer resistance.”
Merchandising is also key to success, and Sickles Market prioritized square footage to implement a bulb destination within their store.
“We have created a dedicated space called the ‘Bulb Nook’ in spring and fall. The familiarity of that dedicated space lends itself to our customers no longer having to ‘look’ for where our bulbs are,” Prandato says. “We have also utilized Netherland Bulb POP materials to their maximum. Whether it was ordering extra racks, more care tags, or just more signage, it all aids in the entire presentation and ‘feel’ that we try to create. We have found that in selling bulbs, more is better.”
In that spirit, they also cross-merchandise when possible, showcasing garden tools such as trowels and knee pads in the bulb section and combining bulbs with other plants in containers.
Without committed managers and educated salespeople, however, merchandising and advertising can only go so far. Sickles Market offers several training opportunities, including a ‘Vendor Night’ hosted in the fall where staff learned more about amaryllis, paper whites and fall bulbs.
“Since coming on board as the garden center manager back in the summer of 2014, we have nearly tripled our bulb sales from $13,000 in 2014 to just over $35,000 last year,” Prandato says. “There are no tricks to selling bulbs, but rather a true commitment to the products. You will not be successful selling bulbs if you only bring in small quantities of select product.”