PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHANNA GEORGE

One of the most calming aspects of gardening is taking in the sounds that nature has to offer. From the rustling of bird feathers to the tinkling of wind chimes, sound is a key aspect of the regular garden plot. At Drummers Garden Center & Floral, in Mankato, Minnesota, customers buy a fair amount of both birding items and wind chimes, and store manager Johanna George is the expert when it comes to promoting these items.

Stick with seasons

George says that birding purchases are popular during the spring rush, particularly in late April or May, and again in the winter months. The birding category experiences an uptick in sales due to the items’ popularity as holiday gifts, and George notes that customers make utilitarian birding purchases in January or February because it’s an activity many residents can enjoy.

“I think especially here in Minnesota, there is a large, large community that cares about our bird population and knows they’re such an important part of our entire ecosystem,” she says.

As for windchimes, sales are consistent year-round, although George notes there is a slight increase in April, May and early June, due to the increased volume from spring foot traffic.

“We find that wintertime sales are pretty consistent, and we do four or five major reorders around the year. We tend to market our wind chimes as sympathy or memorial gifts, and I think that’s one of the reasons that the sales are pretty consistent,” she says.

Offering options

George estimates that in terms of birding gifts, which include items like decorative birdhouses or baths, they carry items from seven different vendors, so customers have more brands to choose from. They currently carry five utilitarian brands and out of these, Perky Pet and Nature’s Select are the top sellers due to their array of feeders and houses.

As far as the wind chimes go, the IGC typically sticks to four brands, but they occasionally also offer bamboo chimes or ones with decorative crystals from a gift wear company here or there.

“Corinthian Bells is by far our most popular brand,” George says. “Second, I would say that Carson has now overtaken Woodstock. Carson has many chimes that are dedicated to sympathy and memorial and their giftware line is a little more extensive for us now,” George says.

Wind chimes are popular gift items year-round, while birding items usually peak at the beginning of spring and again during the holidays.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHANNA GEORGE

Price points

Items in the birding category can go for as little as $1.99 for things like hummingbird food packets, but feeders and the bulk of the product range from $10 to $40.

“We don’t get much more expensive than that. It’s just not our market. We have a couple of other locally owned businesses that also do birding really, really, well. We try to hover between that $10 and $40 for the majority of our bird product,” George says.

However, the wind chimes tend to fetch a little higher price, although they do offer some that retail for $7.99 or $9.99. Their most expensive chime on hand is from Corinthian Bells, which retails for $210, but the bulk of what they sell falls between the $60-$90 price range. “We’re really blessed with a stable economic community. Our city has been growing. Our area has been really strong for the last 10-12 years since the 2008 downturn. I would say during most of the wintertime, we saw the $60 to $90 ones walk out of here consistently,” George says.

Positioning & display

George oversees the entire store setup and says cheerful displays of color do well in the birding section — particularly with the hummingbird products. Every spring she adds bright pops of red to aisle endcaps to draw in the customer’s eye, and groups like products together.

“I have a huge show of color and group similar products together. I’m not intermixing cardinal feeders or finch feeders with my hummingbird feeders. I’m doing that as one big show, one big endcap,” George says.

The rest of the birding area is pegged and shelved on the wall, and she makes sure the area is neat and orderly. This way, customers can browse through products without too much clutter, especially if items are easy to back stack and refill.

The IGC sets its full birding stock on display on April 1, which means there is one of every color and size. They also reorder key items throughout the holidays.

“I don’t worry about trying to shove a ton of product on the shelves and I want the customers to be able to look at it and decide what they want and get it off the shelf very easily without needing employee assistance,” George says.

As far as wind chimes, George moves them to different areas of the store each year, in what she calls the ‘sympathy neighborhood’ — which means they’re grouped near lanterns, memorial stones and pet sympathy items.

The wind chimes must be shoppable from every side, and with adequate space in between so customers can hear their distinctive tones, as well as prevent damage from being overcrowded. Wind chimes are stocked year-round.

“I tend to see a lot of women pushing carts around them, so I always want to make sure they have adequate space. And it’s a moneymaker for us, so it warrants the square footage in the store,” she says.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHANNA GEORGE

Additional tips

The one birding item the IGC doesn’t carry is birdseed because it wasn’t a profitable product when Drummers first rolled it out. Instead, carry portions of a certain category that work for your garden center — in the IGC’s case, birdhouses and feeders.

“I think one thing that independent garden centers definitely need to analyze is what’s doing it for you and what’s not. Cut your losses and get rid of it,” George says.

She recommends focusing on the shoppable experience, and empowering customers to make their own decisions through signage, clean displays and having easy access to products.

“I think a lot of our gifts, people want to take their time and stroll through it and think about their purchase versus being asked if versus being asked if they need assistance. We obviously still check in with them and make sure they are being assisted if need be. But we find that a lot of people like to stroll and decide on their own, or they look and then they come back to it,” George says.