At Beaver Bark Gift & Garden Center, one motto reigns supreme: Go for the cute. According to Jennifer Medford, marketing manager for the Richland, Washington-based IGC, the best-selling animal planters are typically quirky, fun and above all, cute. Sloths, elephants, pigs, dogs, cats — you name it — have all been very popular planter choices amongst consumers. Medford says the sloth planter is an extremely sought-after option because it is so unique, and it naturally draws the eye of curious customers.
“It depends on what kind of plants customers are getting, but we’re basically a one-stop shop. You can get your houseplants and your outdoor plants, and we offer little pots and medium-sized pots,” Medford says.
Animal planters in the small- to medium-sized range sell very well because they’re typically used for houseplants and succulents, which are especially popular now as people spend more time in their homes, she says.
“A lot of customers seem to like the really cute ones, and plants on the cheaper side. We usually sell a lot more of the smaller planters than we do the larger ones,” Medford says. The animal planters at Beaver Bark also come in a range of different materials, and they offer everything from ceramics to terra-cotta.
“We have a cute little llama planter right now. It’s terra-cotta; it’s got some interesting designs on it. It’s a lot of fun,” Medford says.
Local, paw-friendly environments
At Perino’s Garden Center, Tucker Bantom, general manager, says their most popular animal planters and statues pay homage to its home state of Louisiana, where local critters provide inspiration in the garden.
“The cats sell a thousand times better than the dogs. And then of course I’m in pelican country, pelican being the state bird here. So, pelicans are my high seller — I’d say it’s neck and neck with the pelicans and the cats,” Bantom says.
Bantom says the concrete, 6- to 8-inch pot planters are the most popular, which are paired with mixed succulent planters on the floor. To show them off, Bantom keeps one or two display planters filled with plants on a table, and then places the rest of the planters underneath. Customers are welcome to buy one of the pre-planted pots or choose their own.
“Sales are off the charts. Fantastic. We also do animal doormats, animal door hangers, animal bowls, animal beds … I mean, you name it, we do it,” Bantom says.
He attributes the popularity of animal planters and other products due to the pandemic and keeps these products toward the front of the store, although he’s currently low on inventory. For IGCs that want to venture into this category, Bantom says they should stick with popular SKUs and increase inventory little by little as the sales dictate.
“You know, people are at home with the pets and they come to the garden center to get something for themselves and then see something for the pet as well,” he says.
For Perino’s, finding and offering the right products is a “blended interest,” Bantom says, because most of the employees have pets and are interested in the different décor or pet products on display. The IGC itself is very pet-friendly, and four-legged friends can always expect dog treats when they come in. (Editor’s note: Head back to page 16 and check out some of the IGC’s furry friends).
Pets also serve as a selling point for Cahoon Nursery & Garden Center, says Dana Corrigan, store merchandiser. Located in Westlake, Ohio, the IGC offers an array of sentimental and whimsical animal décor. Items like natural concrete dog statues and memorial stepping stones (for cats and dogs) tend to be very popular with customers.
“We really kind of mix it up here. We make little vignettes around the nursery with the décor in them. We do tend to keep the dog statues in one place, though, because that would get confusing. We probably have access to about 30 different dog breeds and we usually have about 20 on display,” she says.
Cahoon’s also offers hanging décor like hummingbirds, dragonflies, butterflies and birds that can be used to adorn fences with a colorful pop or rustic hue. They also offer décor items that can appeal to birders.“
We have some bird stuff in metal décor and in movable, mobile-type stakes. One thing that was a big seller for us was the garden stakes of owls and birds of varying ‘personalities,’ shall we say? They move in the wind and those are pretty fun,” Corrigan says.
At Cahoon’s, 2020 general décor sales increased more than usual due to renewed gardening interest.
“I think mostly it’s people just decorating their gardens or having some sort of memorial to specific dogs or cats. That seems to be an ongoing thing. But everyone probably paid a little more attention this summer because everybody’s home so much,” Corrigan says.
South of the border designs
On the West Coast, many items are in high demand, says Linda Westler, office manager and pottery buyer for Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos, California.
Green Thumb offers pots in an assortment of hand-painted Mexican red clay, Talavera-style and ceramic. The high-fired, brightly colored Talavera pots tend to be pricier because of their artisanal quality and can often be more expensive because of the hand-brushed strokes. Many of these animal planters have unique and eye-catching patterns painted on them.
“The Talavera probably have a bigger assortment and we display those together because it’s just such an impact when you come in and it’s so bright and colorful and cheerful that people always are drawn towards that,” Westler says.
However, the pandemic has caused a supply chain roadblock for the IGC, and inventory has been quite low. It’s hard to keep up with the rush of consumer demand when merchandise is scarce, she says.
“I have one vendor that does a bunch of a different terra-cotta figurines, like bunnies and cats, and I have not been able to get those at all in the last four months or so because they are manufactured in Mexico,” Westler says.
One of its popular items — a 13-inch quail planter with chicks around the border that sells for under $20 — won’t be replenished any time soon because of the inventory shortage.
As for the rest of the pottery, Westler displays the ceramic pots on a shelf in a designated section. The Mexican pottery is hand-painted, which helps color coordinate the area and draw the wandering eye of a customer, she notes. They don’t usually display plants in the pots, save for the occasional 2-inch cacti to give people ideas. As Westler puts it, they have “high interest, but low merchandise.”
“We’re twice as busy as we normally are because people are home, and they want to do something in their yard. I mean, we order and then I have to go through and order it again and again. We’ve been busy, but it’s a good thing,” Westler says.