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Hot Hot Hot!

Country Business, 5/19/2009

“Summertime, and the living is easy.” So goes the old song in the Porgy and Bess opera. Today, retailers may want to change these lyrics to, “Summertime, and the selling is easy.” Chalk it up to an ever-expanding product variety suited for the summer – as well as the increasing number of motifs shown on these items. And even though the economy might be struggling, garden items are still a shopping favorite among consumers.

Woodstock Chimes

C.R. Gibson / iota

Napa Home & Garden



Digging Up Profits

“These days, people are always sprucing up their gardens for summer, and we sell quite a lot of garden decor items during the summer months,” reports Charleen Strook, co-owner of Garden Scents Everlasting in Brandon, Wisconsin. Strook says her home accents store – which she runs with her sister, Sharon Krohn – does a brisk summertime business in stepping stones and metal and wire garden ornaments, to name a few options. Hanging baskets filled with silk geraniums and asparagus fern sell equally well. Usually 40 to 50 baskets, many destined for use on a porch or in a backyard, move out the door each summer.

Stacey Bowers, executive vice president of Woodstock Percussion in Shokan, New York, also notes that garden decor is hot, and should remain so this coming summer as belt-tightening spurs even individuals who love to go out to relax at home instead. He cites heightened interest in product made of exotic materials. New for summer 2009 is the Asli Arts by Woodstock Chimes line of garden chimes, some crafted from bamboo and some from capiz shells. Each variety will be available in two sizes, with retail prices ranging from $29 to $49.95. Bamboo and capiz shell window and wall curtains are also slated for introduction in time for summer 2009.

In a related vein, the burgeoning “green” movement has sparked sales of summer gifts with one or more tie-ins to nature. At HiHo Home Market and Antique Center in Gardiner, New York, shoppers gravitate toward options such as glassware and decorative accessories embellished with summer fruit, faux parrots on perches and planters filled with faux greenery, says owner Heidi Hill-Haddard.

Combining Fun and Function

Sales of practical gifts with a fun twist should also sizzle this summer. “Economic concerns, a desire to be ‘green’ and other factors mean many consumers prefer to give or buy something more useful – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun,” observes Ed Lawrence, Calypso Studios’ president and owner. The vendor has created Shop.Totes reusable shopping bags, which fold up to fit into a 5" x 8" carrying case and come in sets of three.

Meanwhile, flip-flops and tropical fish are among motifs that will embellish a line of utilitarian accessories from Lady Jayne, Ltd., in Cypress, California. Barbara Rosenberg, national sales manager, foresees the popularity of a “summer sherbet” color palette, ranging from pastel pink, lime green and turquoise to lemon yellow and melon.

Setting the Mood

The mere idea of enjoying the more relaxed lifestyle that summer brings automatically puts many customers in a summer-buying mood. However, experts agree that it can’t hurt to heat things up a bit with a few deliberate strategies.

Creating a shopping environment that signifies a change of season is a good place to start. “Give your store a good spring housecleaning, and be certain you’ve cleared out any leftover fall/holiday clearance merchandise,” Hickel suggests. Then, ensure that fixtures are full of new goods. Incorporate fresh flowers or other natural seasonal elements into some displays.

Hickel adds that while nearly empty hooks, shelf space and/or display fixtures signal that merchandise is unimportant or unwanted, full fixtures and display tables create the volume of excitement and interest that leads to buying.  “No one likes to buy bananas when there are only three left in the bin,” she cautions.
Bowers, of Woodstock Percussion, advises putting hanging chimes and ornaments in the front window and/or at the door, while Calypso Studios’ Lawrence advocates playing soft summer music to spur buying.

At Garden Scents Everlasting, Strook and Krohn go several steps further on the mood-setting front. Displays of seasonal product occupy the front portion of the store year-round – and summer is no exception. Every March, the retailers begin planting the seeds for spring and summertime sales by filling this area with an assortment of items, including outdoor decor, floral-filled baskets, wreaths and watering cans. Large metal buckets containing additional flowers are positioned outside the store to complete the summertime ambience.

Similarly, each year Hill-Haddard decorates her store in a different summery theme. Once, the retailer hung multiple images of singer and actress Carmen Miranda, wearing one of her colorful, fruit-embellished hats, from one end of the shop to the other as if to replicate a huge film strip. Displays of brightly hued items, from faux fruits to furniture, were set up in various areas. “The customers loved it,” Hill-Haddard says. This year, she is considering a summer circus theme, complete with striped fabric canopies to call attention to the merchandise.

Retailers might even consider holding in-store events that center on classic summertime activities, such as a luau or a cocktail party with a menu of fun, colorful frozen drinks. “It’s a great way to influence summer buying earlier in the season,” notes Jennifer Bement, Tervis Tumbler's media marketing manager

While customers may not yet be thinking about summer, now is a great time for retailers to get set for the season – and heat up sales in the months ahead.

Sizzlin’ Displays

Want to heat up summer sales? Try these display tips:
  • Wow them with windows. Summer-themed front window displays capture significant attention at Garden Scents Everlasting in Brandon, Wisconsin, say co-owners Charleen Strook and Sharon Krohn. One such display featured a wheelbarrow packed with silk geranium bushes, surrounded by birdhouses, stone animals and assorted garden ornaments.
  • Vie for attention with vignettes. Heidi Hill-Haddard, owner of HiHo Home Market and Antique Center in Gardiner, New York, once put together a garden vignette replete with faux plants on plant stands, watering cans hanging from the ceiling, summery place settings and more.
  • Think outside the box. Create displays that highlight unusual – and hence, attention-getting – uses for summer product. Jennifer Bement, media marketing manager at Tervis Tumbler in North Venice, Florida, suggests showcasing tumblers as vases for flowers or creating a striking table setting that features high-end linens, summery tumblers and china in a fun pattern.
  • Set the stage. Set up a special, prominently positioned table, cube or area that highlights a different summertime gift each week, proposes Barbara Rosenberg, national sales manager at Lady Jayne Ltd., in Cypress, California. All items should have a high perceived value and retail for a “magic price point” of $10, $15 or $20. “This way, anyone can find a ‘just-gotta-have-it’ item and will buy it if it reaches out to them,” Rosenberg says.

This article is reprinted with permission from Country Business magazine. © 2009. Country Business is a trade publication for independent retailers of gifts and home accents. For more information, visit www.country-business.com.

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