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February 1, 2017

With the holiday season in the rear view mirror, many businesses hunker down for the winter doldrums—but that doesn’t mean you should. Winter is prime time for aquarium activity, especially in northern regions, but it’s also time to help your customers get their ponds in order and get your staff excited for warmer days ahead. The result will be a win-win as you infuse a little spring cheer into your store and reap the profits when the weather breaks.

Inventory Evaluation
Make sure you’re checking out new products ahead of time and taking advantage of distributors’ pre-order discounts. Think about products your customers asked for or items from which they could have benefited that weren’t on your shelves last year. Get a leg up on gardening centers and mass merchandisers by taking inventory of leftover stock from the previous season and plan your buying strategy for the upcoming season.

Getting stock in as early as possible gives you the opportunity to organize existing merchandise and plan creative displays and seasonal events. Consider putting in a temporary wet display if a permanent pond isn’t possible. Stage a weekend promotion with in-house seminars, and get manufacturers to participate. Use this time to improve your social media presence and increase your outreach to existing customers as well as potential new ones. Have you considered shooting a YouTube video? Topics could include planning and building a pond or opening an existing one in spring.

Create a checklist to get pond owners thinking about what they need to do and purchase to prepare their ponds for spring. Post it on social media and have hand-outs available in the store. Hand-outs work well for your staff, too, as they help them ask the right questions and recommend the products shoppers need. Once spring arrives, pond owners will be primed to get going, and if you have the information and goods they need ahead of time, they’ll have no reason to shop elsewhere.

Take the First Step
One of the first things pond owners should do in spring is inspect their liners for punctures or tears. Have DIY repair kits and self-adhesive patch material on hand as an affordable alternative to installing a new liner—it will make you a hero in their eyes by saving them time and money. Hoses, connections and fittings should also be inspected for damage, and you should have common sizes in stock and on display.

Finally, make sure you have pump impellers, seals, UV sterilizer lamps and other replacement parts in stock for brands you sell as well as other popular models. Offer a pre-season inspection and tune-up for pumps, filters and UV sterilizers—another great topic for a YouTube video.

Get Set for Spring
Leaves, branches and other debris fall into ponds over winter and will have to be removed. Python Products, Laguna, Tetra and Pondmaster offer a variety of quality skimming and dip nets with solid and telescoping handles. Spring is also a good time to perform a water exchange and Python Products features the Ulti-vac for easy vacuuming of sludge while doing so. Make sure you have plenty of pond-strength water conditioner, like TetraPond Aqua Safe, in stock and put together “Spring Cleaning” packages featuring net, vacuum and conditioner.

Once the water begins to warm and fish start to feed, hobbyists will need a wheat germ food to get started. Hikari, API, Laguna and Tetra all offer high quality selections in a variety of sizes. Take advantage of distributors’ pre-season specials and put together “variety packs” featuring wheat germ, staple, color and growth foods. Highlight them on social media and make sure your staff points them out to shoppers.

Spring is time for planting! Veteran pond owners often need to thin out lilies and emergent plants, so have planter baskets, fertilizers and planting media ready to go. Spring is also a time when pond owners like to spruce up their creations with fountains, statuary, spitters and underwater lighting. Set up a working display to give them ideas. Bundle pumps, valves and hoses into package deals for seamless installation.

All pond owners experience algae blooms at some point in time, and getting out in front of them now will save headaches later in summer. Barley bales, barley pellets or barley extract can be effective, low-cost preventatives, but they work best when installed early in spring before algae has a chance to start growing. They are not nearly as effective later on once problems have already started, so make sure you have them in stock and your staff recommends their use to every customer in spring.

Pond Expertise
Finally, make sure your staff is well versed in spring pond opening and the related products you carry. They are your most effective tool for separating your store from gardening and home improvement centers and mass merchandisers.

Many pond owners, especially those who are relatively new at it, aren’t sure what to do or what they need to get their ponds ready for summer. Gaining their trust and helping them get maximum enjoyment from their ponds will result in strong sales now and will reap huge rewards as summer unfolds.

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