March 1, 2016

Pond season is upon us once again and if you haven’t taken stock of your pond supplies inventory, now is the time to do so. Dedicating even a modest amount of shelf or floor space to this important market segment can increase sales significantly and give shoppers a reason to frequent your store. In addition, it can carry your aquatics department through traditionally slower summer months.

If you already stock pond supplies, now is the time to look over your inventory to pull out whatever has been stored over winter, place pre-orders and set up POP and end cap displays.

If you don’t offer pond supplies in your store, it might be time to consider adding them to your shelves. Most distributors run advance specials on pond products in spring and manufacturers’ sales reps can help you choose top sellers and assist in creating effective merchandising displays.

Spring Cleaning

Most pond owners do spring cleaning at the start of the season. Python Products’ Ulti-Vac gives them an affordable, user-friendly way of vacuuming debris off the bottom and performing a partial water exchange at the same time. Powered by a standard garden hose, the Ulti-Vac removes decaying material from hard to reach corners and dead spots, while larger debris is trapped in a removable chamber and can then be used to fertilize flower beds or vegetable gardens. As an added bonus, company owner Lance Reyniers designed the packaging so that the box graphics could be arranged to create an effective merchandising tool!

Virtually all municipal water supplies in the U.S. contain chloramines and other chemicals, making water conditioners essential for pond owners. Tetra’s concentrated Pond AquaSafe eliminates chlorine, chloramines and neutralizes heavy metals in addition to providing a protective colloid coating for fish.

To break down organic waste and jump start the pond’s biological balance, Hagen’s Laguna Bio Sludge Control and Bio Booster are effective and simple to use.

Algae Elimination

Nuisance algae is the biggest problem pond owners face. Preventing the onset of this pest is easier and more cost effective than trying to eliminate a full blown outbreak once it gets up a head of steam. Proper filtration, a sensible balance between fish and plants, and a controlled feeding program should prevent most blooms.

However, products like Tetra Pond AlgaeControl, Pond Barley and Peat Extract help prevent algae outbreaks when applied to smaller ponds and tub gardens. Floating barley straw bales and products like Laguna Barley Straw Pellets and Peat Granules provide a more natural, long term solution when placed in filters, especially in larger ponds. Finally, ultraviolet sterilizers, while significantly more expensive than the other products, offer the most effective preventative. If you already sell sterilizers—and even if you do not—be sure to stock and recommend replacement lamps, o-rings, seals and quartz sleeves. Train your staff to ask customers if they have refurbished their sterilizers for the coming season.

Next on the list are filter pads, pump intake pre-filters and chemical media such as carbon and phosphate removers. Even if you do not sell pond filters or pumps, stocking replacement pads and pre-filters for common brands like TetraPond, Supreme Pondmaster and Laguna will generate sales and earn new customers.

Teach your sales staff to encourage hobbyists to replace pads and install new chemical media in spring and as needed throughout pond season. Pump impellers and filter o-rings and seals are also in high demand in spring. These do not take up much shelf space and having them in stock at a time of need will make customers happy.

Feeding the Fish

Of course, no pond supply inventory would be complete without koi and goldfish pellets and food sticks. As with aquarium fish foods, your selection should include variety as well as different particle sizes to accommodate fishes of different sizes.

In early spring, a wheat germ-based food such as TetraPond Spring & Fall Diet is best, followed by Koi Vibrance Color Enhancing, Koi Growth or Variety Blend for the peak season. Cobalt Aquatics’ Goldfish Pellets are ideal for smaller fish, and for the discerning pond fish owner, Hikari offers over a dozen different blends in multiple pellet sizes for every need. All of these foods are available in packages of multiple sizes.

Some people advocate focusing on niche brands to offer consumers an alternative to those sold by online and big box vendors. However, Tim Plafcan, senior product manager of the pond division at UPG Aquatics, encourages independent retailers to stock trusted and proven brands.

“Proven brands will sell quicker and resonate with the end consumer for higher profitability,” Plafcan said. “Companies like Tetra not only back their products but they have staff and tools to help new hobbyists get started and be successful. Also, a proven brand that is serious about the category will invest in a full line of products that allows that retailer to be a go-to resource for that customer. And backing those products with support, knowledge and inspiration will create a life-long customer.”

Finally, a complete product selection and a well-trained, friendly staff is key to any successful sales strategy. Shoppers are more than willing to spend a little more and support a service-oriented business if you can back it up with quality products, knowledge and genuine concern for the customer. Independent aquatics retailers were largely responsible for the resurgence of pond keeping in the 1980’s. Now, garden centers and home improvement stores have taken a large share of the market. Isn’t it time the fish guys took it back?

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