Spring is a time when pond and water garden owners start taking stock of what they need for the coming season, and aquatics stores should be ready to accommodate their needs. Gardening and home improvement centers, as well as big box pet stores have realized the value of stocking pond supplies but often lack knowledgeable staff to assist shoppers in solving problems and making sound buying decisions. Aquatics retailers can significantly increase their bottom line by offering pond products and training their staff members in the items’ usage. This can be a real boost during summer doldrums in aquarium-related sales.
Deciding what pond products to carry will depend on a number of factors. Space is always a concern, especially in smaller stores, but key items, like koi and goldfish foods, water treatments and algae remedies, are always in demand and don’t take up a lot of room. Furthermore, they are typically high-turnover, profitable items.
Glenn Laborda, dry goods buyer at Absolutely Fish in Clifton, New Jersey, says available space does factor into the scope of his pond supplies inventory and adds that koi and goldfish foods make up the bulk of the store’s pond product sales because they sell koi and pond goldfish.
Brand recognition is another factor to consider when choosing pond supplies for your store. TetraPond koi and goldfish foods are among the most recognized products in their respective categories.
“Proven brands will sell quicker and resonate with the end consumer,” said Tim Plafcan, senior product manager at UPG Aquatics, Pond Division.
TetraPond foods include Spring and Fall Diet, Vibrance Color Enhancing sticks and Koi Growth food in a wide range of container sizes.
All pond owners need a water conditioner when filling their pond or doing water exchanges. While aquarium-use de-chlorinators do work, pond specific products are much more concentrated and economical to use. API Pond Chlorine & Heavy Metal Neutralizer makes municipal and well water safe for all pond fish, while Pond Stress Coat conditions water and also helps replace fishes’ slime coating that may be removed during netting or handling. TetraPond’s all-in-one AquaSafe dechlorinates, neutralizes heavy metals and provides a protective colloid coating for fish.
Most pond owners will eventually have to deal with algae in some form or another. Jim Kostich of Aquatics Unlimited in Greenfield, Wisconsin, agrees, saying algae remedies and flocculants are among his top-selling consumables—after fish foods. API’s Pond Algaefix is a fish- and plant-safe remedy for green water outbreaks, string algae, blanket weed and a variety of other nuisance algae in ponds and water gardens. TetraPond’s Algae Control also eliminates many types of algae and Water Clarifier clumps suspended particles, including suspended green water outbreaks that cloud the water.
Stores should be proactive, though, helping hobbyists to avoid algae problems rather than fight them once they occur. Barley-based products are effective, low-cost algae preventatives that work best when placed in the pond or filtration system as soon as it’s ready for the new season, before algae outbreaks occur. They are not as effective once an algae problem has appeared. Clear-Water Pond Barley Straw bales, Microbe Lift Barley Straw Pellets and TetraPond Barley & Peat Extract are among many affordable, easy-to-use options.
Another common challenge for pond owners is accumulated sludge and organic matter that causes a general deterioration in water quality and contributes to algae problems. Spring is the perfect time to remove it and perform a water exchange before turning on pumps and filters and introducing fish. Python Products’ pond nets, with telescoping handles, and Ulti-vac vacuuming system make the job easy and are 100 percent made in the USA. And for those who prefer not to use chemical cleaners and algaecides in their pond, API’s Microbial Algae Clean is an EPA-registered product that breaks down sludge naturally, helps eliminate algae and improves dissolved oxygen content in the water.
If you haven’t already, get your inventory as soon as possible. Take advantage of distributor pre-orders and spring specials to stock shelves and save money at the same time! If you already have a pond supplies section, are there products your customers have asked for that you didn’t stock last year? Now is the time to add them to your inventory and take a long hard look at products that didn’t move last year—perhaps it’s time to close them out and try something different.
Pond owners don’t always know what they need, so a well-trained staff is vital. Being familiar with common challenges that pond owners face, knowing what questions to ask shoppers and having effective solutions and products on hand will not only result in sales, but also keep satisfied customers coming back. It establishes your store as a go-to source for information and problem solving and helps hobbyists get maximum enjoyment out of their ponds. Kostich agrees, adding the use of seasonal and general pond care hand-outs are great tools that help employees and customers alike. List the products you carry for each topic.
Finally, get the word out! Revisit your website and social media tools and think about ways to improve outreach. Plafcan encourages stores to keep a database of customers and email new product information, special sales and seasonal events as an effective way to generate sales. Perhaps even generate a YouTube video or two on ponds featuring do’s and don’ts and the products you carry.
Pond keeping continues to be a popular hobby and a lucrative industry. With knowledgeable staff members and a strong inventory of support products, independent aquatic retailers have a golden opportunity to share the wealth.