Building a Pond Business
How a store organizes the pond department, publicizes its business and educates its customers is just as important as what it sells.

In order to attract new customers and keep the regulars coming back, a retailer must create a pond department that is user-friendly and visually pleasing. One way to compete is to build the pond department with existing well-branded point-of-purchase materials and product packaging for an impressive, cohesive look. Remember to ask manufacturers for assistance–most welcome the opportunity to provide professional collateral, headers and visual support to help create a dynamic display. Some may provide step-by-step brochures, guides or flipcharts that support the store’s recommendations, help simplify the buying process and make visions come to life.

Whenever possible, arrange products upright to make a strong visual presence on the shelf. Consider creating endcap displays using large buckets, boxes or product for high impact. Use life-size photography and posters of fish, aquatic plants and flowers, waterfalls and other features as a source of inspiration for shoppers. Also, consider where products are placed. Keep consumables like fish food and water treatments at eye level.

If space allows, create a live display. It can be as elaborate as a full pond with fish and foliage, or as simple as a water-spitting statue. The sight and sound of moving water draws customers in and helps them visualize their own personal paradise.

Get educated about the newest products available, from food to equipment. Talk to the sales staff or regular customers to determinewhat products are cutting edge and set the trend in pondkeeping.

Promote, Market & Advertise
A retailer must create a desire in customers to take their hobby to the next level. The best way to do this is to promote the department in and out of the store. Work with staff, explaining the importance of customer service. Educate them on the pond business by supplying them with articles to read and websites for training purposes. The staff is the front line–expert advice will ensure repeat visits and build loyal customers.

Hold events in the pond department that customers can attend. Try a how-to workshop on topics such as: laying out a pond, fish selection or cleaning and maintaining a pond. Provide a vehicle for proud customers to share and show their accomplishments and experiences through the store’s website, in-store bulletin boards or local water garden “tours.”

 If the store is hosting a workshop, send out a press release with the event details. Give the local media a reason to come to one of the workshops. Showing children how to build a pond or container pond is a great human-interest story.

The store should also advertise. When determining where and how often to advertise, consider how the store has obtained customers in the past. Have many come in through word-of-mouth referrals or did they see the store in a local newspaper, on a billboard or hear a radio spot? Be sure to ask new customers how they found the store. Keep track of their responses and then make a decision on advertising.

Higher Education
Have a clearly marked “Education Center” within the pond department and offer how-to books and inspirational magazines or guides that continually pique interest. Make information available to new customers on the basics, such as the Nitrogen cycle.

Offer a monthly or quarterly one-page newsletter that gives tips on anything from maintaining healthy, happy fish to choosing the right plants for a balanced ecosystem. Check with manufacturers, as they may have an e-newsletter the store can send to customers. A well-educated and informed customer is one that will remain loyal for many years to come.

Curt Nuenighoff is TetraPond director.