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Growing garden profits

Courtney Mueller, Staff Staff -- Casual Living, July 15, 2005

For many casual furniture retailers, accessories are often an afterthought once dining sets, conversation groups, grills and even spas are organized on showroom floors. A vase here or there, wall art above vignettes, weatherproof lighting and other home accents may be used sparingly, but it's important to note there has been a lot of talk over the past few years about not only selling outdoor furniture, but rather presenting an outdoor lifestyle to consumers.

Retailers can gain repeat and new customers, as well as freshen displays, by mixing in both decorative and functional garden accessories. The category is growing and includes a variety of product — from yard stakes and gardening tools to purely decorative birdhouses, fountains, statuary and more.

According to The National Gardening Association, consumers spent a total of $38.4 billion on their lawns and gardens in 2003. In five years, lawn and garden sales increased at an annual rate of 5%, and it's just getting bigger.

"We try and think of the whole big concept of what are people going to be doing while they are outside," said Mary Fruehauf, owner of Fruehauf's Patio & Garden Center, Boulder, Colo. "You can start with the basics, like plastic glasses, and then expand into anything for outdoor living or enjoying the outdoors — that can be functional, like garden tools, or decorative, like outdoor art."

Here are some tips on how to add outdoor-friendly accessories to your store:

Markets Fellow retailers would recommend the following "top three" trade shows for garden and outdoor accessories. The first is the International Gift & Accessories Show in Atlanta, held every January and July at AmericasMart. Two floors are dedicated to The Gardens, with exhibitors showcasing everything from wind chimes and flags to tool sets and garden apparel (gloves, hats, aprons).

The New York International Gift Fair, held in August and February at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Passenger Ship Terminal Piers, has a Floral & Garden Accessories division that, for the first time this summer, will expand to include an "Outdoor Living focus area." About 20 charter exhibitors will participate, including Alfresco Home, The Marshal Group and Starlite Lanterns, showcasing torches, urns, trellises, fountains and more, in addition to outdoor furniture.

Dallas' International Gift & Home Accessories Market, held every January and June, features a Garden District that expanded during last month's show to a total of 20,000 square feet. Featuring more than 40 exhibitors, the district includes pottery, garden ornaments, garden gifts and more.

Merchandising There are so many creative ways to display your new product mix. Instead of using a display rack to show off your wind chimes offering, for example, hang them outside and inside your store. Arrange planters around the store, setting smaller for-sale accessories in-side. Use a dummy from a clothing store to dress up a gardener from head to toe with a garden hat, gloves, apron, knee pads and clogs. If you sell fountains, make sure they are on and running — not only will your customers enjoy the calming effect of the running water, but you're more likely to make a sale as well. Add another dimension to garden displays with gardening books and books on outdoor living and entertaining — perfect for add-on sales.

Morning Mood Chime from Woodstock Percussion, above, and citronella candles from Courtyard Collections

Dwellings' hollowed tree trunks and, right, Fiskars garden tools

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