Author Archive

Yard DeSign + Flowers = Irresistible Mother’s Day Gift

April 25, 2012

Want to offer your customers an irresistible Mother’s Day gift?

Try combining floral themed Yard DeSigns or BreezeArt garden flags with a healthy bunch of Mother’s Day flowers. It’s a simple way to take these products and any potted flowers to the next level.

Yard DeSign with coordinating flowers

To create this easy promotion, all you need is:

Yard DeSign and BreezeArt garden flag with cello wrap and ribbon

For retailers who sell flowers, this project should be a breeze. But if you don’t sell flowers, consider partnering up with a local garden center or flower shop to purchase and sell coordinating potted flowers for Mother’s Day.

Make it easier for everyone.

Set up a space where you can customize your Yard DeSigns on-site while your customer waits. Have several plants and stakes staged with cello wrap and bows pre-cut. Keep the self adhesive numbers and a bowl of soapy water nearby.

When the customer is ready to buy one, follow these steps:

1.) Peel numbers off the sheet included with the sign to reveal the adhesive backing.

2.) Dip the number in the soap and water solution and slide the number into position.

3.) Gently blot the excess water with a paper towel when all numbers are in place.

4.) Attach the magnet to a yard stake, wrap the whole thing in cello wrap, and tie a ribbon around it to mimic a giant lollipop.

Mother's Day Yard DeSign

5.) Stick it in a pot of beautiful coordinating flowers, and you’re done!

Your customers will be thrilled to find such an exceptional, yet easy gift, and their mothers will be blown away!

Remember, helping to create unique and memorable gifts is what keeps the “Special” in Specialty Retailer and builds long-lasting relationships with your customers.

What Mother’s Day promotions will you be running in your store this year? What custom gift combinations have worked well for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comments below.

How to Increase Sales by Maximizing Your Inventory Investment

April 19, 2012

In general, about 80% of a retailer’s volume is driven by 20% of their inventory. As a result, inventory management can have a huge impact on sales. After all, it’s much harder to make a sale when you run out of what’s selling.

So here are some tips and tools that can help you maximize your inventory and improve business in your store:

Inventory Drill Down

Inventory Drill Down

  1. Break your inventory into categories and determine what categories with a respectable profit margin are contributing the most sales volume for your store.  Is it garden and outdoor decor, accessories, wall art, tabletop, baby, or some other category?
  2. Next, list which product lines you carry in each category and determine the best selling lines.
  3. Drill down another layer to find out what vendors are performing the best for each product line.
  4. Determine which specific items from those vendors are your best sellers.

By drilling down to specifics you can better prioritize your reorders and get the most bang for your buck. When resources are limited, be certain to reinvest in your best sellers first.

But if you want your store to remain unique, you can’t always just buy what’s “safe.” That’s why I recommend that you think of your inventory as a pyramid.

The Inventory Pyramid

The Inventory PyramidAt the base of your pyramid are the volume drivers – the ones that drive 80% of your business. They are the foundation on which you can build out the rest of your inventory, and they’re the destination items that your customers expect to find at your store. Make sure you’re never running low on these products.

In the middle of your pyramid are your volume seekers.  These items represent up and coming categories or products with high volume potential.  They complement your volume drivers and help round out your merchandise assortment.

At the top of your pyramid are your fringe factors – the eye-catching “WOW” factor items that draw customers into your store. Whether it’s a burst of powerful color, unique design, or a large scale item that doubles as a display, this merchandise demands attention and sparks a customer’s curiosity.  Investing 5-10% of your store’s open to buy in “over the top” type items give both you and your customer something to talk about.

It’s important to remember each part of the pyramid when investing your inventory dollars. Keep in mind that while the pyramid and the 80/20 rule are good points of reference, the actual amount you allocate to each will depend greatly on the size of your store, type of your store, your location, and the season for which you’re planning.

More Tools for Buyers:

Most manufacturers have a best seller list. While regional differences should be considered, it’s hard to argue against a vendor’s best selling items. Referencing a best seller list can broaden your perspective and help you make informed decisions.

GiftBeatGiftBeat, a monthly trade publication that tracks trends in the wholesale gift industry, is another great resource. Although you know your customer best, detailed insights and polling data from specialty gift stores across the country can help you stay on top of trends and track the pulse of the industry.

This week we are excited to give away a FREE 12-month subscription to GiftBeat! For a chance to win, simply click here and subscribe to our blog via email (see the “Get Updates Via Email” section on the right side of the Magnet Works Blog home page). The winner will be announced at the end of next week.

What’s the best fringe factor item you ever bought for your store? What are your volume drivers? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

9 Ways to Give Your Store a Spring Makeover

March 27, 2012

Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and grass is greening. Spring is officially here, and people are eager to start their spring shopping! So just like at home, it’s time for spring cleaning in our stores.

Here are nine steps you can take to give your store a spring makeover and help you get ready for those excited spring shoppers:

  1. Make Needed Repairs – With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you probably have some dents, dings, and broken things that could use your attention. Check your walls, doorways, flooring, windows, light fixtures, casework, and displays. Does anything need to be repaired? Now is the time!
  2. Apply Elbow Grease – A little elbow grease goes along way! Consider setting aside a late opening,an early close, a full day, or more if possible for some deep cleaning of all the surfaces in your store. Thoroughly clean all the counters, display tables, desks, and don’t forget the high and low dusting! Scrub the floors and professionally clean the carpets. If you need extra help, enlist your employees, family, and/or friends to help with your mini makeover.
  3. Pick Up the Clutter – Stand in front of your cash wrap area and take a look at what your customers see.  Is it clean and organized?Or is it loaded with taped notes, empty boxes, and other random stuff? Clear away the clutter and replace it with appropriate merchandise. Then, repeat this routine at each of your store’s entryways.
  4. Add a Fresh Coat of Paint – Make a big impact with a small amount of money by choosing a focus wall in your store and painting it a striking new color – perhaps Tangerine Tango, just one of several must have colors this Spring.  This can give your store a burst of energy and a fresh backdrop to show off all of your spring merchandise.
  5. Out with the Old – Pack up the leftover essentials from last season and store them if you must, but I generally find it’s better to clear out the wintery leftovers with a Last Chance Sale and to re-invest those dollars. Unlike fine wine, merchandise rarely gets better with age. Plus, warmer weather drives excited spring shoppers to your store, so place your emphasis on fresh spring inventory. It’s much more likely to make that register ring!
  6. Keeping it “New” – Put a fresh new face on your  carry-over merchandise.  Remove old price stickers, and replace any worn or torn packaging. Many times the manufacturer will make extra packaging available through Customer Service.   By mixing this product in with all your fresh spring receipts, you will be amazed how something old can take on a whole “new” look.
  7. Make it Unique – Break apart product packs to customize your merchandise. Combine coordinating items together and add a colorful ribbon and tag to give it a fresh new look.
  8. Refresh Your Displays – Continually change up your product assortments and locations. Color-themed displays make a big impact. Brainstorm ways to repurpose colors from past seasons or holidays. For example, you could mix your red and hot pink basics from Valentine’s Day with yellow and bright orange for a more spring-relevant Boho look. While you’re at it, why not give your displays some spice by adding freshly potted spring blooms?
  9. Think Outside the Box – When it comes to display fixtures, simple everyday items can add a creative flair to your store with minimal investment.  Melinda Shaw at Melinda’s Fine Gifts in Picayune, MS turned shiny, new garbage cans upside-down and added a glass topper to create fabulous table displays.  Melinda then uses the garbage can lids to hang wind chimes and other items from the ceiling. If you need additional display ideas and inspiration, check out the Retail Details blog.

By setting aside time to repair, refresh, and remerchandise, you’ll be more able to keep your focus on serving customers and helping them make fabulous spring purchases. Best of luck to you and happy spring!

What is your spring cleaning routine like? How do you like to make a spring statement in your store? Let me know in the comments!

Magnet Works Retailer Spotlight: Gertens

October 5, 2011

I’m excited to announce our newest blog feature – the Magnet Works Retailer Spotlight! On our blog from time to time, we’ll acknowledge a Magnet Works retailer who excels in key categories such as merchandising, promotions, marketing, visual display, etc. Our goal is to give our retailers a source of ideas and inspiration as they work to improve their own stores.

GertensFor our first spotlight, we are excited to showcase Gertens of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Gertens is one of the largest privately owned independent garden centers in the country and was recently selected as the Independent Garden Center Retailer of the Year. Not only does Gertens have a highly successful garden center and gift shop, but they do an exceptional job merchandising their store and creating visual displays.

Mike and I spoke with Dennis Orfei, the Gift Shop Buyer/Manager at Gertens, to learn more about their success. Dennis has worked in the garden and gift industries for almost 20 years. He started his career with a focus in horticulture – doing landscape design and sales right out of college. He managed a variety of garden centers, large and small, for over 10 years before he started at Gertens, where he currently serves as the Gift Shop Manager and Co-buyer. He has now been at Gertens for 8 years.

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Q: Where do you get ideas for the visual displays in your store? Where do you go for inspiration or for new ideas?

Gertens Gift Shop - HalloweenA: We get most of our ideas and inspiration by attending gift markets, particularly in Atlanta. We do have a local gift mart here in Minneapolis, but most of our inspiration comes from products and trends we see in Atlanta. If we’re seeing the same thing repeated in different showrooms in different ways, we’ll consider emulating that in our store.

We also look at magazines – both gift magazines and publications with a less specific focus – to find the broader trends in our culture today. Once we get an idea in mind for a theme, it’s much easier to pick merchandise that goes along with it. We coordinate our displays by theme and color. So if there’s a strong color out there, we’ll put together a merchandise plan representing that specific color trend.

Q: As the buyer for Gertens, do you set up the visual displays or delegate that task?

A: No it’s basically me and Teresa Pitera, my co-buyer. At Gertens, we buy the gift product and do the merchandising. I think that works well because we know what we’ve purchased, what’s coming in, and what kind of look we’re putting together. That way nothing gets lost in translation.

Q: How do you find the props, supplies, and staging materials that fill out your visual displays to give them such great character, color, and atmosphere?

A: If we see a prop in a showroom at market that would work well in our store, we’ll purchase that prop along with the product, but sometimes we find great deals on props at antique dealers or at a vendor’s prop “garage sale”.

Gertens Garden CenterTo add warmth and extra light, we’ll throw in a lot of lamps. Sometimes, we’ll incorporate books (which are for sale) that correspond with the theme of the display. Also, we find a lot of props around our store. As a garden center, it’s easy to find containers, garden tools, and plants that can cross-merchandise well as part of a gift display.

Q: What advice would you give to other independent retailers out there?

A: I would stress the importance of having a good teacher – someone you can go to who has experience because there’s nothing better than personal experience. Teresa, my co-buyer, who is one of the owners at Gertens, has taught me a lot about how to buy. I remember that first year when we went to Atlanta, I had just started as the gift buyer at Gertens, and I was so overwhelmed. My head was spinning. It was incredibly helpful to have Teresa there to show me the ropes.

Q: Where do you think other independent retailers could find a mentor if they don’t have someone with industry experience on staff? Gertens Gift Shop

A: I would say get out in the marketplace and look at what other successful retailers are doing. We have many great and successful stores of all types in the twin cities. I’ll occasionally go into these other stores to see what they’re doing. It’s a great way to get inspiration for your displays and to teach yourself about merchandising and visual display. I’d suggest you go out and see what other successful retailers are doing in your area and keep an eye on industry magazines.

Q: What’s your Magnet Works story? How did you come to carry Magnet Works?

A: It definitely helps to work with a great rep, and Jeannie Bielicki is that person. We always carried the MailWraps Mailbox covers, but at first, we were carrying a competitor’s flag line. When Jeannie came into the picture, we switched to Magnet Works BreezeArt flags because of her experience and confidence with the product.  Our customers loved the fact that they could coordinate their entire outdoor decor together.  And since we keep the mat, mailbox cover, and flag merchandise in the same spot, we love the fact that it has a more uniform look.

MatMates at GertensWe’ve always carried mats, primarily coir mats. But when we brought in the MatMates, they were highly successful and really outsold the coir mats. Now we carry mostly MatMates. Customers love the designs and the vibrant colors.  It’s a great feeling when you know you have a quality product that keeps customers coming back for more.

QWhat are some of your other top categories of product that you feel are critical to a stores success?

 A:  Additional must have categories would include books on gardening, cooking, inspirational and humorous, bath and body products, wind chimes and trend products like garden gnomes, fairy gardening accessories, and solar powered items.  We try to have a variety of price points in our product mix but look for items that will retail in the  $20-30 range.

Q.  Any final thoughts or suggestions for independent store buyers as they head in to the fourth quarter of the year.

I would say be cautiously optimistic with uncertain economic times.  Choose quality products that will be perceived as a good value to the customer.  Offer the customer multiple price points with “good, better and best” options.

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Our thanks to Dennis for being so generous with his time and input.  We wish Dennis and the entire Gertens team continued success!

Where do you find inspiration and props for visual displays in your store? Please tell us in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Independent Garden Center Show – Summer 2011

August 22, 2011

The show season continues! Once again we were very excited to participate in the 5th annual Independent Garden Center (IGC) Show at Navy Pier in Chicago this past week.

A bird's eye view of the IGC Show.

A bird's eye view of the IGC Show.

It was great to see so many of our Garden Center customers and to make many more new friends. I always appreciate the great feedback on what is working for you, how we can improve, and what new designs you would like to see, especially in floral images.

The IGC show is a unique opportunity for Garden Centers because it brings together over 500 vendors under one roof and provides a lot of great learning opportunities. Between the keynote speakers – Paco Underhill, P. Allen Smith, and Larry Winget – and the IGC University, there were plenty of opportunities to learn about subjects like store layout, site development, social media, visual merchandising, trends, and best practices for retail. It’s evident that this group really enjoys learning and sharing ideas with one another.

While Lou Gramm of Foreigner received a standing ovation for his Wednesday night concert, the cheering started early Wednesday morning for one notable retailer. On behalf of all of us a Magnet Works, a very heartfelt Congratulations to Gertens of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota who was honored with the IGC Retailer of the Year Award for their notable leadership and innovation within the garden industry! We are proud to be amongst your store’s merchandise offerings and enjoy working with your team tremendously.

Lastly, here are some pictures I took at the show:

Magnet Works customer Susan Van Putte from Van Putte Gardens in Rochester, NY working with Deb Baker at the IGC show.

Magnet Works customer Susan Van Putte from Van Putte Gardens in Rochester, NY working with Deb Baker at the IGC show.

We gave Kristy Maniscalco our American Heros Flag for her auction benefiting Honor Flight Chicago, which sends WWII Vets to the Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Her auction is August the 24th.

We gave Kristy Maniscalco our American Heros Flag for her auction benefiting Honor Flight Chicago, which sends WWII Vets to the Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her auction is August the 24th.

New Customer Linvilla Orchards working with Deb Baker at IGC Show

New Customer Linvilla Orchards working with Deb Baker at IGC Show.

New Magnet Works customers, Scott and Annie Buschkoetter from Buschkoetter's Nursery placing an order with Deb.

New Magnet Works customers, Scott and Annie Buschkoetter from Buschkoetter's Nursery placing an order with Deb.

A bird's eye view of the IGC show as everyone packs up.

12 hours worth of set up, 2 and a half days of working with customers, and the IGC Show comes to a close all too quickly as booths begin to disappear.

All told, it was a great show! Thanks to all our customers who stopped by!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the IGC show or any other show you attended this season! Please share in the comments below.

How to Prepare for a Trade Show: 7 Tips for Retailers

July 8, 2011

I love Show season! For well over a month now, my anticipation has been growing as we ready the showrooms to showcase our newest design collections.Various Gift, Home, & Garden Tradeshow Logos

But while I’m prepping our storefront, many of you are leaving yours to attend a summer trade show. With all of your travel costs and time commitment taken into account, trade shows can be quite an investment, so I thought I’d share some tips to help you get the most value out of the shows you attend.

Here are 7 quick tips to help you get more bang for your buck:

  1. Review Your Sales – Your sales history can help you determine the top categories and lines at your store, so you can be sure to visit those showrooms. It will also help you see any missed opportunities as you put together your “shopping list”.
  2. Set a Budget by Classification – Segment your budget by different classifications of products, so your overall store mix is well balanced and the categories that drive the most sales get their due attention. It is important to allocate funds to the product that continually rings your register first!
  3. Plan Your Time and Route Wisely – The Atlanta Market Magazine, the Buyers Guide, and www.americasmart.com offer floor plans with vendor locations. Take advantage of these resources by charting out your route ahead of time. You don’t want to end up wasting valuable time waiting in line for elevators.
  4. Schedule, But Don’t Over-Schedule – Make appointments with your main vendors but don’t over-book yourself. Be sure to leave yourself some extra time to look for new vendors or product categories. Take advantage of early morning and late night availability when showrooms aren’t quite as busy.
  5. Take Your Camera – You’ll be happy to have some pictures of interesting display ideas or new products to share with your team when you get back to your store.
  6. Ask Questions – Show season is a GREAT time to gain valuable information from vendors.  Ask questions like: How can I maximize sales with your product?  Is there a display program?  What type of product information can you provide me with?  What are your Best Sellers?  What type of store is doing well with your product?  Who is your competition and how do you differ from them? Don’t forget to inquire about Show Specials!!
  7. Take Care of Yourself – Pack a healthy snack or take advantage of a showroom offering, drink plenty of water, and wear comfortable shoes. It’s also a good idea to bring a small rolling tote to help save your shoulder and keep your selling information and catalogs organized.

These tips can help you prepare for most shows, but for more show-specific info, visit the websites of the markets you are attending. For example, Americas Mart’s New Retailer Information Packet has some helpful tips and checklists.

If you have any questions about Magnet Works products, please stop by our booth in Atlanta at The Gardens on the 9th floor, Building 2W, B-84 or in the Link2Sales Showroom at 1600 Building 9. I’d love to connect and share what’s new!

If you have any questions or comments, please share them below. If you’re a trade show veteran, what advice would you give to a fellow retailer about attending a show? I look forward to hearing from you!

Fall & Winter Early Buy Program Benefits

June 3, 2011

Order Now, Ship Later, Save Big!

I know many of you are just brushing off the last remnants of winter, and now it appears our anxiously awaited Spring has jumped straight into Summer temperatures. Yet, Fall-Winter Early Buy Catalog Coverit’s time to push your retail purchasing clock forward and take advantage of great savings with our Fall-Winter Early Buy Program running through June 15, 2011.

Throughout our new Fall-Winter Early Buy eCatalog you will find 43 beautiful new collections from the most talented and recognized artists in the industry. In addition, we have highlighted 35 of last year’s best-selling collections for an encore performance. Altogether, that’s over 40 pages of product that will excite your most discriminating flag customer and capture the eyes of new shoppers!

Why take advantage of our Early Buy Program?

  • First-of-the-Season Delivery – Place an Early Buy order and get “first-of-the-season” delivery beginning with July 1st shipments of industry leading BreezeArt® premium flags, MatMates™ interchangeable mats, MailWraps® mailbox covers and Yard DeSigns® magnetic yard art. (All orders must ship by September 30, 2011.)
  • Free Freight on Product – All orders totaling $500 or more receive free freight – not just for lightweight product, but also for hardware and all the heavyweights!
  • Multi-Tier Dating Program – Stretch your dollars further by taking advantage of our 60 and 90 day dating programs that are ONLY offered during Early Buy – Net 60 dating on orders totaling $1500 or more and Net 90 on orders totaling $3000 or more.
  • Multiple Orders and Deliveries – Our Early Buy Program allows you to combine multiple orders and ship dates to qualify for the greatest incentive. This gives you an opportunity to sell your inventory before your first invoice comes due! Write two $250 orders and each would receive Free Freight. Write three $500 orders and each would receive Free Freight and Net 60 dating.  Three $1000 orders or even six $500 orders would earn you Free Freight and Net 90 on each delivery! Now that’s what I call making your money work hard for you!
  • Hundreds of Designs to Shop – We don’t limit you to just the designs in our Early Buy Catalog. Choose from over 250 designs shown in our January 2011 catalog! Only Clearance designs are excluded.

So don’t delay! Take advantage of great Early Buy savings on brand new designs for Fall and Winter. You can place an order by calling 1(800) 886-3121, or you can check out our Fall-Winter Early Buy eCatalog and our entire product offering at www.magnetworks.com.

Summer – The Forgotten Season in Outdoor Decor

May 26, 2011

Surf, Sand, & Summer Garden Flag by Magnet WorksJust when you thought spring was never going to arrive, temperatures around the country are starting to climb. Now, believe it or not, summer is just around the corner with its official opening day on June 21.

Don’t miss out on additional volume opportunities that the summer season can bring. Traditional spring pastels and bright sherbet florals should expand to make room for the boldness of Geraniums, Sunflowers, and Hydrangeas. Summer icons like Watermelon Slices, Flip FlopsSlice of Summer MailWraps by Magnet Works and Ladybugs welcome soaring temperatures and offer your customers an additional fresh palette of color and design. And while any time is a great time to show your Red, White and Blue, don’t forget to stock up on patriotic designs for 4th of July and Labor Day.

Unlike the second half of the year, which is chock full of seasonal holidays that keep your inventory varied, Flip Flops MatMate by Magnet Worksspring and summer are many times mistakenly lumped into one season. Don’t fall short of your volume expectations with a one-size-fits-all order. Refresh your inventory with a summer order that will keep your designs current and your register ringing right into fall.

What do you do to get the most out of the summer themes and categories in your store? Share your thoughts and ask any questions you might have for me in the comments section below. If you’d like to view more of our summer themed designs, click here.

Tammy Hickel is VP of Sales and Marketing at Magnet Works, Ltd. She will be a regular contributor here on the Magnet Works Blog


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