The breadth of merchandise inside many garden center gift shops can take shoppers by surprise. Suddenly, their initial plan to simply pick up some potting soil and a flat of petunias turns into something else altogether. The selection inside the gift shop at The Rhoads Garden in North Wales, Pa., serves as a perfect example. Items for baby, fashionable women’s clothing and home décor items do very well, as unexpected as their presence may be.
“A lot of people say oh, my god I’ve been here so many times and I’ve never been inside the gift shop. This is amazing,” said Buyer Lauren Hales. Shoppers will ooh and ahh over the luxury baby gifts she sources from product lines such as Elegant Baby, maker of blankets, apparel and more. Toddler purses from Doe a Dear elicit the same response. The Rhoads Garden has been in business since 1939 and gift offerings have evolved over time. Women’s clothing is the newest expansion effort. “We feature accessories such as scarves, gloves and jewelry and those have done so well that now we’ve added sweaters, leggings and more.”
At The Rhoads Garden, its greenhouse featuring indoor plants and seasonal items such as Christmas décor has a strong presence on a busy street. The greenhouse, in turn, leads into the gift shop area and many people discover it in this manner. Customers are invited to sign up for email updates on merchandise and to check out the shop’s Facebook and Instagram posts. Word of mouth tips off many to the treasures which lie within and without in the form of wind chimes, art poles, gazing balls, animal statues and other outdoor garden gifts. “We also do a lot of silk flowers. Apparently, good quality silks are hard to come by in this area and people really like our wreaths and silk arrangements. We have designers who make them here,” Hales said.
At Haines Farm and Garden in Cinnaminson, N.J., decorative metal stakes are a popular outdoor garden gift. “They’re good quality at a reasonable price and we carry a wide selection which is why I think we sell so many,” said Owner and Buyer Bess Jenkins. Designs atop the stakes vary from spinning flowers to welcome signs to seasonal images such as pumpkins. Another top seller for the approximately 3,000-square-foot gift shop is a weatherproof decorative plaque which comes with an optional stand. The plaques feature pictures or sayings which typically serve to welcome people to garden spaces. “People like them because they’re available for all the different seasons plus they’re made in America. They make a nice gift.”
Haines Farm and Garden continues to carry Byers’ Choice Carolers, sales of which pick up around the holidays. Jenkins said there is a customer base for higher quality wind chimes in her area too but she doesn’t rely on newspaper advertising to get the word out. “It doesn’t work. For us, it’s more word of mouth. Facebook and Instagram work although I don’t have a lot of time to post.” But sometimes all it takes is a single photo of a great item to create a buzz. For instance, a succulent pumpkin – a seasonal item which a staff member designs – always generates a lot of traffic for the gift shop. “A lot of people come in because either they saw somebody with it or they’ve gotten them before. They make a great hostess gift so we do sell a lot of those.”
Wind chimes are a top seller at Madison Garden Center in Madison, Miss., and customers are particularly fond of the Wind River Chimes brand. “They’re a quality product tuned to scale at a good price point. They make a really nice gift for people who love the outdoors,” said Owner and Buyer Nancy Thompson. “Even if they already have a wind chime, they could probably use another because people who like them tend to be okay with having multiples. A lot of people collect them because they have different scales.”
Madison Garden Center also does a brisk business in hanging art glass items. Meant to be hung outside, the large blown glass ornaments are sturdy enough to withstand the elements. “They come in a variety of shapes and colors plus they catch the light. They’re really pretty pieces.” Next in terms of top-selling gifts are birdhouses and birdfeeders, according to Jenkins who said her 5,000-square-foot store doesn’t do a lot of advertising. “We mostly rely on word of mouth and our displays. For instance, we have wind chimes in the doorway so on a breezy day, they just naturally chime.” Meanwhile, art glass pieces are shown to their best advantage on a metal tree and select birdhouses reside on stands.
Among the extensive home and garden décor offerings at Cottage Garden Farm in Waupaca, Wis., its spinners have gained something of a following and are a continual top seller. Designed by the establishment’s owner who is a former airline pilot and builder of experimental aircraft, the mesmerizing copper garden spinners rotate just like an airplane propeller. “He uses steel ball bearings and they’re all hand balanced. They’ll spin in winds of just two miles per hour and can take gusts of up to 60 miles per hour,” said store Manager Esperanza Janke.
Cottage Garden Farm relies on carefully curated displays to showcase its many wares. “We’re always rearranging things to give our customers ideas on how to decorate their yards and how to use the products,” explained Janke. A top-selling item typically sits front and center in the display settings or “vignettes” that staff create. For instance, metal birds are another top seller for the roughly 5,000-square-foot store. Therefore, a metal rooster might dominate a display and be complemented by other farm-centric items such as wooden signage. A metal crane might be surrounded by color-coordinating gazing balls. Likewise, staff will corral purple and blue garden accessories to accent a metal peacock. “However, once the main item sells out – and it should if we’re doing a good job of merchandising – we find a new item to replace it and the best accessories to showcase it. It’s on ongoing task!”