Lead Your Customers to Water

March 31, 2010
Written by
During the warm, summer months, we Canadians flock to water. We’re drawn to the pool, the beach, the lake – anything to cool down and relax. The backyard water garden is an alternative escape. There’s nothing better than unwinding next to a soothing pond or a bubbling water feature, just a few steps out your back door.

water_1
Photos courtesy of Laguna Ponds.
The water gardening sector is one that continues to grow and it remains a great opportunity for garden centre retailers. We talked with several companies from the industry to get their thoughts on what new trends are emerging in this sector and how garden centre retailers can best position water features in their centres.

Co-ordinating with outdoor living
Christine Scholes, marketing operations manager for Rolf C. Hagen Inc., the parent company of Laguna Ponds, says water gardens have become an investment for homeowners who are spending more time in the backyard. “With the trend towards outdoor living and recent economic developments, more and more people are looking at their homes as a place of refuge. This is leading to more people investing into their homes. People are turning their yards into restful retreats by incorporating ponds and water features,” says Scholes.

When consumers are looking to place a water garden in their backyard, Scholes says design and décor plays a big role. People are looking at how they can co-ordinate their outdoor living space and want to work the water feature into their design scheme. “To meet this demand, we are seeing manufacturers launch products that easily fit in with the latest trends in home design and incorporating finishes that easily blend into their surroundings,” she says.

Perry Molema, the Canadian sales director at Aquascape Inc., says one area where they’ve seen a lot of growth is the pondless concept. These water features often have a waterfall or a stream that disappears in decorative gravel. “We built the company on what would be a typical pond – a four-by-six, two-feet-deep pond with a waterfall and fish. Now, the pondless concept has become a bigger seller than the traditional style pond,” says Molema. One of the reasons for this popularity is the fact that the pondless features can easily be turned off and on, and they are safer for homes with children. Because the water doesn’t pool at the end of the waterfall, the water is never more than a few inches deep, providing peace of mind for parents.

Another trend that Aquascape is anticipating will be popular with consumers is the green segment. Molema says the nature of the industry has actually pushed them into this area. Dry summers and municipal watering bans have certainly had an effect on the water garden industry and Aquascape is working to make changes to decrease the impact. “Water’s going to become pretty scarce and we are looking at how that’s going to affect the water garden industry. If you travel to Australia, water gardens are a huge luxury because access to water is limited. So with that response in mind, Aquascape is looking to the future and we’ve entered the world of rainwater harvest,” says Molema. The company has been in the testing stages with rainwater harvest systems for the last few years and is now starting to offer these products to the public. “What you are doing is something that’s been done for thousands of years but now we are putting it into the concept of a water feature as well,” says Molema. “We’re trying to save the hobby of water gardening overall by introducing a rain water harvest system that collects water for reuse in the garden, for irrigation, to refill your pond or your pool, from the water you have outside.” To complement this area, just last year Aquascape ventured into the rain barrel business to help consumers collect this water.

Algreen Products in Cambridge, Ont., has also recently expanded in this area. They’ve recently introduced a line of terracotta rain barrels that appeal to both the eye and the environment, backing up Scholes’ earlier point that water garden products should fit in with décor. The appearance of the barrel alone can sell consumers on the product. “Even if you’re not interested in saving water, you have a piece of décor that you can show off at the front of your house,” says Gerry Fung, operations and marketing manager for the company.

Size doesn’t matter
Water gardens don’t necessarily mean large, backyard ponds and consumers are now toying with the idea of indoor water features. Scholes says they’ve seen the popularity of self-contained water features and container gardens on the rise. “These types of products are ideal for small spaces both inside and out. Moreover, home-owners can now extend nature’s influence by bringing the outdoors in,” she says.

Rowena Burns of Burns Water Gardens in Baltimore, Ont., and director of the International Water Lily and Water Gardening Society, also sees this trend. She says consumers become more interested in water garden containers when they learn they can bring these containers in over the winter and enjoy them. It creates more value for the product and helps endear people to water gardening.

Expect also to see water gardening containers on the patio and deck. This is one area that Fung says Algreen Products is really promoting this year. The containers can be used as a stand-alone pot or a combined with other plants and containers to create a mini water garden in a small space. This also is ideal for apartment dwellers whose only access to a garden is via their balcony.
 
Selling the benefits
If you have a backyard pond or water feature set up in your garden centre, it’s easy for customers to see why a pond would be a great addition to their backyard. “It’s very calming and soothing. People just find that it’s a very attractive part of their garden,” says Burns. She says the pond also becomes a source of pride: “When people have friends over, the first thing they go and look at is the water feature or pond.”

From a real estate standpoint, a water garden can up the value of a home and work to drown out noise from traffic and loud neighbours. But on the most basic level, the tranquil atmosphere that a pond creates is unmatched. Molema says it best: “The biggest benefit to building a water garden is the introduction of the sound of water. It creates a soothing, relaxing environment. Everyone has that idea of the perfect place or the backyard escape and it’s no coincidence that water is usually involved.”

Promoting the Water Garden
water_3For a new gardener or an avid green thumb that hasn’t dabbled in water gardening, installing a water feature can seem daunting. Here are some tips to help you sell your customers on the benefits of water gardening:
  1. Introduce small projects and package them. Let shoppers know that there are small-scale water feature projects that they can do themselves. A small bubbling rock or a gurgling water feature can help create a calming backyard oasis and can be installed in a few hours – just make sure you’ve got the tools. “The best advice I can give retailers is to make sure you have everything you need to complete the project,” says Perry Molema, the Canadian sales director at Aquascape Inc.
  2. Wow your customers. “If space permits, retailers should set up at least one display showcasing the different water garden accessories they are selling,” says Christine Scholes, marketing operations manager for Rolf C. Hagen Inc. Place the display near the product so customers can find everything they need. If the retailer is tight on space, Scholes suggests that they use a flip chart to display photos of finished beauty shots of pond and water features. Try a digital photo frame to inspire shoppers or host a contest and ask customers to send you photos of their own water features after they are installed.
  3. Educate your staff. Make sure your staff is well versed in the water gardening sector. Many water garden suppliers have training tools in the form of videos, seminars or brochures as well as promotional material you can display in store.
  4. Host a seminar. Introduce water gardens to your customer through workshops at your garden centre or offer to speak for horticulture groups. “Whatever the event, ensure that you offer coupons or instant rebates on the water garden accessories that are covered in the seminar to entice attendees to purchase,” says Scholes.


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