Tweet-worthy sales

Tweet-worthy sales

Features - Merchandising

Expand your birding section to get customers flocking to your garden center.

June 16, 2014

It’s no secret; birding is a very lucrative business. But selling only bird seed won’t get you your piece of the sweet reward that is selling birding supplies. The potential of merchandising birding products has never been more alluring, especially because both gardening and bird watching/feeding are ranked highly among Americans’ favorite hobbies. Since you’ve already got a leg up on one of the favorite hobbies by carrying gardening equipment, why not expand your selection with birding products?

New to the bird game?

It’s never too late to get into the birding business, but be forewarned: You’re going to have competition. Unlike the plant business, bird accessories (especially bird seed) can be bought just about anywhere right down to the local supermarket. There are many problems with this beyond just having competition such as:

  • Cheap bird seed can spoil customers’ idea of what bird feeding is all about.
  • Bird seed bought at big box stores typically has lots of filler, which results in not as many birds frequenting feeders and a big mess.
  • Some lower-priced bird food also has non-sterilized seeds, which can fall onto the ground, sprout and make a mess around the feeder.

Taking a look at these aspects, it might be difficult to sell the idea of bird feeding to a novice or somebody that has had “bad luck” with feeding birds before. This negative mindset can easily be appeased with information about how and why premium bird food is worth every penny.

While grabbing a bag of black oil sunflower seed from the grocery store will ensure customers get the same couple of birds coming to their feeders, a more balanced, varied seed will bring more exotic birds.

For example, grabbing a gallon of milk at the convenience store is quick and easy, but you may only have the option of skim milk or 2 percent. At the grocery store, you have an entire section of milk to choose from, including organic and whole. Think of bird seed the same way. Make sure to provide a diverse selection that includes some more exotic seeds and seed that can’t be found in other stores.

Who wants what, and why?

Take a look at your customers — the population of birds in your area is just as diverse as the customers who pull into your lot. There are some common bird feeder visitors like cardinals and finches, but you can open the door to more exotic birds. You might even be able to turn your customers on to the “challenge” of bird feeding and watching. Turning birding into an adventure will surely lure in some of the younger crowd by offering them a challenge instead of just a passive activity. Make sure you have ample supplies of food to feed just about anything with wings, including some of the larger, less songbird-like birds such as woodpeckers and little ones like hummingbirds.

Songbirds are a common interest for novice bird enthusiasts, and the range of seed available for them is impressive. You should not, however, make it a point to sell every single blend available on the market. Doing this will cause you to take over other, valuable floor space in your store that can be used to market something a little more profitable. Selecting some of the top-selling blends and in a variety of sizes will be more than enough to suit the needs of your customers. You want to have something to offer your hobbyists — a little something to tack onto their gardening purchase.

Sing your bird song!

Customers tend to have a habitual pattern when visiting your store, and unless they’ve come to your store specifically for birding supplies before, there is a good chance they don’t even know you carry it. Making your customers aware of this selection can serve as a gateway for new customers. Make sure your bird supply layout is in an easy to see place, but don’t let it be front and center. Birding accessories aren’t necessarily an impulse item, but it could be a tack-on sale if spotted somewhere in the vicinity of your cash wrap area. You’re at a disadvantage here name wise, too. Unlike other stores that incorporate the word “bird” into their name, you’re forever going to be branded as a garden center, not a birding store.

Try thinking outside the birdbath and host a bird friendly event, such as “Coffee with the Cardinals” or even “Wine with the Woodpeckers.” Open your doors to the local bird watching clubs and market it on community bulletin boards in subdivisions and coffee shops. Welcoming the general public makes them feel like the red carpet has been rolled out and they’re going to receive something really special. Set up product demos, have samples of the bird food out and someone ready to explain the differences between qualities of bird food.

This can be a permanent display as well. You can also send an email blast to your subscribers inviting them to a seasonal birding seminar highlighting the latest greatest innovations in the bird enthusiast world.

Seed, got it. What else?

You can’t get away with selling cheap food (and you shouldn’t,) but you can get away with selling feeders and bird houses with a diverse set of price points.

Although quality usually comes at a cost, there are still some very decent bird feeders on the market that cost a fraction of the price as some of more long-lasting ones. A couple of perks will come from offering a broad spectrum of prices on bird accessories, which will make customers think:

  • “Wow, this is a really good deal. I can spend the money I saved on the feeder and get a bigger bag of bird seed.”
  • “This feeder is cheap, I like this store. I don’t feel like I’m being charged too much for what I want.”
  • “This feeder doesn’t cost much, but it also doesn’t look like it would hold up very well. I might look at feeders that look a little nicer, and spend a little more in order to keep it longer.”
  • “I can afford to buy two different kinds of feeders for how reasonably priced these are. That means I can attract more birds to my yard without spending an arm and a leg!”

Don’t ever sell stuff that is just junk, though. Your customers will remember you for it. Just like the poor quality seed that they picked up at the grocery store, the memory will linger and your store will frowned upon for quality. Take time to do some research into which feeders work best in your area and don’t hesitate to contact your supplier directly for more information on what they carry and feedback from owners. Make sure that nobody leaves your store without knowing that you take personal pride in the selection of your birding line. Think of it this way: The sky is full of birds flying about waiting to be fed. You’re the one that can bring dinner to their bellies by carrying a decent assortment of birding supplies. Those hungry birds are all yours to feed, and by feeding them through your customers, you’ll feed your bank account in return.


Nikki is a horticulturist and professional adventurer who uses her experiences and knowledge to manage a successful garden center in Greenville, S.C.