Miniature Gardening 101

Written by Maura Lodes, Studio M

Miniature gardening has proven to be so much more than just a come-and-go trend – it took the industry by storm and now it’s here to stay. If you’ve never heard of mini gardening (or fairy gardening, as some call it), or if you’ve been hesitant to get into this category, I’m here to help you jump on the bandwagon. Below you’ll find some tips on entering the category, increasing sales, and of course, merchandising!


What is Mini Gardening, Anyway?

GG222 Play Tent_CroppedIf you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a pretty simple concept to understand. Very similar to a full-size garden, a mini garden is a little landscape designed as a space for relaxation, creativity, and self-expression. They can be planted in the ground, but many people plant their mini gardens in containers of all shapes and sizes – from old suitcases to wooden drawers, the sky’s the limit. Miniature gardens are especially great for apartment dwellers, people who don’t have an outdoor gardening space, or for someone who wants to bring a little life to their office or workspace.


Let Your Displays Do All the Talking

The first thing you should know about selling this category is that display is key. If shoppers can’t see examples of a few mini gardens, they won’t fully understand the concept. As a busy independent retailer, you can’t always be there to explain this irresistibly fun hobby to shoppers – so let your displays do the talking for you. Put together a few simple gardens and really make a statement so that your display doesn’t get missed. These items are small, so it’s important that they can stand out among other products in your store!



TIP: If you’re worried about keeping your display gardens alive, keep in mind that you don’t have to use real plants! You can create a maintenance-free garden by putting a piece of Styrofoam in your container, covering it with fake moss, working in fake plants (fake succulents are great!), and then placing structures, accessories, picks, etc. in your garden display. You can also offer these tips to shoppers who have trouble keeping plants alive to remind them that mini gardening really is for everyone!












 Round Out Your Offering

If you’re not sure about bringing mini gardening into your store, start by testing the waters. You don’t have to go deep into the category right off the bat, buy broad and get a little of everything to see what your customers like best. Make sure you have a few items of each type – structures, furniture/accessories, picks, and signs of life (animals or other creatures). If you want to set yourself up as a one-stop shop for mini gardening, you may also want to offer ground cover or landscaping materials. Bottom line, it’s important that you get enough products to really give the category a chance. Make a decently sized, creative display and see how shoppers react.



Big Benefits of Mini Gardening

I like to think of a mini garden as something that is always growing and changing. This is one of the top reasons retailers do so well with this category – the pieces become somewhat like collectibles and people always come back for more. A shopper might see an expansive miniature garden display in your store and be inspired to start their own garden, but they’ll probably just start out with a few items. Over time, they’ll come back to see what else they can add to their mini garden. Make sure you’re always stocked up on new products so your customers can keep their mini gardens growing!


gg display pot b_CroppedTIP: Don’t forget about the seasonal aspect of this category! Mini gardening creates an opportunity for gardeners to have a little something that grows all year round. By adding themed items each season – like harvest, Halloween, or Christmas – your customers will be able to change things up and add festive décor to their mini gardens.

Mini gardening is a hobby that’s fun for people of all ages and skill levels, and this growing category shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a fantastic opportunity for all types of retailers, from garden centers to gift shops and everything in between. I hope this info will help you successfully launch this category in your store! Contact your Territory Manager for more info about Gypsy Garden!





Get Your Heart’s “Content” for Valentine’s Day

vday (2)Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Have you started prepping your store and marketing for it? If not (and even if you have), we have generated a few fun-loving tips to get you going or enhance what you have already done.

  1. Create a Valentine’s Day feature display – Gather all the red, pink and white merchandise you have in your store and violia! You have created yourself a Valentine’s Day display!
  2. Create gift bundles – Finding the perfect gift can challenging sometimes. Make it easy for your customers and pair up some of your best sellers! Put them in your newly created Valentine’s Day display and at/near the cash wrap.
  3. Free gift wrap with purchase – Adding that extra touch is extra special!
  4. In-store promotions – Who doesn’t love a good BOGO deal! This is a GREAT opportunity for a sweetheart sale!
  5. shop localGet the word out with emails and social media – OneCoast has created this beautiful graphic (and poem) that you can share with your customers too!

Maximizing Graduation Sales: Helping Customers Create the Perfect Gift

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor

Retailer1While still a few months away, the excitement about the upcoming Graduations is already buzzing through the community of Grosse Pointe Woods in Michigan. With two major high schools and state colleges to serve, Graduation is an important gift giving occasion and for Small Favors, a specialty gift store, a big opportunity to increase their spring and summer business. 

“Small Favors has been a labor of love, slowly growing and changing during the course of five years and finally finding its way to our new store location in April 2010,” says Betsy Enders, Co-Owner.

Their business began five years ago with the idea to create party favors that were cute and inexpensive. Specializing mostly in local corporate favors, Small Favors operated their business out of a basement office space.  Over the next five years they were doing local gift shows with various clubs and organizations in the community getting more exposure as a gift business. They learned a lot about the gift market and  buying for retail and “with all of the positive feedback from customers, we started thinking that our business might have potential outside of the basement and decided to open a retail gift boutique,” says Kasey Malley, Co- Owner. 

Retailer2Today, Small Favors is a fun, bright specialty gift store that not only sells unique gifts but also helps customers create that special gift ready to go.

“Graduation is really big here and for our business extremely important,” says Betsy. When a mom comes in to shop, she is not only buying for her son or daughter but also her daughter’s six best girlfriends.”  Like Christmas on a smaller scale, Graduation calls for multiple gift purchases. It’s an occasion that a majority of the community is a part of and giving it a special focus in your store will ensure a stronger spring business.

Bringing out your Graduation early will get customers thinking about Graduations and potentially secure early sales. Small Favors starts promoting Graduation before Easter and continues all the way through July. To position themselves as the Graduation gift giving destination, Small Favors attends the local high school spring benefit, a fashion show with boutiques, to showcase their graduation gift products. This gives them great exposure to both parents and teenagers in the community looking for gift ideas but also creates a stronger relationship with this important segment.  “We make sure that we are always visible at events like that,” says Kasey. “Both high schools also do all night graduation parties and moms that organize it approach us to donate gifts and prizes. We always do that to make them feel that we are part of their graduation and community.”

In addition to high school events, Small Favors also advertises in both schools’ newspapers. It’s an inexpensive way to reach your primary market when it comes to Graduation but also builds your brand with the younger market.

All For Color Small Hamper | SKU TCNF6611

All For Color Small Hamper | SKU TCNF6611

Getting Creative

“One of the reasons our customers love us is that they know we’ll go above and beyond for them” says Betsy.  “They come to us for ideas on creating a unique gift. “What can be my gift?” is what we focus on with each customer. That means that we put together a gift presentation that can include items bought in our boutique as well as items they’ve brought in.” Small Favors truly creates a gift ready to go, specially created and wrapped for one unique individual.

“One of our customer’s favorite grad gifts is the laundry bag…,” says Kasey. “We had the customer bring in a bottle of detergent and a roll of quarters that we put inside the bag. To make it extra fun, we had the customer print and laminate laundry instructions that we tied to the laundry bag as the finishing touch.”  This is an example of a creative gift that tells a story and is made for one specific person.  It goes beyond the product itself and captures the true spirit of customer service at its best. It also gives you the opportunity to use products in your store in different ways and for different reasons. “This truly is our point of differentiation and it creates a great sense of loyalty with our customers.”

All For Color Spa Wrap | SKU SW6815

All For Color Spa Wrap | SKU SW6815

“We love graduation gifts that go beyond graduation like laundry bags or bath wraps,” says Kasey.  Often times you can create a graduation display with items you already carry by simply showcasing them in a new way and giving them a different reason to be bought. Small Favors uses a round table located in the center of the store to create themed displays based on holiday or occasion. Their Graduation display is a burst of color that catches the eye and gives the customers gift ideas at a glance.

Retailer4Special occasions bring along special sales increases in the retail business and deserve a special focus. “Any time there is an occasion, we see our business increase,” says Betsy.  Graduation specifically gives you the opportunity to not only have a strong spring business but to create an image with the high school and college community that have a strong impact on your current and future business. So celebrate this important occasion with your customers by helping them create memorable and creative gifts that they will be proud to give.

Early Planning Brings May Dollars

By Catherine LeBlanc, 4/11/2011

RS1“Life is too short, so do something that makes you happy.”  Those words were the launching point for Mary Batson, owner of Out of the Box, who opened her own gift shop over 2 years ago.  The thought of owning her own store seemed like a distant memory.  Marriage, children, and life were the priority.  She just never took those steps, until a very close friend died of Breast Cancer and at that moment in her life, Mary realized that now was the right time to pursue her dream.  While scoping out the ideal location in the downtown district of Crystal Lake, IL she found her store front and opened Out of the Box on October 2008.  Mary has never looked back.


With an exceptional mix of fun, one-of-a-kind gifts, Out of the Box prides itself on offering a great selection of jewelry, scarves, accessories, home decor, and stationary.   Mary knows what women want and her vast array of products offers something for every age.  Mary says that customers enjoy coming to Out of the Box because “they feel like they can come in to pick up a gift while still being able to purchase something for themselves.”
Mary is very optimistic about this year.  Although the start of the New Year was a little slow due to some bad weather, March and April are proving to be strong months.   Spring is here and Out of the Box is now seeing an increase in sales and traffic as a result of the new season.

When Mary started her business, she always felt that Mother’s Day is a very important holiday to focus on as a gift store.  Mary says “Everyone needs a gift for Mother’s Day.  With my business centered on women, they are shopping for their moms, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters.  Then those same women shoppers will send their male counterparts back to our store because they saw something THEY love for themselves for Mother’s Day”.

Planning is critical in capturing Mother’s Day business. Mary begins thinking about Mother’s Day around the fall time.  She states “I mainly finalize my buy during the January shows.  I may add a few things here and there just before Mother’s Day, but a majority of my plans are locked down after the first of the year.”  Having an attractive mix of new products along with strong staple items are very important in highlighting this holiday.  This past January, Mary picked up a new OneCoast line for her store.  The new line is doing well for us and we are putting a blurb about this line in our local magazine as a great Mother’s Day gift idea.”

RS3At Out of the Box, Mary loves to set up her seasonal displays and her talent is evident throughout her store.  “We plan our merchandising displays around the end of April.  Most of our Mother’s Day items are merchandised towards the front of the store.”  She sets up her large front table with great gift ideas for Moms right in front with some Graduation ideas towards the back of the table.  “As important as Mother’s Day is” Mary notes “we set up our displays in a way where we are continually reminding our customers of the next upcoming holiday like Graduation. “  Frequently updating and changing displays from time to time keeps things fresh looking and new.

RS4Spring also marks a big focus in advertising for Out of the Box.  At this time of year, Mary spends a good amount of her advertising dollars on building her spring business with an emphasis on Mother’s Day.  “In addition to advertising in our local newspapers, being connected with our downtown association is critical.  In the past, our downtown association has worked events around Mother’s Day.  That theme was “A Garden Party” that included a weekend long event that centered around giveaways, music, contests, and an art fair within the downtown district.  This has proved to be very successful in driving my Mother’s Day business by bringing people to our downtown shopping district.”  Additionally, Mary does try one or two new advertising opportunities.  “It is very important to try something new in advertising, but you must stay on top of the results and really monitor what works and what doesn’t work.”  In addition, Mary has recently improved her website and continues to maintain her Facebook page, both proving to be important assets to her business message.

To round out her advertising efforts, Mary sends email marketing blasts to her customers around the first of May that includes a twenty percent off coupon that is good for the entire month of May AND can be printed off multiple times.  “This is the only time of year that we do a coupon like this.  And what we see is a surge of gift-buying business around Mother’s Day and then picks up again at the end of the month.  Customers then realize that the coupon is expiring soon so they hurry back to buy something for themselves.”  All in all, this coupon has proved to be a great selling tool in bringing in repeat business for the entire month of May.

RS5One important aspect of Out of the Box that Mary’s customers have come to love is gift wrapping.  Mary loves being able to offer gift wrapping to her customers.  “It’s like giving them something extra and shows them how much you appreciate their business.”  For Mary, gift wrapping has set herself apart from her competition.  Her customers know that they can come in at the last-minute, be able to purchase their gift items and have it beautifully wrapped – all in one trip!

Mary is passionate about her business and truly takes pride in every detail of her store.  Being able to offer unique gift items at affordable prices are the foundations to her business.  Her belief in excellent customer service is the glue that holds her foundation.  “I believe the reason our customers come back to us time and time again is because of our customer service.  We assist them from the moment they walk in with a smile and “Hi”.  We are never pushy, but courteous and helpful every step of the way.”  With a consistency in her customer service efforts, her customer base has grown year after year.

A resurgence of customers shopping local and coming back to downtown boutiques and stores are very reassuring.   By focusing on excellent customer service, offering gift wrapping, and hosting events are all key factors in growing your Mother’s Day business.

Brighten Your Sales with Winning Store Events

By Catherine LeBlanc, Contributing Editor

articleHosting store events are important for independent retailers. They take planning, dedication, and hard work. But you don’t have to tell that to Pam Hammond, owner of Paddington Station in Ashland, Oregon.  Her store is the winning retailer of the 2014 Gift & Decorative Accessories REA (Retail Excellence Awards) in the category of Store Events.  In-store events for Pam is vital to her business and her community.  In this article, we talk one-on-one with Pam and get the scoop on hosting successful events throughout the year.

Paddington Station out of Ashland, Oregon was the winning retailer of the 2014 Gift & Decorative Accessories REA (Retail Excellence Awards) in the category of Store Events on August 17, 2014 at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Pier in New York City. This award represents their dedication and hard work with their local communities through their annual open house, monthly store events, and activities with their neighboring stores. I spoke with Pam Hammond, co-owner of Paddington Station and their sister location, The Paddington Jewel Box.  Here she shares her insight and knowledge about hosting events at her stores and what makes her so successful at it.

article1.) First off, tell us about your store. What type of store? What’s your best selling category? Who are your main customers? How long have you been in business? What do you love most about running your own business?

Paddington Station first opened their doors 41 years ago. We are the 4th owners and we are the longest running owners with 21 years. We are located in a tourist town, just west of Interstate 5 and are the first “largest” town up from the California border.  Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the state’s largest Repertory theaters.  Our store is just across from this theater in downtown Ashland.  With around 8,500 square feet, Paddington Station first opened as a furniture store, but grew to include general gifts, seasonal items, women’s accessories, jewelry, stationary, and Children’s.  In our Mezzanine area, we house our kitchen store where we hold cooking demonstrations.  In our satellite store, The Paddington Jewel Box, we sell more trendy women’s apparel, jewelry and accessories.  article 3We are celebrating our 2nd year in business with our second location.  Our stores are doing well and are about 7% ahead over last year.  Retail is just in my blood. I went to school for fashion and merchandising, worked in department stores and became a buyer.  As a buyer, I found it hard to control how my products looked in the stores and had no voice in how it was merchandised.  Then the opportunity presented itself with Paddington Station.  I love my team and love the fact that is store is mine.  I absolutely love being an owner of a “Mom & Pop” store.

PADST-Meet n Greet PC 2014 press front r12.) Congratulations on winning a GDA REA AWARD for Store Events this past August (Retailer Excellence Awards).  What is the component that it took to win this award and what do you think got you the award? 

This is our 3rd time winning this award.  The 2nd time we won this award was 10 years ago.  We decided it was time to enter again and filled out the application.  We answered a few questions, submitted some photos of recent events and submitted the application.  Later, we heard that our store was one of 3 finalists in the Store Event category.  I believe we won because we host several events each year, around 9 monthly events per year.  These events are important for our community and for our customers.  They are excited to see what’s happening and what’s newat Paddington Station.  We are honored to receive this award, but it’s also really nice to recognize a west coast retailer too.

3.) So tell us about your top events for 2014 and what are the main factors in hosting a successful event?

We are hosting a few events this month (October).  We have a preferred customer list of around 8,000 that include those customers who live in Ashland.  Now’s the time to connect with our local customers since the high tourist season is coming to a close.  First event for October is an event that encourages our local customers to come back to the downtown area to enjoying some shopping.  We call it the “Meet & Greet with Treats”.  We are offering 25% off one item in the store along with food, mimosas, and coffee.  We also give everyone an update on what’s new in store and we give them all a little gift.  I give free gifts all the time at my events. I do prefer this better than offering any discounts. Our customers love it. Sometimes during our events, we will usually offer alcohol.  But we like offering drinks and having them on hand during normal business hours for our customers.  Especially in the Summer, we always have ice water on hand.

article 4Our 2nd event in October is at our satellite store, The Paddington Jewel Box.  There, we are having a “Girl’s Night Out” with free gifts, raffles, wine tasting with a local winery, refreshments, and live music.  Then for every dollar they spend, they receive points that are good to use towards any item in our Prize Room.  The Prize Room is made up of discounted items.  Our customers love it.  Some customers will spend more just so they can “shop” in the Prize Room.  Then later we have a Kids event called “Monster Bash” where kids can visit several stores to come in and make a themed craft.  We usually get about 50 families attend.  It’s great because it gets the parents into our stores and many remember to come back to shop.


article 64.)  For Holiday 2014, what events do you have lined up?  Are these new ones or one’s you done before?

We will host our annual open house which is the Saturday before Thanksgiving and it’s a big event for us.  We decorate the entire store with tons of ornaments, around $60,000 worth.  But the store just sparkles and shines.  When we open our doors, we offer $5.00 off any one item you purchase that day. And $5.00 is nothing.  Customers will spend so much more than that.  We have live musicians, local theater groups perform, area choirs, and string groups.  These are mainly non-profit groups so I usually spend around $100-$200 to cover their costs.  But it really packs in the store.  We love hearing the music and they play right on the mezzanine.  We also invite customers to bring in can of food and in doing so, they will receive a free ornament.  Our customers love it and look forward to it every year.  We don’t spend very much on the ornaments, but we do offer new ones each year.  We also ask the vendors donate items for giveaways.  We usually have one grand prize giveaway and other themed ones for kids, kitchen, and mom’s one. We give away one raffle ticket to each customer that walks in.  They put their raffle ticket in the drawing for the themed basket of their chose.  We do sell additional raffle tickets and the money raised on ticket sales goes towards the local food bank.  Customers don’t mind paying for raffle tickets because it increases their odds, but the money goes to a good cause.  We collect around $300 every year for the food bank.  Then we have about 10 door prizes that we usually raffle off throughout the day.  And of course, lots of food, vendor demonstrations, chocolate tastings, and kids crafting area.  This event is very much community oriented.

article 75.) What do you love most about events?  What do you hate most about events?

What I love most is that the events are community building.  Residents consider our store their community store.  They come in to meet and hang out with neighbors.  And they always feel welcomed when they walk through the doors.  What I hate about the events is the work.  It’s so much work hosting events.  But it does bring our staff together.  It’s very important to delegate and divide up the duties.  Plus you have to plan for something to go wrong.  Something always does.  And the days are long, but you have to put on a smile and occasionally have to work through sore and mean people.  But we get through it.

6.)  What have you learned most about hosting events in your store?  How important are they do your total business?

It’s important to delegate the responsibilities.  And have a good planning sheet along with a very good office manager.  After each event, we sit down and recap after the event. We make notes on what worked well, what didn’t work well, take lots of notes and keep a folder so that next event time, we can bring out the folder and review.  It’s good to document our events and take notes.  I have great history to play up our events.  I like to keep it fun, but keep it simple enough to handle on that day. Plus be flexible and just go on. Momentum is good.  And I like to bring in our vendors when I can.  article 8It does help when they can help at the events and they can see what my customers are buying. Our events are huge days for us.  It does take money to host our events, especially our annual open house.  It is an expensive day, but it does kicks off the holiday shopping season.  Customers do come back and do more shopping.  They remember us from the events and come back. They remember that they can buy local.

My advice is to start small and build from there.  Try and collaborate with other businesses to come up with event ideas.  Your local community and other neighboring businesses are important to your own business.  Events are good not only for the customers, but for your staff as well.  They get to know your customers.  And events are like hosting an open house in your own home.  Customers feel welcomed.  Make your events fun and they will want to come back to visit again.