Birding Business September 2014 - Gentle Winds

Gentle Winds Stir Sales

BY HANK WEBER | Contributing Editor

WHEN WE MENTION WIND POWER THESE DAYS PEOPLE AUTOMATICALLY THINK OF THE SPRAWLING WIND FARMS DOTTED WITH HUNDREDS OF GIANT TURBINES EACH WITH ENORMOUS ROTOR BLADES RAPIDLY SPINNING TO GENERATE FOSSIL-FUEL FREE, GREEN ELECTRICITY.  GOOD FOR OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT.  BAD FOR MIGRATING BIRDS.

But in our store we think of it differently – we think of things like wind chimes, kites, flags, and the like.  A friend asked “How are these products relevant to a bird store?  They have nothing to do with birds.”  The answer is easy.  Just like bird feeding, these products remind customers of the simple, basic aspects of life. Moreover, wind products tend to be counter cyclical, selling better in warmer weather when seed sales may dip.

Many customers are also gardeners - vegetables, flowers, native plants.  They relate to the natural world and enjoy working in their yard.  Even non-gardening customers enjoy the peaceful setting in the backyard.  Still others just enjoy looking out their window and the simple appeal of nature.   They don’t need the latest high tech gadgetry.

Wind-powered products have the same mystique evoking simpler, happier times, a type of nostalgia.  Everyone remembers the excitement of flying a kite as a child, or the bright colors and sounds of flapping flags, or the gentle music of wind chimes.   Do you still remember holding your pinwheel high and running down the path watching the wheel spin?

Low tech, wind-powered products appeal to the same types of customers that enjoy birds in the backyard.  Although there are a wide variety of wind powered products available, the most common are wind chimes, kites and wind socks, whirligigs and flags.  They all complement bird products.

Wind Chimes
A wind chime is a lovely addition to a backyard. But not all wind chimes are created equal.  I find the least expensive chimes are often not very musically pleasing and produce high pitched tinny sounds, more noise than music.  Moreover, many low-priced products are sold through low-price retailers.  There is less competition with higher priced chimes and I prefer to be known for selling higher quality merchandise.  There is something about the pure tone of a quality chime that immediately “grabs” a customer.

As with any product category, you can’t just stock one model.  You need a decent selection at various price points.  Display all chimes together in one area allowing customers to easily compare.   And remember, chimes without sound do not sell.  They may be low tech but you should learn the proper technique to achieving the best sound from a chime.   Grasp the “feather” and rotate the striking element gently touching each tube in a circular sequence.  Train yourself and your staff.   Practice.  Then demonstrate one chime to a customer and they will test drive a number of other models before zeroing in on the one that sounds best to them.   Another good practice is to use a fan to create gentle air flow which then fills the store with the relaxing sound of chimes.  This enhances the store ambiance and serves as advertising.

Kites, Whirligigs and Wind Socks
Driving past my store you may be startled by the sight of a large raptor soaring in the breeze.   It is actually a kite in the shape of a hawk that I fly on a line attached to a 16-foot pole.   It is extremely realistic.  The wings flap, feathers ripple.  It soars and dips with changes in the wind.  But best of all, it attracts attention.  Passers-by who have never been in the store are induced to drop in.   Existing customers always look for it as they drive past.  Some customers use it as a beacon or landmark to locate the store. It is a good advertisement.

For a change of pace, sometimes I use a whirligig or wind sock.  Here again the color and movement attract the eye of passing drivers.  I like to use store merchandise for advertising purposes.  It’s less expensive and just as effective as a custom made sign.

Flags
Garden flags and larger flags can also be effectively used for advertising and merchandising.   Flags usually feature bright colors that attract the eye.  Hanging lots of flags throughout the store instantly provides a whole new look without major expense.  And since I hang the flags directly from the ceiling, I am not using valuable selling space, only utilizing space that was previously unused.  A flag or two in the window creates a colorful sign.  And, by simply rotating new and different flags to the window every few weeks, you create a totally new look without added cost.

Wind is free.  And wind-powered products provide an opportunity for added sales and stimulate customer’s imagination.   Several years ago a customer purchased huge wind chimes, over 6-feet in length.  The sound was magnificent, like hearing church bells in a Gothic cathedral.   One of his neighbors enjoyed the sound so much he bought the identical chimes for his summer home.   Another customer purchased the same model chimes but did not hang them in his yard.  Instead, he uses them indoors.  His family room has a very tall cathedral ceiling.  He installed the chimes at the very peak of his ceiling.  And then added a rotating fan, operated by a wall switch.  He now can enjoy wind music whenever he wants (or when he wants to impress visitors).

When I advocate wind driven products I am not suggesting you install mini wind-turbines to slash your electrical bills, but just simple wind products that can add to your sales.  And by cleverly arranging colorful wind products throughout the store you can easily create a fresh new image using only merchandise you will eventually turn into sales.