We thought about it for a couple of years, Christmas that is. Over the past seven years, we have enhanced our water garden store with a wonderful line of pottery, statuary from Henry, Al’s, Art of Stone and Unique Stone, and we even have a lovely gift shop. We carry everything for the water garden enthusiast to build a pond feature or any water feature. Free classes are offered all throughout the season from March to October to show the public how to build such features correctly. This all keeps us very busy during the season, but what should we do the rest of the year?
Envisioning filling our down time (November and December) in January of 2010, I was given the “thumbs-up” on having “Christmas at Pond Pro Shop.” We planned and bought throughout the year in preparation of our first Christmas. Fun for me! I love Christmas!
We sent our yard manager, Jay McGuffee, to train on how to install Christmas lighting throughout our landscaping, etc., and began decorating in September while the weather was nice outside. Jay with the help of some others placed over 40,000 lights in our yard. We have sixteen pond features, three very large trees and smaller trees that are young, and many shrubs that still had their leaves. We had to imagine what the yard would look like without leaves and blooms and place lights to look as though the lights were the “blooms” if you will.
Each pond was outlined with blue lights; the sidewalks were lined with all red lights. Multi-colored lights were placed in cedars that took on the appearance of an indoor Christmas tree. Clear lights and green lights were on the other features…trees, shrubs, etc. We had features that danced around the ponds and over the water. Inside we had multiple decorated trees. We used much of our pottery in our displays, holding Christmas trees, winter floral displays…even Santas. We had Santas of all sizes, snowmen, large and small, reindeer, “snowing trees” and “snowing lanterns” with carolers; ornaments, floral arrangements. We were literally “stuffed” with Christmas. STUNNING!! Inside and outside!!
We advertised on T.V., radio, billboards, newsletters and handouts. We invited the public of our city of Shawnee, as well as surrounding communities and sent invitations to churches, schools, and so forth. We offered after-dark walk-through tours two late nights a week and left the lights on every night until 10:00 p.m. for those who could just drive by. We had “elves” in the yard after dark as greeters, handing out candy canes, and making sure all stayed on the sidewalks as a safety precaution. We offered hot cocoa and hot apple cider with the only cost a donation to a local school’s athletic program. We sold fresh Fraser Fir Christmas trees and wreaths, bagged and loaded them for our customers.
Our customers came out to take pictures for their Christmas post cards, wedding invitations, and much more.
**What Did We Learn?**
We felt the first Christmas was a success. The weather was cold but not unbearable and the tours were very well attended. We “sold” a lot of hot cocoa. Because people were unaware of our selling Christmas trees and because our location is out away from the city, the majority of our Christmas trees became mulch. We still want to offer trees next year but work on that program a little better.
Most of the Christmas decorations and accents were sold! We marked the rest down and moved the biggest part of what was left. What we kept will only add to the décor this year.
We all worked hard for this to be successful and it was well worth it. The downside: we have fewer employees in the “down season,” so our small group of employees were “overtaxed” to complete the project. By not having a down season, this group worked even more to redo displays after Christmas, “un-decorate,” and do all the regular jobs that are usually saved until downtime, with the pressure of having to get everything all ready for our first class in early March. Whew!
We learned…yes, water garden retailers can do Christmas. The initial costs will be expensive, but once that medicine has been swallowed most decorations will last many years. Bringing in new and fresh ideas for Christmas takes some research. Know your clientele. The majority of our customers want something different/unique to decorate their homes.
The reflection of all the Christmas lights in the ponds was a beautiful sight to behold. The joy of the customers shopping in our store during the usually quiet winter months was appreciated, encouraging and inspiring. As tired as we were, it truly seemed like “It’s a wonderful life!”
We wish all of you in the water garden business a very, very merry Christmas 2011.
**Pond Dollar Promotion**
Another way to increase sales in the off months is to offer coupons or other specials. We have a “pond dollar redemption” program. This program allows all our customers to save their receipts throughout the year. We even give them their own special folder to save them in.
For every ten dollars that they spend they earn a “pond dollar.” Then starting in the middle of November until the end of December, customers bring in their “pond dollars” and redeem them for anything in stock up to 50% off the marked price. One decision you will need to make is if these dollars can be used on items already marked down.
For some of our customers, especially those who have initially built their pond during the year, those “pond dollars” add up and they are excited at redemption time. It is a win, win, both for us and the customer.
*In 2007, Shawnee, Oklahoma (because of Pond Pro Shop) was proclaimed Water Garden Capital of Oklahoma. An honor to be sure.*
**Sample Press Release**
Christmas at Pond Pro Shop
Something new for Shawnee this year is “Christmas at Pond Pro Shop,” two miles north of the Shawnee Mall on Kickapoo. The walking tour at Pond Pro Shop is lovely any time of the year and we are thrilled to be open for Christmas. There are water features, bubbling rocks, pots, statues and so much more to see.
Come see what Pond Pro Shop has done. We have been busy decorating inside and out for Christmas. The Store will be open additional hours, until late Friday and Saturday night for our Christmas Open House, now through Christmas. All the water features will be lit colorfully and the outdoor yard will have beautiful Christmas displays. Inside will have many unique displays, refreshments, and gift items for sale including free gift-wrapping, for your Christmas shopping.
We at the Store are all very excited to offer a “walking Christmas tour” for people of all ages. We think you will be excited as well and will want to invite your friends and family to come enjoy “Christmas at Pond Pro Shop.”
Pond Pro Shop has been in business for almost seven years and is a division of Unit Liner Company, located at 7901 N. Kickapoo, Shawnee. For more information call (405) 273-8363 or see our website at www.pondproshop.com.