We sell to independent retailers through distributors. We sell a lot through two-step distributors who then sell to pet shops and garden centers throughout the US and they tend to be regionally based, these distributors. We also have business with some chain stores, such as Wal-Mart, Petco and Petsmart, Lowe's, home centers.
I have to take a complete approach to the business so I start off with the overall strategy, keeping the consumer in mind. I get involved in a lot of things that have to do with point of purchase materials. It's the shelving and the signage and guides that help make the retail environment a self-serve environment.
We have done some research to find out what customers would like, and that is, they'd like clear instruction as to what the product is, what it's for, and some very simple statements as to why it is good. We pay attention to branded consistency across the range so that someone standing twenty yards from the display can tell it's us.
We have a big billboard with our products. Pond product packs tend to be large. So we use the label both front and back, bottom and top to our advantage and to inform the customer. We use the back of the packs strategically to cross promote. I look at our package as a mini-brochure.
We have designers but what I do is get the package to what looks like a ransom note. [The designers] like it because they know exactly what I want and then they make it look good.
Much of what we do also is to look to provide more value to the customer. So that may be changing manufacturers or modifying design to make things better or more cost efficient. So when I say product development sometimes it's also product evolution. We talk to customers at tradeshows to figure out where there are gaps in the market. And we look at the competitive arena and see where there are opportunities that are unfulfilled.
We've come up with pre-packs so that if [a customer] orders a certain amount or a certain collection, we ship that product out and all the point-of-purchase material, plus we provide racks, signage and pictures to show exactly how it should be set up.
We did a study a couple years ago. It's not surprising, [our customers are] people who own their own homes, married people. The purchases are fifty percent female, fifty percent male. Women tend to be more involved in the maintenance and purchases; men are involved in equipment and installation.
The number one reason for people to have a pond was basically a landscaping choice. Much like why you would want to have a nice flower garden, to beautify it. Thirty-six percent [of the respondents] said their number one reason for a pond is that it's nice to look at; 34 percent love the sound of water; and 33 percent said it was calming.
The number one regret out there from pond owners? Not that they had put a pond in but that they wished they'd put a larger pond in.
One of the things that is very important is that you're involved with [the product]. In fact I keep a large pond myself. I know its problems first hand, and I can see how products work and don't work. Personal experience is very important. I got the water garden bug and started my own water garden and have had one ever since.
It's a good little hobby. It's very dynamic, there are so many different aspects, there are large ponds, small. It is a relatively new industry where there aren't that many set rules. So it is good to be part of an industry where you can help [create] it.