Subscribe to

Birding Business

birding business

This month’s bird

The Hairy Woodpecker

Birding Business July 2013 - Birdbaths

Time for a Bath

By Hank Weber | Contributing Editor

A savvy retailer can ‘clean up’ selling bird baths and bath cleaning products

CUSTOMERS ENTERING THE STORE for the first time can be overwhelmed by the wide variety of seed and suet available.   They often ask “Which one should I use to get the most colorful birds?”

Customers entering the store for the first time can be overwhelmed by the wide variety of seed and suet available.   They often ask “Which one should I use to get the most colorful birds?”

Black-Oil Sunflower seed is definitely an all-round favorite, and a good seed mix plus a variety of suet may attract even more species.  But the answer is not only seed and suet.  It is also water.  Of all the bird attracting features you can put in your backyard water brings in the greatest variety.  That may seem strange until you consider that not all birds eat seed and a great many species will never visit your feeder because they prefer other types of food such as insects.  However, all birds – seed-eaters or not – need water every day to survive and thrive. 

Customers and their Birds Need to Bathe

Birds love water.  It is essential to their well-being, and it attracts the largest variety of species for your customer’s viewing enjoyment.  Sounds like a perfect match.  If water is such a bird magnet, why don’t more customers buy baths and why are retailers not selling them?
From a classic marketing perspective, baths are ideal products for a bird store.  The logic is simple:  Birds need water.  Your existing customers like birds.  They already patronize your store to buy their other backyard birding needs.  Baths can be sold to your existing customer base without the effort and cost associated with attracting new customers.   The target customers for baths are already your customers.   

Baths are the ideal product.   The question of “why aren’t we selling more” should be “How can we sell more starting now?”
I believe the reason customers don’t buy baths is that they are unaware of why they should.  Therefore it is our job as retailers to educate them on the value of a bath.  We need to explain or “sell” them on the reasons why.

Why a Bird Bath?

There are two principal reasons why a customer should have a bird bath.  First, more birds will be attracted to their backyard.  In addition to the old friends that regularly visit their seed feeder, they will be introduced to an entirely new group of birds – the non seed-eating species such as warblers, thrushes and vireos.  The presence of a bath can double the number of species visiting a yard. Add a moving water element and you may see even more.  Not only will your customer attract more species, they will enjoy the rarely seen bathing techniques used by different species.  Some birds delicately tiptoe into a bath and gently lower a wing to the water’s surface barely wetting a feather.  Others vigorously splash water everywhere obviously enjoying their bath immensely. 

Good For Birds

The second reason for a bath is that it is good for the birds.  Birds need water.  They seek a reliable source of water daily for drinking and for bathing.  In warm summer months, heat waves dry up all sources of casual water.  Where can a poor bird find a drink?  They search everywhere.  We have all seen birds drinking the condensation that drips from a car’s air conditioner.

At the opposite extreme, humans may shiver at the thought of bathing in frigid, winter temperatures but birds do it.  Scientific studies show that clean feathers insulate better than dirty ones, so birds bathe to be warmer.   At very low temperatures when water may freeze solid, any open water, such as a heated bird bath, will attract hordes of birds.   They need to drink daily.  If they can’t find open water birds can and will eat snow to get the water they need.  But melting mouthfuls of snow uses up valuable energy they need just to stay warm.  A heated bath can be a life saver.

Customer Education

Before customers are motivated to buy a bath, they must understand why it is so important.  They must be able to visualize how much enjoyment they will receive from watching birds at the bath and how much good they are doing by providing one.  That requires continually educating them on the two major benefits of a bath.

1. Baths are essential to a bird’s well being
2. Baths will attract more birds in their backyard resulting in more enjoyment.

If a store wants to sell more baths, these two points must be emphasize and re-emphasized.  In- store signage should convey this message.  Every customer that has a feeder, should also have a bath.  Ask every customer ask if they currently have one.  And if they don’t, explain the benefits.  Newsletters, websites, and other store documents should re-enforce the benefits of baths – both for birds and for the bird watcher.

Selling more baths is beneficial to birds, to the bird watchers and to a bird store’s bottom line.