For the Birds-October 2011
Twenty years ago, Al Netten bought the struggling All Seasons Wild Bird Store in Bloomington, where he’d been a customer. It’s not struggling anymore. All Seasons now has five metro locations, selling feeders, birdhouses, books, binoculars, and birding-relating gifts. Its specialty, however, is food. All Seasons stores carry more than a dozen varieties of seeds and mixes “blended exclusively for us from our recipes, and delivered fresh to our stores twice a week,” Netten says.
All Seasons’ most popular brand, Joe’s Mix, is a medley of sunflower and safflower seeds meant to attract all types of birds. Another big seller is the Cracker Jax Mix, which attracts finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals. Bird food brings in about 70 percent of All Seasons’ sales, which are transacted on line as well as in stores.
“Their food is really the best quality,” White Bear Lake resident and regular customer Katrina Hase says. “They also have a huge variety to entice different kind of birds, and the staff is really good at knowing which mix to use and when.”
Bird food mixes cost between $2.50 to $3.50 per pound, higher than most big-box retailer prices. Netten says that All Seasons compensates for its higher prices with distinctive services. Most notable is its “store-to-door” operations, which include home delivery, feeder repair, and regular feeder cleaning, refill, and maintenance. (These services are popular with snowbirds, human as well as avian.) Some of these services are offered for free; a feeder maintenance trip costs $8.95.
“It’s not a big part of the business, but is certainly something no one else is doing in the market to the extent that we are,” says Al Netten’s son Dave, who joined the business in 1995.
Most of All Seasons’ 45 employees are experienced backyard birders who can help their customers choose the right food and feeders. All Seasons’ bimonthly newsletters inform readers which birds to look for at the time, and recommend what to feed them. To help build and expand the local birding community, All Seasons staffers also make presentations at local schools and nursing homes, and they welcome sighting stories on the retailer’s Facebook page and Web site.
All Seasons saw a slight uptick in sales in 2010—revenues were more than $2 million—and an 8 percent increase this year as of August. “We’re not immune to recessions, but we’re more driven by bird migration patterns, and weather,” Al Netten says. “If birds are out there and eating, our customers are going to feed them.”