STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Bedding plants are notorious for the amount of labor required to keep them alive. They need consistent watering and protection from the elements. However, one store manager found a way to sell them without all that labor: A one-day fire sale.

“We started kind of on a whim probably almost 30 years [ago] when these bedding plants were available, and I thought we’d give it a shot and I ordered 100 flats of bedding plants. And we sold them all within 30 minutes,” said Jim Schickert, the Stevens Point store manager at Trig’s, a five-store chain in central Wisconsin.

“As we were unloading, the customers were buying them. I was pretty sure I was on to something.”

The one-day sale is famous at Trig’s. Customers call asking about it months in advance, Schickert said.

The retailer expects customers to already be lined up at 5:30 a.m. for the 6:30 a.m. event on May 18.

“And when we open up and finally let them [in] there’s probably maybe 250, 300 people waiting in line,” said Schickert. “It’s kind of like the line at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. And almost by 9:30-10 o’clock in the morning, we’ve almost sold out.”

Any plants that remain after the sale will be sold in the store.

Trig’s holds the sale in its parking lot with one tent full of hanging baskets (about 2,700) and another with bedding plants, vegetables, flowers, perennials and herbs, Schickert said.

The company has the process down to a science. Store associates and people hired for the day unload the trucks. Hanging plants go on racks, and bedding plants sit on the ground.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s really very efficient. We’ll have seven or eight cashiers here at 6:30 in the morning and we kind of have a little slip system that we write up the people’s orders for what they have and they just have to present the slip to the cashiers so we really move it through smoothly.”

And Trig’s customers buy in bulk.

“It is not uncommon to see a husband and wife with 15 or 18 hanging baskets all the way around the shopping cart. I don’t know how they do it, but they do it.”

Without the labor costs, Trig’s is able to offer plants at the event for low retail prices.

“The reason that I started doing it is because of the difference in retails between what I thought we could do and be very competitive versus what the big-box stores were doing at the time and the greenhouses were doing at the time.

“But I could only justify it if we didn’t have to buy a tent and water them and on and on and on. That’s where all the added expense was.”