This morning, Kip Creel, President of the market research firm Stand Point, had both good and bad news for the gardening industry.
Speaking at the Winter Green conference of the Georgia Green Industry Association, he told his audience that garden retailers have observed that “the consumer is a little different” today, as compared with ten years or so ago, but they don’t know what that difference signifies or how to deal with it. Most still market to gardening hobbyists, who comprise only 4.6% of the population and in 2006 spent only an average of $250 on their favorite pastime. Nevertheless, in that year (the most recent for which figures are available), some 80 million U.S. households (out of a total of 120 million) bought something gardening-related, e.g. a plant, a bag of fertilizer or a landscape design. New homeowners, contrasting hobbyists, spend on average close to $9,000 in the first year to define their outdoor living space, starting with a fence, a patio or deck and landscaping.
Today, Creel mentioned, consumers spend more money on services (e.g. landscaping) than on products (e.g. plants), and they do more buying at Big Box stores than at independent nurseries. A decline from 35% to 22% in the frequenting of the latter has been observed over the past ten years. Gen X-ers in particular are of the opinion that “it all comes from the same source anyway”, so why not just pick up a plant when you’re already at WalMart for a pair of pliers, a bottle of mouthwash and a box of tissues?
The good news for garden retailers is that if they are aware of the demographic trends, they can offer their prospective customers what they are looking for: affordable design services, plants that are well-tagged, showrooms (“Gardens To Go”?) and knowledge – exactly what one does not find at the Big Box stores. Even more good news: the population segment that should be a garden retailer’s prime target (between 20 and 44 years of age), is expected to begin increasing substantially again from 2010 on.