28September2022

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Our Job .... Grow the Garden Market - John Stanley

Getting figure on what is happening in gardening is always a challenge and therefore all the credit must go to Ball Horticultural Company for developing research into why consumers are not gardening.

It is east to keep targeting the avid gardener, but, this is a declining market. Research by the National Gardening Association in the USA shows that in 2006 41% o f American households said they were gardeners but in 2013the total had dropped to 29% a drop of 22% in a period of six years. This is a huge reduction in customers and is one reason garden centres have lost market share to other lifestyle retailers. Add to this the fact that households are spending 44% less on gardening in the USA than a decade ago and in Japan flowering plant sales have dropped by 22.2% in 7 years and we can see we have a challenge.

The real challenge is why the drop and what can we do about it.

Why the Drop

Non gardeners fall into two groups, those that have gardened and have stopped gardening and those that have never gardened. The research by Ball Horticultural Company actually analysed both market segments.

Lapsed gardeners told the researchers that they were limited by their physical abilities, smaller blocks and financial limitations

The key group is those that have never gardened, alas 78% of this group said they would probably never garden, but the reasons are still important.

Reasons included lack of interest in gardening, lack of time and lack of space. The majority, 58%, also said that whatever the industry did to encourage them to garden, they would most likely ignore the initiative. This may sound like depressing news, I believe it is a challenge we should welcome. It highlights the present model does not work and it is the role of the industry to change to meet the needs of the new consumer.

Interestingly non gardeners believed the same logical reasons as gardeners as to why they should garden. They accepted it would improve the value of their property and improve their curb appeal. Promoting this to the non gardener is not going to encourage them to walk into a garden centre. Non Gardeners believe they do not have the time or money to invest in their garden. This means that we need to make it simpler and easier for them to buy and garden. These consumers need to be able to start and complete a garden in a weekend and providers of garden plants and sundries need to promote this as a benefit of their products. How many garden centres provide a weekend project of the week ?, alas ,I can walk into "box " stores around the word and see such projects promoted ,but rarely see it in independent garden centres. Surely this is a missed opportunity.

Non gardeners perceive gardening as expensive and stressful and as an industry we need to remove these barriers in the consumers mind. We need to promote weekend garden activities as cost effective activities that will actually improve the health and reduce the stress of the participants.

There is Good News

The Ball research indicated that if children were introduced to gardening they were more likely to garden when they become adults. If gardening becomes a family activity we can grow the industry. The Gen X families is less inclined to garden as a family than are the Gen Y families. 61% of Gen X families reported that they garden as a family compared to 78% of Gen Y family's .Grandparents also play an important role in encouraging grand children into gardening. Our own grandchildren are encouraged to visit us and spend time in the vegetable garden and we hope that rubs of on them when they are adults. The Gen Y families may not be as ready as the Gen X families to garden, but the omens are good for the future.

The Real Challenge

There is a challenge for independent garden centre to look at their marketing strategy. I see few garden centres really focusing on getting new consumers. Consumers who perceive gardening as not providing the benefits they are looking for. Just focusing on product and price is not going to put more money in the bank we need a fresh approach to marketing and attracting the new consumer. The existing consumer is already an advocate except that this is a shrinking consumer base. What we need to focus on is the consumer who is not gardening. Getting involved in your local community to promote gardening is one of the key ways in which an independent garden centre can connect with new consumers.


John Stanley is a Conference Speaker and Consultant. In 2012 he was awarded the WA Small Business exporter of the Year. He works in 35 countries and is one of the world sort after retail and small business presenters. His new conference presentation looks at the new consumer and how that affects your business. Follow John on Facebook John-Stanley -Associates or contact him at john@johnstanley.com.au

Source: HortiTrends News Room