I have been analyzing and commenting on the National Gardening Survey for the last two years and in 2012 I also dug deep into their tri-annual “What Gardeners Think” (WGT) study too. Whereas the annual National Gardening Survey asks consumers WHAT they do and spend in the garden, WGT seeks out the “WHY”. In this excellent survey we can see consumers’ attitudes, likes and dislikes about the activity and the industry that supplies it.
Since this survey came out, several questions and their answers have stuck in my mind as I travel around to visit garden retailers, so I thought I would write a short blog on several of these topics over the next few weeks. It might be worth you walking your stores with these consumer likes and dislikes at your “Top of Mind.”
A question that continues to resonate with me simply asks consumers for their biggest garden challenges, here are the top few answers in priority:
- 1. Weeds
- 2. Soil conditions
- 3. Insects
- 4 Too little water or rainfall
- 5. Animal pests
The National Gardening Association told me that the top three challenges above have not changed since the survey began. So if the consumer still feels the same challenges, yet garden spending continues to decline, does that mean the L&G industry has not “made the sale” to America? I think it does.
Despite numerous pretty and strong emotional “end-result” ads on TV (e.g for Scotts lawn food), we see pallets of weed killer and lawn food, mountains of soil amendments and gallons of insecticide sold purely on price at retail. Pile it high and watch it fly – to those who know what to do, how to do it and what price to expect.
To the other millions of poor souls who are intimidated by or ignorant of our products – good luck! (It’s like me plucking up the courage to go into an electronics store for a new cell phone).
There is rarely a word in garden retail about the emotional outcome, such as the status or pride of a perfect lawn, the joy of pretty flowers in great soil or the taste of a worm-free tomato. After a hundred years of selling lawn food why has no one come up with a retail sales line like “The Perfect Lawn for only “x” cents a square foot per month”?
Why are insect and other controls stacked together on the retail “Wall of Death” instead of being bundled into projects for the weekend or solutions that talk directly to the consumers’ fears or challenges? Got kids and pets – try all these remedies over here. Stressed for time but want fresh veggies? – invest in this bundle and all you have to do is pick, wash and eat!
The American consumer has shown in this recession that they will continue to spend selectively on items or experiences that have connected with their emotions (purses, jewelry, cruises) by saving money on items or tasks that show little obvious emotional value. So they search for savings on A to self-indulge on B.
On which side of the perceived-value fence do you want to be?