For three years now I have been privileged to be asked to analyze and comment on the huge amount of data contained in the annual “National Gardening Survey” (available for sale from the National Gardening Association). Now that the report is published I can share a few “ah-ha” data points to get you thinking (though this barely scratches the surface of the 260 page document!)
In the good news category:
• Household participation (now 85 million households) in gardening is up 2% over 2011;
• Participation in all but one category increased (“Pet & Bird” stayed flat);
• Food Gardening increased for the 6th straight year and is now a lot bigger than “Flower Gardening” in spending power;
• The biggest rise in spending by demographic group was in 18-34 year old males (this might even qualify as GREAT news!)
But here’s the (still) bad news:
Average annual spending per Household is down $4 to a miserly $347 (less than they spend on pizza in a year.)
Overall, the three year trend towards decorating, small-project fixing and food gardening continues with little sign yet of capital-intensive full scale DIY landscaping. So while homeowners are increasingly more willing to get out and garden than they were 3-4 years ago, they are still not spending like we all want them to. Gardening has an image of hard work, time consuming and risky-at-best to many consumers, although they seem to want to give it a cautious “go”.
“Woe is us! Consumers just don’t get it, they’d rather blow their money on clothing and reality TV, what’s wrong with them?”
Is it the Weather? Not on a national scale: there’s always weather somewhere.
The Economy? Yes, a little (…but remember that pizza number!)
Is it Time and Lifestyle? Yes – a lot: and there’s the rub.
In the battle for consumer’s time/attention/money, the lawn & garden industry is competing against some of the best marketers on the planet — from movies on demand to electronics — most of whom have invested in making a compelling “Value Proposition” to the consumer to buy their stuff even in the midst of tighter financial times. In the meantime, too many L&G decision makers are still telling themselves, “oh, we’ll be fine when housing comes back and the economy picks up”.
(Will we? Or will we have already lost our customers’ attention to other pastimes?)
In reality L&G has so many emotional benefits to offer our customers: from increasing a home’s value to healthier food or outdoor time as a family. We know it — but we have simply not made a compelling case. Decision makers in all stages of the L&G chain simply MUST put more effort into getting this message across to consumers.
If you’re in the business of selling lawn & garden products to the American consumer, the insights in the National Garden Survey can be invaluable in helping you focus on areas of growth and opportunity (like those 18-34 year old males!) If you don’t have time right this moment to read the 250++ page report, here’s one of the critical core messages to get you started this season:
It’s time to build a compelling value proposition to communicate to your customers:
- Figure out the cost per week of DIY lawn care vs. services who will ‘do it for you’
- Tell them the cost-benefit of what a spiffy front yard does to home values … in order to sell them a “5 seasons of containers” program, tree installation, or DIY landscape design service.
- Price-compare the pricey packets of fresh herbs or lettuces in the grocery store vs. a plant that can be harvested all season.
- Hook their emotions about the taste of their first home-grown tomato, or the joy of seeing a child entranced by a humming bird.
- Clearly demonstrate that your products can solve their problems: a soft and safe lawn for kids to play on or a plant that won’t get eaten by deer (as shown in the clever signage in the header captured at Sickles Market in NJ).
It’s important to remember that customers don’t already know everything that we do about the ways that gardening can improve their life, but they do seem increasingly ready to listen: It’s time for us to clearly communicate that value … and then GO MAKE THE SALE!