Good News On The Economy [Opinion]

Robin Siktberg

Despite a season with frustrating weather, it was great to see mostly positive reports coming in from our Spring 2013 Recap Survey. And it was even better to see an article in the August 12th issue of Time that provided support on a macro level to what growers are saying they’re seeing in their own businesses.

In “Why the Economy Should Pop,” author Robert Altman, former deputy secretary of the treasury during the Clinton Administration, says the economy is growing (1.7 percent in the second quarter) and is poised for significant growth in 2014 — in the 3 to 5 percent range. He expects this growth to continue for two or three more years.

It’s good news for the green industry, because some of the factors driving this growth directly affect plant purchasing. Altman says growth in the housing market is key. The glut of unsold homes has finally normalized, and demand is increasing. The number of people buying or renting for the first time has doubled from its low and is rising.

Altman predicts residential investment will grow 15 to 20 percent. That will provide jobs  and revenue in all the related services, including landscaping.

More jobs also mean more disposable income. As we know, consumer spending bottomed out in the depth of the recession, at a time of high consumer debt. According to Altman, both of those factors have normalized. Household debt has fallen to historical lows, and household net worth is at a record high. Consumer confidence is finally returning, and retail sales increased 5.7 percent in June compared to the same time last year.

So, consumers have more to spend. How do we make sure they spend it with us? By adjusting to the new normal. Meet these new householders where they are. Market to them on social media, grow plants they are interested in — which are not necessarily the ones you’ve always grown. Provide them with the instant gardens they crave, even if you don’t understand why they don’t want to do it themselves.
Gen Y is focused on lifestyle, which includes décor and healthy living. As an industry, we have to make sure they understand plants are an essential part of that healthy lifestyle. Help your retailers promote the benefits of plants, so consumers will not just look at plants as extras, but as essential components of their homes.

“I learned my lesson about being too cocky,” says a grower in our Spring Recap Survey. “I wasn’t complacent; I have always tried to learn and grow new things. But if 2013 has taught me anything, it is that I have gotten too comfortable in our business. I need to step it up a notch and make more decisions based on market trends and less on what I have always done. We need change.”

Well said.

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