5 Things You Need To Know About Young Plant Consumers [10% Project]

Mother and Daughter gardeningYounger garden consumers think it’s important for children to learn how to grow plants, even though they themselves see gardening as a time-consuming and expensive hobby, our latest research shows.

This insight was just one of many unearthed by 10% Project as it seeks ways to increase consumer interest in plants and local garden centers. We conducted three focus groups made up of consumers under 50 years old during the late winter this year. These focus groups took place over three days.

The first focus group was made up of 18-29 year olds, the second of 30-49 year olds and the third of parents with children between 2 and 12.

Our next steps are to develop marketing campaigns based on issues our research revealed, then work with garden centers to use the marketing during the spring of 2016 and measure the results.

You may recall the 10% Project conducted similar research in 2014. That research, funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, took place entirely in Ohio. This year’s research, funded by Flowers Canada, took place in Ontario, Canada.

Out of the hundreds of pages of transcripts, here are the themes that most caught our attention.

1. It’s Uncomfortable Feeling Ignorant

Most see themselves as novices when it comes to plant knowledge. Even those who see themselves as average are insecure. There’s an arcane feel about plant knowledge, making it mysterious and intimidating.
Slightly more than half (33 out of 61) saw themselves as novices, while 22 viewed themselves as average. The comparison was made to friends and neighbors, which was primarily the reason so many of them indicated they were average.

That sense of ignorance undermines younger consumers’ sense of ownership when it comes to gardening. They aren’t typical gardeners, because that group of people are older, and have lots of time to understand the mysteries of plants. Even those who rate themselves as having average skill levels at gardening don’t think they know enough to advise anyone. They only know enough to keep most of their own plants alive.
There’s a tone of the plants being threatened with death at all times, and their meager knowledge does just barely enough to hold off a yard full of brown, brittle shrubs and vegetables.

“I know all the basics, and have had experience gardening all my life,” says one participant, Rachel S., who is in the 18-29 year-old group, “but would not really be able to give anyone tips or anything. I don’t have any gardening secrets. I don’t know the small details that can help a gardener, but I know enough to have a successful garden.”

Jeff B., who’s in the 30-49 year-old group, sums up the effect this sense of ignorance has: “I just buy what I think looks nice and isn’t too expensive and won’t die if I forget to water it for a few days.”

2. Yes, Online Research Is A Big Deal. But So Is Trusted Real-World Advice

The conventional wisdom that today’s customers are researching everything online was born out by our group of consumers. Yet the internet isn’t the last word. Many turn to older relatives for advice about as often as they turn to the internet.

Understanding this generational mix will be key to attracting new customers to local garden stores.

Even when a family member offers advice, online research is standard. The family member’s advice is trusted, but our participants want to learn more about what they are about to take on.

Immediate family influenced nearly all of the participants in our study, primarily the mother (22 mentions). Second was the father with 13 mentions; these would include both respondents that listed either parent or said “parents.” The other family members who influenced the first gardening experiences of our panel were grandmother (5), grandfather (3), sister (1), wife (2), children (2) and brother (1). Clearly, the female influence was substantially larger than the male influence.

Cheryl H. wrote, “When I was a kid, Dad built raised garden plots and grew tomatoes, peppers and corn. My grandparents had rhubarb, raspberries and apple trees in their backyard. The first things I ever grew on my own were tomatoes, in pots on the deck of my apartment. I chose them because I like tomatoes and they’re easy to grow.”

3. Food Gardening Is Almost As Common As Flower Gardening

It’s no surprise that our group said food is a big reason gardening holds any attraction for them. (But don’t rule out beauty as a motivator just yet — it still outpaced food as why they buy the plants they do. Beauty was mentioned 27 times while food was mentioned 19 times.)

One reason food holds appeal is that it gives younger gardeners a sense of accomplishment.

Here’s what Minh L., a Gen Y participant, said about food gardening: “I generally like to know how to do … well, everything. So being able to grow my own food and become more self-sufficient has made me look more deeply into gardening. I like to experiment with different seeds to see what grows, even if I have no idea what I’m doing.”

One mom, Angela L., was even more enthusiastic about what she saw as the payoff to food gardening: “The glory of the harvest and enjoying the fruits of your labor!”

As expected, health concerns are another driver of food gardening.

“Now I do more research into what plants I can grow myself so that I can control what goes into the foods that I eat. It has led to a healthier lifestyle,” another 18-29 year old, Michele D. said.

The same sentiment was expressed by those belonging to the Gen X and parents groups, so the need for knowing where healthy food comes from is widely held.

Beauty and food were the two key themes that emerged in the focus group with regard to the best aspects of gardening. Kevin R. said, “I ate the peas and carrots we grew last year, as well as the potatoes. If you can eat what you grow, it is a major success.”

4. Outdoor Tasks Are Annoying

Our 2015 focus group sees gardening as time consuming and hard work, which is a repeat of what we learned with our 2014 groups.

For most, gardening is seen as a chore, and many assume that those who like doing it have the luxury of time, space and income.

That said, the same people also see gardening as healthy and as a way to connect with nature.

S.N., a parent, summed up many of their sentiments: “Unfortunately, I don’t have lots of time to invest in maintaining a decent garden. Having a dog also makes gardening a challenge. However, having the vegetable garden is a great pleasure that we look forward to planting every summer.”

The culprit? The appeal of modern technology.

“People my age can’t pry their eyes from their cellphones for a meal, let alone long enough to tend a garden,” said a Gen Y participant, Megan C. “Others generally feel it is way too much work, and not worth the reward. Or lack thereof if it fails.”

Lack of time (12), hard work (9) and dirt/dirty (7) were the most often cited downsides. Some found gardening boring (4), for hippies (2) or those who were/are obsessed (1) or older (1). The problems were the weather (2), pests (3), frustration in general (2), weeding (2), expensive (2), caused one to be scheduled/tied-down (2) or gave the person too much sun (3) or aches/pains (3).

That can have a major impact on how plants and gardening are viewed if something goes wrong. If you love a task, the occasional failure is only a hiccup. But if you approach a task with a sense of uncertainty and thinking it’s a chore, failure has an outsized impact.

“I once helped plant shrubs at my grandmother’s, but after a month or so, some of the shrubs started to die for no apparent reason. We ended up removing them and replacing them with new ones which fared much better. It was frustrating because it was expensive and time consuming to replace them,” said Jason S., who was in the 18-29 year-old group.

A parent, Frank T., told a similar story, with more emotion: “I planted a Japanese maple tree about five years ago. After the ice storm last year, the maple tree was dead. I felt so sad, as this was the first major purchase I made on a tree. It was so beautiful for the last five years. I miss my tree.”

In the video game era, when fun activities have a predictable — and fast — outcome, the variable results of gardening can come as an affront.

“I don’t like that it can be unpredictable,” said Rachel S., a Gen Y participant. “Like, you can do everything right and it’s not guaranteed that a plant will survive or thrive. I am also not very patient, so it is difficult for me to wait the long time it takes for most plants to grow to fruition. I get so excited and want to check on them at least twice a day, only to find no change.

“I also don’t have too much time on my hands to properly care for plants, which is why I have been resorting to lower-maintenance plants in the last few years — house plants I can water every so often, leave on a good shelf in view and in sunlight and just enjoy them being there. I don’t think I can minimize any of these aspects because they are least-liked by me only because they are out of my control. I can’t do anything to change them and that’s what frustrates me.”

Kevin R. made an insightful comment: “It is a lot of work. Watering, weeding, digging the garden beds, etc. It takes up a lot of time and effort. And if I had any suggestions on how to get around these aspects, I would be doing them, not talking about them.”

5. Adults Want Kids To Experience Gardening As A Life Lesson

Ironically, despite the negative feedback many participants gave on their own gardening habits and attitudes, nearly everyone agreed that it is a good idea to get children involved in gardening.

“Parents should involve their children in these activities because most kids don’t grow up enjoying gardening, which is mostly because they weren’t exposed to it in their childhood,” said Jenny C., a Gen Y participant. “If they grow up learning up gardening, chances are they will partake in these activities too when they grow up.”

Vanessa M. added: “It gives children a hobby and gets them outside instead of sitting inside watching TV. It also gives you time to bond with them when you teach them how to garden.”

The gardening activity for kids mentioned most often was growing (21 mentions), but letting children help with watering (6), picking/harvesting (4) and digging (3) were also specifically mentioned. Five people mentioned that they wanted to use the garden to inspire their children, and two mentioned teaching responsibility.

Eating the bounty was a popular benefit for kids, mentioned by 10 participants. A few (3) mentioned that it was dirty (which may appeal to some children) or that children could be helpful in weeding (2) while a few others (3) said it was a good way to get their children outdoors.

“It is a good way to spend time with the kids and get them away from the Xbox and Playstation,” Michael R. said.

S.N said it’s important her children experience the full cycle of growth and harvest: “When we have our vegetable garden, it’s a family affair. We always start the plants from seeds, so from the get-go our daughter is actively involved in the process. Doing veggies also gives kids more opportunities to be involved in looking after the plants, and in terms of finished product, there’s nothing better than being able to eat what you’ve grown.”

The Emotional Side Of Gardening

In addition to sharing these key findings, we thought it important to share a few of our participants’ comments to show their most heartfelt thoughts on gardening.

“Plants to me represent life, new beginning, and you appreciate nature more. It makes the house and yard more appealing and full of life!” Justin J.

“Best gardening experience? I would have to say an aloe vera plant. It grew so beautiful and at the time my mother was very ill with her illness she had a lot of pain, we used this plant for her and she actually felt better when we used it on her. This was one of my mom’s favorite plants. It sticks in my head every day remembering her soft soul. That is what this plant does to me every time I see it.” Barbara L.

“I find plants make homes feel more welcoming and fresh. I like having plants in all public areas and my office. Gardening gives me a sense of accomplishment because if your plants grow, you feel like you successfully created and maintained life.” Monica M.

Next Steps In This 10% Project

We are in the process of developing marketing campaigns based on the key findings. Watch for a our articles about these campaigns in the coming weeks.

If you would like to read a more in depth version of our consumer research, you can find that report here. 

Topics:

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “5 Things You Need To Know About Young Plant Consumers [10% Project]

  1. Excellent article and full of insights for garden centers and other green industry businesses. It’s given me much to think about in terms of finding garden projects and marketing messages for them that appeal to these consumers. If breeders can keep coming with the durable, low-maintenance plants that offer major flowering, excellent foliage, and/or edible fruit, that will help us sell more plants, and if hardgoods companies continue to streamline the ease and effectiveness of their products, as well as continue to offer do-able, small-scale project-oriented products, that will help on that end. Of course, we all have to do our part to help these consumers understand the benefits, beauty, and joy of gardening. I don’t think we should sugar-coat the work aspect. I think we need to offer supporting products that makes the work easier and more efficient, and then we need to sell the benefits of the work: exercise, sun-exposure (vitamin d), fresh air, enjoying all the life in the garden, discovering flowers, fruit, bugs, growing your own untainted food, etc, etc. We should also address the “death issue”. In an age where “durable’ goods, last 2-3 years, we should be able to create more realistic expectations not to mention help them accept that everything is temporary and that a better way of thinking about it is how much enjoyment a person got for that plant that died. How much money did people spend on meals the enjoyment of which was a fleeting few hours? We can also help people realize that anytime a plant dies, it creates the opportunity to try a new, possibly more fabulous plant!

  2. We have relocated our edibles to be upfront and center. The new placement will have road frontage visibility as well as newly redesigned benches. Signage will be a intergal part of this new design. A large eye catching sign MIGHT be integrated which is large bold letters “EAT ME”, Politically correct?

More From Retailing...

September 27, 2016

Kitchen Counter Gardening Leads Garden Media Group’s Annual Trends List

This year's list includes several items around healthy living and eating, from gardening indoors year-round, to "forest bathing."

Read More
bruce-butterfield-and-ngs-image

September 27, 2016

Bruce Butterfield, National Garden Survey Researcher, Dies

The man who headed up the National Gardening Survey for the past 35 years, Bruce Butterfield, has died. He was 67 years old. Butterfield’s work with the National Gardening Survey gave the green industry a reliable tool to understand consumer gardening practices and spending. Bruce Butterfield started his career as the Market Research Director at the National Gardening Association in 1978 and continued that same work until his death on September 5 as the Research Director at GardenResearch.com. “These many years of experience doing market research about gardeners and gardening trends gives him a unique understanding of who gardeners are, what they need and want, why they buy the products they do, where they shop, how gardening trends have changed in the past, and where they are headed in the future,” his bio on GardenResearch.com reads.       Butterfield was also behind What Gardeners’ Think and the Environmental Lawn […]

Read More

September 26, 2016

How Even An Overworked Plant Retailer Can Predict Consumer Trends

Years ago, I read an article about Pottery Barn and the women who were making it a success. It was eye-opening to realize that a glossy, national chain like Pottery Barn used to buy products in a similar way garden retailers do. There was one section of that article that really caught my imagination. It was the profile of Celia Tejada, the woman who moved Pottery Barn from buying products from outside vendors to designing their own products. When Tejada joined Pottery Barn, she instructed her entire staff to begin keeping an eye out for things they liked, no matter how minor. So if they were at a restaurant with friends, or walking along a street and something caught their eye, they were to either buy it or photograph it and place it in a room set aside for these kinds of inspiration. When it came time to select themes for the […]

Read More
Latest Stories

September 27, 2016

Kitchen Counter Gardening Leads Garden Media Group̵…

This year's list includes several items around healthy living and eating, from gardening indoors year-round, to "forest bathing."

Read More
bruce-butterfield-and-ngs-image

September 27, 2016

Bruce Butterfield, National Garden Survey Researcher, D…

The man who headed up the National Gardening Survey for the past 35 years, Bruce Butterfield, has died. He was 67 years old. Butterfield’s work with the National Gardening Survey gave the green industry a reliable tool to understand consumer gardening practices and spending. Bruce Butterfield started his career as the Market Research Director at the National Gardening Association in 1978 and continued that same work until his death on September 5 as the Research Director at GardenResearch.com. “These many years of experience doing market research about gardeners and gardening trends gives him a unique understanding of who gardeners are, what they need and want, why they buy the products they do, where they shop, how gardening trends have changed in the past, and where they are headed in the future,” his bio on GardenResearch.com reads.       Butterfield was also behind What Gardeners’ Think and the Environmental Lawn […]

Read More

September 26, 2016

How Even An Overworked Plant Retailer Can Predict Consu…

Years ago, I read an article about Pottery Barn and the women who were making it a success. It was eye-opening to realize that a glossy, national chain like Pottery Barn used to buy products in a similar way garden retailers do. There was one section of that article that really caught my imagination. It was the profile of Celia Tejada, the woman who moved Pottery Barn from buying products from outside vendors to designing their own products. When Tejada joined Pottery Barn, she instructed her entire staff to begin keeping an eye out for things they liked, no matter how minor. So if they were at a restaurant with friends, or walking along a street and something caught their eye, they were to either buy it or photograph it and place it in a room set aside for these kinds of inspiration. When it came time to select themes for the […]

Read More
urban-outfitters-logo-feature

September 26, 2016

Terrain’s Parent Company Breaks Impass For Waterl…

There’s been a development in the stalled plans for a new Terrain garden store from Urban Outfitters on the former Waterloo Gardens location. In a letter to Easton Township, PA, officials, Urban Outfitters’ Chief Development Officer J. David Ziel says the company is removing a key element that had met strong resistance from the community around Devon Yards, its term for the development plan on the former Waterloo Gardens site. Devon Yards will no longer include a four-story apartment building in its “lifestyle center” project, Ziel wrote. But it will still include its third Terrain store, a large format Anthropologie, and several eateries. The planned apartment building had created friction with local residents, Mainline Media News reported back in April. While residents welcomed the retail aspects of the plan, they felt a large apartment building would change the character of the community. The developer who will work on the project, […]

Read More
Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards

September 19, 2016

Garden Centers Of America Names 2016 Best Bathroom Awar…

Every year, a panel judges the entries on the bathroom’s creativity and comfort to the customer’s overall shopping experience.

Read More
redbud-the-rising-sun-greenleaf-nursery-feature

September 19, 2016

Garden Center Group Dishes Out Retail Awards At SEGreen…

The Garden Center Group presented another round of Retailers’ Choice Awards at the Southern Nursery Association’s new SEGreen 2016 conference. Check out this year’s winners.

Read More
Griffin Logo

September 19, 2016

What You Should Do At The Griffin Expos, Pennsylvania E…

The second of the fall Griffin Expos takes place this week in Lancaster, PA, on September 21-22. If you're heading to this distributor show, make sure you check out these highlights.

Read More

September 9, 2016

It’s Official. Trees Are A Miracle Drug.

Recent studies show that trees are an outrageously powerful good for humankind. Luckily, tree sales are already on the increase. If your customers are aware of these kind studies, those sales may continue to soar.

Read More
Sunflare Japanese Forest Grass

September 8, 2016

Garden Retailers ID Their Favorite Findings At Farwest

The Retailers’ Choice Awards, once again coordinated by The Garden Center Group, were presented to nine exhibiting companies at the 2016 Farwest Show.

Read More

September 7, 2016

How Chalet Nursery Hits The Perceived-Value Sweet Spot

Steve Bailey says the sweet spot in pricing, that proverbial ideal price for your center, is tricky. Price it too high, and the units sold may drop. Price it too low, and you might not sell any more units than at a higher price.

Read More

September 6, 2016

What You Can Do At This Week’s Distributor Shows

It’s a busy week, with three distributor shows scheduled. If you’re heading Arett Sales, BFG Supply, or the Prince Fall Booking shows, we’ve got the inside scoop on what you’ll not want to miss. Arett Open House Atlantic City, September 11 to 13 Arett’s annual Open House event includes plenty of food and exhibitors (there’s more than 400 booths). There are three keynotes lined up. Kicking off on Sunday, retail motivational speaker Bob Phibbs will fire everyone up with his talk, “You Can Compete.” during a brunch. On Monday, consultant Ian Baldwin will get down to details in his “The Applied Science Of Winning Market Share.” And AmericanHort’s Jennifer Noble will offer the final keynote, asking retailers, “What If We Knew The Future?” And you’ll want to make sure you attend the evening entertainment: Sunday: Happy hour, dinner and live jazz on the show floor. Monday: Dinner at the Tropicana Hotel. BFG Expo […]

Read More

September 6, 2016

Which Plants Do Retailers Change The Prices On Most?

When our panel of experts (Dr. Charlie Hall, Texas A&M, Dr. Bridget Behe, Michigan State University, Consultants Steve Bailey, Ian Baldwin, and Sid Raisch) and I put together a pricing survey, we were curious about which plants retailers were most likely to change the price on. In other words, what’s most likely to be put on sale? Which categories are most likely to have increased prices due to the perceived value? Value-Added Plants Let’s start with value-added plants. Before the survey, most of us thought trendy plants, combo gardens, and large plants would be near the top of the list. We were partially right. Big plants and container gardens are at the top. But succulents and mini plants weren’t even close to the top. The four plant categories that are most likely to have perceived-value pricing applied are: Container Gardens Shrubs Large Perennials Trees Not surprisingly, container gardens leads the pack. About 72% of retailers say […]

Read More
Greenhouse Grower Retailing Logo

September 5, 2016

How Is Greenhouse Grower RETAILING Doing So Far?

Less than a year ago, Greenhouse Grower RETAILING launched. We’d love to get your feedback on how we can improve, and what we should continue doing.  

Read More

August 29, 2016

Does Point-Of-Sale (POS) Make A Difference for Plant Re…

When Greenhouse Grower RETAILING asked plant retailers about their plant pricing techniques, we also asked if they use POS or not. We decided to take a close look at where these two groups differ:

Read More
Griffin Logo

August 29, 2016

What You Should Do At The Griffin Expos, Massachusetts …

The first of the fall Griffin Expos takes place this week in West Springfield, MA, August 31 and September 1, 2016. A Lancaster, PA, Expo will take place next month. If you’re heading to this distributor show, make sure you check out these highlights: White Elephant Sale Each year, Griffin clears out its branch warehouses by holding a sale of its closeout and overstock items. The discounts are deep, and the competition for the items are fierce. “Once items are gone, they’re gone. So, that first hour or so is kind of like ‘the running of the brides’ at Filene’s,” says Tracey Gorrell, Marketing Communications Lead at Griffin. On-Site Experts Griffin offers opportunities to connect face-to-face with industry experts and get answers, tips, and advice catered to your unique needs and interests: The GGSPro team is available to field your questions; and 150 manufacturers, breeders, and young-plant producers can discuss […]

Read More

August 29, 2016

Fire Damages Swanson Nursery

Fire crews were called to Seattle-based Swanson’s Nursery in the middle of the night on August 22, the Ballard News Tribune reported. The fire, likely started by an “electrical issue,” destroyed bathrooms and a seminar room, Retail Manager Eric Nordstrom told the news outlet. Smoke damage was more extensive, however. Swanson’s President, Brian Damron says the fire also reached a storage area and utility room. A fire department spokesman says the fire broke through the greenhouse walls, and that part of a wooden wall had to be removed so the crew could reach the flames. The store’s café resides next to the damaged area, and is temporarily closed. It’s an important part of Swanson’s off season revenue strategy. The store is working with a timeline of repairs with its insurance company so it can determine when the cafe can reopen, the news outlet reports. The fire was out relatively quickly once […]

Read More

August 22, 2016

How Bad Plant Pricing Can Hurt A Good Retailer

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING's pricing survey finds that the most profitable pricing method is used by only 8% of plant retailers.

Read More

August 22, 2016

IGC Chicago Scores Big With Attendees And Exhibitors

The 10th anniversary of the annual event at Chicago’s Navy Pier drew a record number of first-time attendees, while exhibitors reported higher sales than ever.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]