Cultivating New Gardeners

The housing market dip the nation is now facing has changed the way home improvement stores are doing business and it could affect how you do business, as well. A webinar put together by RetailForward (www.retailforward.com) shared the details.

The group predicts no rebound in the housing market until at least 2008 because of deflationary psychology (people don’t want to buy until they see how this whole dip will play out) and the mortgage credit crunch. Homeowners are not doing big remodeling, but shifting to smaller-focus projects. And that, of course, can include improving curb appeal.

More interesting than that, though, is the way the home improvement stores are responding to the struggling housing market. Home Depot and Lowe’s are both trying smaller format stores. Lowe’s is looking at more attractive displays and clearer signage, in addition to new locations that are part of condominium complexes. The Home Depot Yardbirds store format is focused on dense, urban areas, providing them with more upscale stores that offer more service. They’re looking for new and innovative products.

According to Retail Forward, Home Depot and Lowe’s are both mining for new, non-traditional customer bases – the female and Hispanic markets are their new targets. At Home Depot, the new focus on the female shopper includes lightweight and ergonomic tools, upscale appliances, female work wear and Do-It-Herself clinics. Advertisements in Spanish, bilingual signs and a special paint line are planned to attract the Hispanic market.

Making New Customers

The new store concept for HD is the Home Depot Design Center, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about, declaring "Home Depot gets cozy with female shoppers." It includes an earthy color palette to replace Home Depot’s usual orange, an upscale furniture showroom and a garden shop that will peddle orchids, pottery and more sophisticated products. Could there be a better opportunity to sell a ton of product at a high price than at stores like these?

The leadership at Casertano Greenhouses and Farms, our cover story subject, is well-positioned to help retailers meet these new goals. Just one quote from Casertano’s Vice President John Kam explains how the company sees its place in the market: "We’re interested in selling our own product, but also figuring out how more folks can be brought into gardening."

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