Proven Winners Survey Offers Insight Into Consumers

Proven Winners conducted a consumer gardening survey last week that generated about 7,000 responses into Monday from consumers in the United States and Canada. Consumers were asked all kinds of questions, such as when they begin to plan for spring, why they like to garden and whether or not they’ve ever purchased plants online.

“One of the things our industry fails to do is listen,” says Marshall Dirks, director or marketing and public relations at Proven Winners. “Most of the people in our industry are men. It’s really the end consumer we need to be most concerned with, and 93 percent of the people who purchase our plants are women–at least on our e-mail lists.”

Here are a few of Proven Winners’ findings:

–The majority (67 percent) of consumers plan for spring throughout the year. Seventeen percent don’t plan ahead—they simply buy what they see and like at stores–and 16 percent plan several months ahead of the spring season.

–Proven Winners asked how consumers plan their container plantings. The majority (57 percent) simply look at what plants are available to them. The second-most popular response (16 percent) was consumers buy the colors that match their house.

–Why do consumers garden? The reasons are numerous, including response options Proven Winners included like 1) It beautifies my home; 2) It is good exercise; 3) I find it relaxing; 4) I enjoy watching the plants grow and change; and 5) I get nice comments from visitors and neighbors. The most common response (47 percent) was consumers garden because they enjoy watching the plants grow and change. Exercise (1 percent) generated the fewest number of responses.

–How about whether or not consumers have ever purchased plants online? Proven Winners generated 6,972 consumer responses into Monday, and it was almost a 50-50 split for those who have purchased plants online versus those who have not. Slightly more than 3,500 consumers indicated they have purchased plants online. Slightly more than 3,400 consumers indicated they have not.

“The question that surprised me the most is how many people purchased plants online,” Dirks says. “That blew me away. If I’m a garden center, that either scares the heck out of me–or (makes me ask) why don’t I sell my same plants online?”

Proven Winners recently began selling plants online. For 2011, Dirks anticipates Proven Winners’ online plant sales to double the market set in 2010. Online, however, Proven Winners has not had one repeat customer–and that’s something Dirks plans to change.

“We’re not wining and dining these same customers,” he says. “Given that we’re also skewing toward a younger generation and some new gardeners–which we haven’t always done–I do anticipate more people will be buying plants online.”

Dirks wants to make it clear, though, that he’s not in competition with garden centers by selling plants online. In fact, he says 70 percent of consumers who look at plants on the Proven Winners site abandon their cart. The site also saw a 43 percent increase in the local retailer searches via ZIP code, totaling more than 600,000 customers. “We want to sell our plants locally, not via online,” he adds. “The online is just for last-minute sales when they cannot find product locally.”

Visit Proven Winners online at and watch the consumer survey results roll in here.

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