For 33 years, the National Gardening Survey has presented a statistical picture of who the gardening consumer is and where they are going. And according to garden retail analyst Ian Baldwin, who presented his analysis of the results yesterday at the 2011 Farwest Show, the picture has been very clear over the last several years.
The numbers show gardeners to be predominantly high-income people, over the age of 55, with no children in the home. As these loyal customers age, changes are coming for the horticulture industry — bad changes, unless professionals in all channels adapt what they are doing for a new generation — a new generation that doesn’t work in the yard as their parents did, that generally rejects the idea of hobbies, and is well-educated but fears failure above all else.
We’ll have more about this in an upcoming issue of Digger, but what is the key for growers, garden centers and landscapers hoping to survive and succeed in coming years? Meeting the needs of the consumer, of course. According to Baldwin, younger consumers are willing to garden, but the hort industry must help them overcome their fear of failure and lack of knowledge. Most of all, growers and retailers must “connect the dots” to show consumers how easy and simple it is to have a beautiful yard if they just make the small investment of time and money.
What is “connecting the dots?” According to Baldwin, it can mean sales help on the floor. It can mean Ikea-like vignettes to show what can be done. It definitely means making things simpler and emphasizing the value customers will get when they spend their money. If the industry does these sorts of things, then it has hope of raising the younger generation’s average household expenditure on gardening to the levels of their parents. That means survival. If not, then it means trouble. Baldwin’s message was sobering, but ultimately inspiring in that it gave hort pros an idea of the work that lies ahead.
Baldwin will be presenting again on Saturday. His seminar, “Leave Portland with a Plan,” will take place from 10:30 a.m.–Noon. You need a seminar pass to get in, which is available at the registration counters. Details are here.