How were garden plant sales at retail this year? Bill Calkins, Ball Seed Independent Garden Center Business Manager, reviews 2018 and informs us that sales results in North America differed largely per region as a result of the different weather conditions. However, "overall, sales were up and attitudes were very positive", he says. Next to providing the sales results and impacts from 2018, he also offers garden trends for the coming year. Below, his year-in-review summary.
The 2018 North American sales story was very much a tale of regionality. Weather severely impacted some areas of the U.S. and Canada and reported sales at retail were down as much as 5% in the Midwest and Southeast U.S. But in areas with good weather, the numbers were much better and increases of 10+% were reported in the Northwest, British Columbia and the Southern half of the U.S.
Overall, sales were up and attitudes were very positive. Transaction counts followed the sales and it was clear that poor weather reduced the number of shoppers at lawn and garden retailers, and subsequently reduced the amount of product sold. Some of the newest national reports for the United States show the highest sales ever by dollars and lawn and garden participation by households. There’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic and early input sales to greenhouses growing for 2019 are up.
In terms of North American trends and products that continue to see strong sales across North America, as well as those that are emerging and gaining popularity, here are some of the ones to keep an eye on.
Large-stature plants. Perhaps driven by an emerging customer base of inexperienced gardeners and also folks considering plants more as decorations than a hobby, we are seeing an explosion in the sales of big, colorful plants. Not only do they look fantastic in containers but they also fill garden spaces and create dramatic landscapes. For growers and retailers, these large specimens have opened up a considerable market for premium gallon pots, with healthy retail price points.
Recognizable component plants. When a little kid draws a flower, what do they draw? Usually, something that resembles a daisy, right? It’s these flower shapes that seem very popular these days and we see more and more of this type of breeding coming to market. Using traditional flower shapes available in plants like zinnias, Echinacea, osteospermum, dahlias and others will add familiarity to mixed combos and gardens and should attract plenty of attention. The other element to these familiar flowers is that today’s shoppers trust them to perform.
Outdoor tropicals and foliage plants. We have seen the growth in indoor foliage plants and have read many articles about how popular they are with younger shoppers. Well, they are taking this trend outdoors now and onto patios and balconies, and sometimes even into the garden. Plants with glossy foliage and a “jungle” look are very much “in” these days. And like the more popular indoor plants, unique foliage and a more wild look seem to be grabbing attention. These types of plants allow the gardener to express their artistic style and share it on social media. Also, climbing plants scaling walls and trellises are very popular on patios and porches. The bigger the better.
Earth and insect friendly. Plants are inherently “green” and today’s gardeners value this aspect of our industry. So it’s our task to leverage the feeling. If a plant conserves water, call it out and share it with shoppers. Plants clean the air and we are seeing more and more of this messaging at retail. Plants attract and nourish pollinators like bees and butterflies – so spread the word! And when it comes to pollinator plants, seek out the ones that provide major benefits, not just the so-so ones. A plant covered in bees and butterflies is cool! And plants that create habitats for animals and birds are going to generate a lot of attention and sales.
When it comes to the big picture trends in garden plants, it seems like today’s most popular products must offer multiple benefits – they should be useful, shareable, healthy and fun. If we can all work together to leverage our products to create this kind of inspiration and excitement, we should continue to see sales grow in 2019 and beyond.