21 January 2022
Millennials buying new homes is “good news” for the American horticulture industry, notes AmericanHort’s chief economist Dr Charlie Hall. This article written by Rachel Anderson features in FloraCulture International January 2022.
Leading the “Vaccines, Plants and Dollars – The Year in Review” webinar (held on December 3, 2021), Dr Hall revealed that, in 2020, 38 per cent of home purchases in the US were by millennials. (source: National Association of Realtors (NAR).)
“They are going to represent a big chunk of personal disposable income by 2030 – millennials are coming into their moment,” he asserted.
Dr Hall also pointed out that two separate sources – namely Axiom Marketing and the National Gardening Survey (2020) – revealed that there were some 18 million new gardeners in the US. “So, we’ve got all these folks that are buying homes who need flowers and shrubs and trees for them. That’s good news for the industry.”
Furthermore, Dr Hall revealed that when millennials were asked (by Axiom) what sort of outdoor living projects they are likely to complete during 2022, 43.8 per cent of them (the greatest response) said they were likely to update their outdoor entertaining space or deck, while 39.9 per cent of them said they planned to create more outdoor space.
With these trends in mind, Dr Hall predicted that pent up demand for horticulture products will continue in 2023. “I think we are going to see more household events, and people are going to want flowers, shrubs and trees.”
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Hall also made some other predictions for the coming year.
He forecast, for example, that disruptions to the supply chain will necessitate more business-to-business vertical coordination – standing orders, increased lead times, greater use of website shops and online platforms, and more virtual sales contacts/demos.
“We are going to utilise technology tools to facilitate trade in the supply chain. There are going to be some changes made in how we conduct business.”
Dr Hall also noted that e-commerce applications and other technologies such as “big data” and artificial intelligence will expand.
“We [recently] saw five years of growth in the e-commerce side of our business in one year, and we will continue to see growth in e-commerce. Our industry has only scratched the surface – there’s a lot of opportunities there.”
Automated technology will lead to innovations in logistics – “moving stuff through the supply chain in a smarter fashion” – another necessity, particularly given the chronic shortage of truck drivers in the United States (and elsewhere).
More alternatives to plastics are likely to be developed and “a more sustainable mindset throughout the supply chain,” explained Dr Hall.
“There’s going to be a big push in our industry to reduce our use of plastics. Current use cost us 28 per cent more (minimum) than plastics did a year ago – fortunately, plastics only represent 10.2 per cent of our cost of goods.”
Dr Hall warned that rising input costs would lead to price increases, with less price sensitivity in the supply chain (as the industry has already experienced). Therefore, growers were advised to use their working capital wisely “because of the uncertainty of the future.”
While there will be fewer new plant introductions, and certain plants will be in short supply, there will be an opportunity for other crops. And surpluses of certain plants are inevitable but not until 2023 or beyond (hopefully). “We see these shortages, and then we turn them into surpluses in record amounts of time,” said Dr Hall.
On a positive note, there is an opportunity to increase demand. This plan is because “now is the time” for the American horticulture industry to convince people of plants’ health, well-being, environmental and ecosystem services, and economic benefits.
Dr Hall said: “Numerous marking efforts are underway. Now is the time to shout about the plants’ benefits and sustainability initiatives that resonate [with people].”
Currently, the Build Back Better Act has earmarked $3.75 billion for competitive grants to promote conservation and tree planting by state, local and tribal governments and non-profit organisations.
Dr Hall said: “We need to make sure that all this is kept in the Build Back Better, and hopefully if that’s passed, there will be some windfalls of money coming in for conservation projects, which bodes well for a number of our nurseries and so forth.”
He concluded his talk with a wise message during these uncertain times: “There are the things that matter and the things that you can control. And the overlap of those two circles is the things that you’ve got to focus on.”