A two-year study on consumers’ purchasing behaviours and in-store and online influences unveiled that price is often an afterthought for those buying plants in garden centres. The Floral Marketing Fund (FMF) sponsored study was conducted between 2020 and 2021 on consumers in the United States and Canada.
Rachel Anderson reports on the research findings that were discussed during a webinar held on January 27 (2022), entitled ‘Path to Purchasing for Garden Center Consumers In-Store and Online’, the discussion was led by Dr Amy Bowen, director of consumer insights at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Canada – which carried out the study in collaboration with the country’s University of Guelph.
Bowen revealed that 34 per cent of those interviewed did not notice the price of the plants they were buying. Another 34 per cent saw the price but chose not to make any price comparisons with any other plants in the store.
However, the study found that “container size matters”, – meaning that garden centre shoppers are more price-sensitive to specific pot sizes than others. Bowen advised: “Stock more inventory in pot sizes that consumers are less price-sensitive to – this could lead to a larger profit margin.”
She added: “Pricing of plants should not be linear but instead relate to price sensitivity. If consumers are willing to pay more for a four-inch than an eight-inch pot, then build a profit margin into the four-inch format.” Bowen also reported that, for some plant sizes and pot sizes, an increase of 20 per cent didn’t seem to make a difference to the consumer.
“In terms of how you apply that to your garden centre, I think you have to look at what your consumers are used to paying and how you can build that value up. If your pot is normally $2.99 and the next year they come in, and everything is at $7.99, they will probably notice that. It’s [about] figuring out where you want to position it and what margins you want to be able to try and apply it. With perennials, consumers are not really paying attention to the price in smaller pot sizes. But when the perennials get put into a larger pot size, they pay attention to the price. So, if you want to increase your pricing, you want to be doing it on smaller, rather than larger, pot size formats.”
The research, conducted with industry support and guidance from the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association (CNLA), also revealed that people go to garden centres with a specific purpose – mainly to find a plant to fit a particular location in their home or garden. To that end, the level of impulse buying amongst garden centre shoppers is low. But Bowen noted: “Just because plant impulse purchases are low, it doesn’t mean that consumers won’t pick up items to care for their new plant. “Organise your store so that consumers pick up items that they need to care for their new purchase where they find the plants – not in a separate section.”
Making some suggestions, she said: “Does a plant need pruning? Then have pruning shears at the ready. Does a plant need specific nutrients? If so, keep supplements handy and within reach for a convenient add-on. Be creative – create plant kits so that consumers can pick up a box with all their plant care needs to nurture their green thumb and make a new purchase. So, we need to think outside the ‘plant box’ for impulse buyers.”
The study also looked into online shopping, unveiling that the primary reasons consumers prefer to shop for plants in stores instead of online are “customer service” and “being able to interact with the plants and staff directly.” Bowen asserted: “Investing in staff training is key to maintaining this atmosphere.”
The researcher also stressed the importance of creating an “inviting culture” in-store and online. “The garden centre staff are an asset; invest in your customer service. Consumers value their knowledge and advice and are willing to pay more for the confidence in their purchase.
Invest in staff training and education so that no matter the shopping format, they can be advocates for your business and be a reason why consumers don’t want to shop anywhere else and don’t pay (as much) attention to the price.”
Another finding included the fact that a person’s gardening knowledge can impact his/her plant choices and price sensitivity; therefore, garden centres could create specific areas for gardening novices and gardening experts.