Each spring, millions of Americans head outdoors to turn over the soil and plant gardens. Approximately 79 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more types of gardening, according to a 2002 survey conducted by the National Gardening Association on behalf of the Mailorder Gardening Association (MGA). What’s more, these 85 million households spent an average of $466 on their lawns and gardens in 2002 for a total of $39.6 billion.
The typical gardener is a home-owner between the ages of 45 and 65, who cares about the appearance of his or her home and property and enjoys spending time outdoors. How gardeners spend their time has changed a bit in recent years. In general, fewer gardeners are growing seedlings in their basements for planting in the spring, according to Bill LaPierre, vice president of the catalog brokerage division at Millard Group, which
handles list brokerage and list management for a number of gardening catalogers. Another interesting trend to note is that people are planting fewer vegetable gardens and more flower gardens. Indeed, according to the MGA survey, the most popular gardening activities for mail-order gardeners were flower gardening (95 percent), vegetable gardening (72 percent), lawn care (71 percent), houseplant care (71 percent), container gardening (64 percent), and landscaping (59 percent).
A Tough Row to Hoe
While gardening still remains a popular hobby, not everything is coming up roses for mail-order gardening companies. The MGA survey finds mail-order sales account for only seven percent of the gardening market. Of the 85 million U.S. households who garden, just 28 percent purchased one or more categories of mail-order garden merchandise.
National Gardening Association Research Director Bruce Butterfield attributes this to the fact that the average gardener doesn’t always plan ahead and mostly buys plants and products spur of the moment at retail. LaPierre concurs, adding that big-box stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot now represent half of all the gardening products purchased in the United States.