Show The DIY Consumer Some Love!

Emerging “Do-it-Yourself” trends and how to adjust your sales approach accordingly!

Let’s hear it for the Do-It-Yourself types! There have always been shoppers that enjoy home improvement projects, but in the coming years the way those shoppers think, buy, and act may be changing.

Just a few years ago, retired couples and middle aged ladies dominated the garden centers and catalog sales. Today, we are seeing a few younger (bearded) faces in the crowd. Many of these folks are millennial aged (18-34) men looking to grow edibles- everything from tomatoes, to berries, to hops, to culinary herbs.  Your job: embrace these new gardeners and make sure they have the tools (and plants) they need to succeed.

‘Do-It-Yourself’ is Trending and Growing Exponentially 

Cindy Dole and Eric Stromer of the Home Wizards blog identify changing demographics that might increase the sales of edible plants in the coming years. “Hispanics (who are more likely to have experienced a home vegetable garden during childhood) are the fastest-growing minority in the United States… Pair this development with the rise of the millennials, now making up about a quarter of the US population…who are a growing sector of gardening consumers. What you can expect is a focus on urban gardening, not to mention simple, affordable ways to dress up small spaces like a balcony or small yard.”

Baby Boomers and Generation X “Do-it-Yourself” shoppers have been focused on value, enjoying an attractive or productive garden and a feeling of accomplishment. They often own a home with a yard in a suburb. For these gardeners, it is important to show the value of their purchases and help them feel like they can complete the project successfully. They enjoy planting and caring for the products, but also want results- in this case, to know that products will look good and also be productive. Most shoppers over 40 appreciate experts’ opinions and suggestions. Tested reference materials (books, plans, flyers) hold great value for them.

Younger shoppers have a slightly different focus. Marie Sarantakis of considered Ten Unique Traits of Millennial Shoppers. “One study found that Millennials considered it approximately 33% more important for a purchase to make them smile than their Boomer counterparts. On the flip side, 8 out of 10 Boomers said that practical decisions affected their shopping choices… Millennials given a fixed income would splurge on a smartphone rather than a quality outfit. Quality can go by the wayside, if something else can make them feel just as good.”

Millennials may be gardening for more than just an attractive or productive garden. They are looking for a learning and/or social experience. They might be growing the herbs as ingredients for food or cocktails that they will share with friends and family.  Many will make social media part of the process, having been inspired by it or planning to share the experience via technology.  Younger do-it-yourselfers value strangers advice, aren’t as impressed by experts and don’t care about reference materials- they are confident in their ability to find any information they need on their own.

Keeping Up with Your Customers: How-To Keep Your Garden Center Current

So how do you have the garden center ready for all this variation in customer wants and needs? Well, one size (pot or packet!) fits all is just not going to work. Offer vegetable and herb plants or seed packets in as many sizes and price points as you can possibly fit into your garden center. An inspiring urban display, for example, would showcase varieties that can grow well in containers. You might want a couple pre-done window boxes or other larger containers to show the DIYs. A nice container mix for spring is Celebration Swiss Chard, Astro Arugula, Bull’s Blood Beet and Imperial Green Spinach. Ready to go containers should be for sale for your ‘Do-it-for’ me customers, but can do double duty as visual inspiration for others.  Stock the “recipe” plants, empty containers, soil, and amendments in an accessible location nearby. Everything should be offered in a package that could be carried to a 3rd floor roof garden or balcony by a hundred pound woman.

For suburban or rural areas, the DIY crowd might be more into raised beds and in-ground, traditional vegetable gardens. Again- show a planted, raised bed and larger plants, soils and amendments. Do not recommend the compact plants- go big and healthy. These folks will have a trunk or truck and room to own a wheel-barrow, so standard big bags and flats of plants are OK. They will need more plants- offer six packs and include vining crops, beans, corn, and other plants that the city folk don’t have the room for. Place the seed racks where they can be easily found and make sure they complement the plants you offer.

What about catalog seed sales?  DIYers of all ages are shopping for unique plants- the best tasting tomato, the hottest peppers, exotic herbs, the cilantro that smells like their grandmother’s kitchen or a flower that the pioneers grew. Plant variety variation is extremely important. A product line with one bell pepper will sell about 1-2 packets per shopper, whereas a 10-12 variety selection will cause a shopper to want one of each. It is OK to have price variation. As previously mentioned, the boomers can bargain shop and the millennials will pay a premium for a more unique choice that will make them smile.

Seed packet lines and catalogs have the luxury of being able to offer a huge selection of varieties; meaning Americans now have access to seed varieties from all over the globe.  So, brag about your variation, offer expert advice for some shoppers and tout the experience to the others. Good photos or drawings of the finished plant go a long way.  Don’t make it sound too easy (even if it is!). DIY folks want a challenge and some bragging rights. They’re going to share photos of the one prize pumpkin they coaxed from a tiny seed and nurtured all summer. The grape tomatoes they grow will be a special treat for their kids or grandkids- not something they could pick up at the supermarket.

DIY gardeners are hard-working, invested folks who build the foundation of the gardening market. Show them a little love and attention, offer them some advice, sell them some plants, some seeds, a great hat and an experience that they can share, and they will be faithful customers for years to come.

For Urban Areas – Try These Varieties!

Red Robin Tomatoes

Hungarian Cheese Peppers

Santo Cilantro

Jalafuego Pepper

For The Suburbs – Try These Varieties!

Fall Splendor Plus Pumpkin

Sweet Hearts Tomato

Primavera Spaghetti Squash

Citrino Honeydew Melon