1. Creator class
The chaos and upheaval of 2020 fashioned more creator opportunities as people quit their lackluster jobs in place of greener pastures and personal interests. These creators built on the behaviors and trends of TikTok or Instagram influencers to sell products inspired by their own individuality and values, and garden centers should pay close attention.
Creators are likelier to start their own microbusinesses, and COVID hasn’t changed the fact that many customers want to shop small and give back to the community, she said. Garden centers are poised to partner with these creators by working with local artisans – mural painters, ceramists and more – to boost their local economy. Set up pop-up shops or hosts classes with these micro-influencers to expand their business and create community bonds.
As IGCs logged on to the Zoom boom of 2020, virtual events “broke the boundaries that confined in-person events,” she said. As a result, garden centers should focus their e-commerce efforts on “Shoppertainment,” which is where customers can make online purchases while watching online videos (think Instagram or TikTok). According to Dubow, brands will eventually have a link in their social media handles where shoppers can do this. Entertain your customers into live-buying or virtual buying from your social media accounts. She also noted that the future will be hybrid, and IGCs should offer in-person as well as virtual shopping experiences.
People want to reconnect after the isolation of 2020, but there’s a fine line between FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and FOGO (Fear Of Going Out), she said. To navigate between these social behaviors, retailers should focus on the INsperience for a better EXperience. This means front yards can be the new entertainment space and garden centers can offer up a nice middle ground to quell the anxiety of returning to social life. Think of the front yard as a new room and offer smaller plants, outdoor décor and dining sets to set the mood.
Show customers how to designate kid zones and work-from-home zones in their outdoor spaces as well. Items like trampolines, badminton sets, treehouses or big, leafy plants offer children a fun place to play or hide. Privacy hedges, shady trees and hanging plants can create ideal outdoor working spaces.
4. Bridging the gap
Retailers must provide new gardeners with an educational foundation that bridges their knowledge gap to turn them into lifelong gardeners. Focus on lower price points, as these new consumers are interested in edible gardening and gardening for stress relief. Provide smaller plants for new homeowners and apartment or townhouse dwellers – these people want to garden, and they don’t need a lot of space, she said.
COVID-19 gardeners are from the DIY generation, and retailers should offer them organic and natural products, as well as smart accessories or easy-to-grow plants. Narrow your product range and offer quality over quantity, she said. Use funny, educational videos on TikTok or Instagram, and even experiment with platforms like Reddit or Clubhouse. It's also a good idea to designate a point person who can answer plant questions they might have. Take it a step further and create handy guides embedded in QR codes so they can easily access plant care information. All of these steps will help them become more successful gardeners and keep them coming back.
5. Living TV
Bird watching became a popular pandemic activity, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. As this activity was rediscovered, people shifted into gardening not just for themselves, but for the wildlife around them. This means more customers are caring for their yards and buying native plants. Support these new birders by offering birding gear, native plant collections and leading local bird walks.
6. On-demand flowers
Many people experienced feelings of depression or anxiety due to the pandemic, and cut flowers were the perfect way to offer messages of hope and optimism. Cut flower sales are still booming, and garden centers can hop on the trend by offering bulbs, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Cut flower purchases also led to an unexpected rise in plant sales, and this is offering them the perfect pathway to ornamental gardening.
Try promoting floral shops in your area and partner up with them for classes, events or workshops. Retailers can also invite local flower trucks to come to their stores to build a sense of community.
7. Wild curation
Conservation should be at the top of mind for the industry, as recent data from Conservation Biology has shown that more than triple the number of plants in the U.S. and Canada are going extinct than previously reported. Garden centers can do their part with extinction prevention by boosting customer sustainability efforts, offering local seeds and even offering a limited collection of rare houseplants to pique interest.
8. Living color
Dubow noted that in 2022, the color green will be everywhere. Signifying renewal, rebirth and stability, retailers should take particular note of clover hues. From your floors to décor to accent walls, differing shades of green will provide a zing of energy to your business, she said.