Could the Lawn and Garden Business be Doing Better?

By Bruce Butterfield

Could the lawn and garden business be doing better? We think so, and the market research statistics we collect annually via our National Gardening Survey confirm it. NGA has been tracking the lawn and garden market for more than 25 years, and frankly we're not happy with the trends we have seen lately. All of the major indicators tell us that instead of growing, the garden business has essentially stalled over the last two years.

Participation in lawn and garden activities is declining
While an average of three of four households in the United States (80 million households) have participated in one or more types of indoor and outdoor do-it-yourself lawn and garden activities annually for the last five years, that number has shown a decline in two of the last three years. Fewer than half of all households (48%) did their own lawn care last year, and even fewer have a flower garden (36%) or a vegetable garden (22%). Those are the lowest numbers we have seen in the last five years. It seems that for most people today, if an activity doesn't come with a remote control or a keyboard, they're not really interested. Are we a nation of gardeners? I don't think so.

Lawn and garden sales have declined in two of the last three years
Three years ago sales for all types of lawn and garden products (green goods, including plants or trees, shrubs, seeds, and bulbs; hard goods lines such as outdoor power equipment and tools; bagged goods like fertilizer and soils; and lawn and garden packaged goods) totaled $39.6 billion. Last year sales for these same lawn and garden product categories totaled $36.8 billion. That's a decrease of only 7%, but it's happened during the hottest housing market the country has seen in more than a decade. You would think that lawn and garden sales would benefit from the recent real estate boom, but they haven't. About 80% of households in the United States are single-family homes with a yard, and for most people their home is their single largest investment. It seems odd that, on an annual basis, most people spend far more than twice as much on gasoline than they do to maintain their quality of life at home and improve their real estate equity by investing in their lawns and landscapes.

On average, people spend less than $500 a year on their lawns and gardens
Most people spend less than 1% of their annual household income each year on their lawns and gardens. Last year the nationwide average spent on lawn and garden activities was $449, which was down from $457 the previous year and $466 the year before that. Whether your annual household income is $50,000 (which is about the median household income in the United States) or $100,000, almost no one in this country spends more than 1% of their annual income on their lawns and gardens. I often joke that many people spend more on pizza and beer in a year than they do on gardening, and it shows! Apparently gardening is simply not a high priority for a majority of Americans. It seems to me that the real and serious challenge facing the gardening industry today is how to elevate peoples? attitudes about the value of gardening.

The National Gardening Association is an organization dedicated to building and strengthening the connection between people, plants, and the environment. In a nutshell, we are about changing peoples? attitudes toward gardening. Much of our work is focused on helping children experience gardening as an enjoyable, hands-on learning medium; a key element for health and wellness; and a fun and rewarding activity, among other benefits. An argument could be made that the downward trend in the lawn and garden industry is a reflection of the growing gap in the people-plant connection. NGA is working to close that gap for young and old alike so that gardening, in its many forms and faces, once again captures the imagination and appreciation of the public.

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