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Growing the Houseplant Market: Part 1

Growing the Houseplant Market: Part 1

FR presents the first in our exclusive three-part series examining the Floral Marketing Fund’s “Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report 2021.”

By Andrew Joseph

Coordinated by the Floral Marketing Fund (FMF), the “Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report 2021” has been released. Florists’ Review has examined the 291-page document and, in a three-part series (May, June and August issues) will provide an overview of the report’s findings. 

The report divided the genre of houseplants into the following 10 categories: 

• Flowering

• Narrow-leaf Foliage

• Broad-leaf Foliage

• Ferns

• Indoor Palms

• Trailing/Climbing

• Succulents

• Bromeliads

• Air Plants/Tillandsia

• Cacti

The crux of the report was to determine if COVID-19 affected customers’ plant attitudes, perceptions and purchasing behaviors in 2021—the answers for which will, hopefully, provide you with insight on how you can proceed with planning and budgeting for your business. 

To be transparent, a total of 1,700 U.S. individuals passed a screening process—aka the “Purchasers.” Of those who did not pass the initial screen, 300 were invited to complete a survey regarding non-purchasing behaviors and attitudes.

In this, Part 1 of 3, we examine the results of the 1,700 Purchasers. Part 2 looks at the 300 Non-purchasers to see if they can be converted into buyers. Part 3 compares data from FMF’s 2019 survey with the data from the organization’s 2021 survey.

HOUSEPLANT PURCHASE DATA

The 1,700 Purchasers of houseplants said they possessed great optimism for the future even though their work and home lives had been impacted by COVID-19.

When asked if houseplants make them happy, a combined 92.7% answered yes (36.1% strongly agreed, 35.6% agreed and 21.0% somewhat agreed). Only 2.0% of Purchasers answered that houseplants did not make them feel happier, and 5.4% took no stance.

The report indicates that Purchasers believe that houseplants helped offset some of the negativity felt during COVID-19. The report also notes that Purchasers increased their purchases related to houseplant and hobby gardening in 2020, perhaps due to the fact that more people were cooped up at home during the pandemic and wanted to beautify the spaces in which they were spending most of their time. This need for beauty, the Purchasers added, was something they anticipated would increase and be reflected in their purchasing and behavior habits into 2021.

PCE (personal consumption expenditure) numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis—a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce—for flowers, seeds and potted plants shows that sales during each month of 2021 surpassed the same months in 2020.

The FMF report indicates that the largest spending increase that Purchasers planned was in the Flowering houseplants category, with 17% indicating they want more of them. Anticipated future demand for the other categories of houseplants is as follows:

• Broad-leaf Foliage plants – 14%

• Succulents – 13% 

• Trailing/Climbing plants – 12%

• Indoor Palms – 12%

• Narrow-leaf Foliage plants – 11%

• Bromeliads – 11%

• Cacti – 9%

• Ferns – 9%

• Air Plants/Tillandsias – 1.5%

The most purchased were Flowering houseplants, Succulents and Broad-leaf Foliage plants, although some Purchasers expressed pricing concerns with some or all of these categories. 

Four mean pricing levels were considered: Too Cheap, Bargain, Getting Expensive and Too Expensive. 

In the Too Expensive category were: 

• Short Trailing and Climbing houseplants, with an average price paid of $70.81

• Short Indoor Palms – $68.78

• Short Flowering houseplants – $65.69

• Tall Cacti – $61.88

• Tall Succulents – $55.52

• Tall Indoor Palms – $55.03

• Tall Flowering houseplants – $53.40

• Tall Air Plants – $52.49

• Tall Trailing and Climbing houseplants – $52.04

• Short Succulents – $50.73

• Short Air Plants – $50.15

The houseplants that Purchasers considered to be Too Cheap were:

Short Air Plants – $6.46

Short Cacti –$6.82

Tall Flowering houseplants – $6.83

Tall Trailing and Climbing houseplants – $7.53

Tall Succulents – $8.15

Tall Air Plants – $8.16

Short Succulents – $8.89

Short Flowering houseplants – $10.33

Tall Indoor Palms – $11.01

Short Indoor Palms – $11.05

Short Trailing and Climbing houseplants – $11.72

Tall Cacti – $12.11

As mentioned, there was an increase in spending for houseplants in 2021, over 2020, in all categories. Flowering houseplants (Tall and Short) were the most purchased plant category among the 10 categories included in the survey, but a larger number of Purchasers said they spent more money on plants in the Bromeliads and Indoor Palms (Short and Tall) categories. 

Here’s something to consider: Yes, the actual plant is more important than the container, but some 37% of Purchasers said that the container is equally important as the type of plant, suggesting that houseplants should be respected with good-looking and practical containers that “fit” the homeowners’ décor. 

Social Media Influences

The report shows that 17.9% of Purchasers frequently purchased from retailers, growers or houseplant organizations afterviewing their social media, which is good news for those who keep their online presence current. 

Nearly 26% of Purchasers said they follow a vendor that sells or grows houseplants on social media, and 33.2% indicated that they do follow houseplant retailers on social media. 

The top social media platforms used by Purchasers: 

• Facebook – 75.6%

• Instagram – 47.0%

• Twitter – 35.9%

• Pinterest – 31.4%

• SnapChat – 24.1%

• LinkedIn – 19.8%

• TikTok – 18.3%

(While at the low end for Purchasers, TikTok usage is growing.) 

Where They Buy

Home Improvement Stores (30%) and Independent Garden Centers (29%) are the top-rated vendor choices of the Purchasers for buying houseplants. Big-box/Super-discount Stores came in at 22%; Supermarket Florists at 17%; and Farmers Markets, Independent Florists, Wholesale Stores and Online Sites, all at 10%. 

That said, 36.9% of Purchasers said they had purchased household plants from online companies—perhaps a holdover from COVID-19 lockdowns or simply that there’s a demand for vendors that enable consumers to make purchases from the comfort of their homes. 

Respondents—39.6%—said they prefer shopping online for houseplants, but 47.0% said they prefer to purchase in a store. The remaining 13.4% had no preference. 

Florists’ Review has said it many times in the past: Be sure you have an excellent social media presence in as many formats as you dare. Just ensure that you post often and in an interesting way, and make it easy for customers to complete their transactions. 

With regard to e-commerce, 48.6% of Purchasers bought one to three houseplants via an online company, 25.5% bought four to six plants, 11.2% bought six to nine plants, and 6.9% bought 10 or more plants. 

However, the biggest barriers to purchasing houseplants online is the consumers’ worry that the product will be damaged during shipping (25.5%) and not being able to physically see the product before purchasing (23.0%).

Conversely, ease of ordering online and being able to order 365/24-7—both at 25%—were seen as huge benefits for Purchasers.

In addition, Purchasers indicated that they planned to increase their online purchasing by 53% into 2021 and that they are moderately interested in purchasing through e-commerce channels in the future.

Houseplant Purchases as Gifts

Purchasers—74.7%—indicated that they were likely to purchase houseplants for themselves. 

Although 27.7% of Purchasers said they would not buy houseplants as gifts and 12.4% said maybe, the majority said they would by houseplants as gifts for specific occasions and holidays:

• Get-well – 75.1% said yes, 14.7% said no and 10.2% said maybe.

• Mother’s Day – 72.9% said yes, 19.2% said no and 7.9% said maybe. 

• Thank you – 71.7% said yes, 16.4% said no and 11.8% said maybe. 

• Friendship – 67.2% said yes, 19.5% said no and 13.4% said maybe.

• No specific reason or occasion – 63.7% said yes.

• Birthdays – 59.9% said yes.

• Easter – 56.3% said yes, 29.7% said no and 14.1% said maybe.

• Valentine’s Day – 55.2% said yes, 32.2% said no and 12.5% said maybe.

• Anniversaries – 49.7% said yes, 35.8% said no and 14.5% said maybe. 

• Christmas, 47.0% said yes, 39.9% said no and 13.1% said maybe.

• Gift for a co-worker – 46.5% said yes, 39.5% said no and 14.0% said maybe. 

• Thanksgiving – 33.3% said yes, 51.2% said no and 15.5% said maybe.

• New baby – 21.9% said yes, 62.3% said no and 15.8% said maybe.

Who is Buying Houseplants

For those wondering who is purchasing houseplants, wonder no longer. Houseplants are no longer the domain of unmarried millennials. The report states that, among Purchasers, there is representation across the board in age, gender, household size and geographic location. 

That doesn’t narrow things down as far as trying to develop ways to market to specific customer bases—but that’s great! You are afforded myriad opportunities for reaching this wide range of customers. It’s not a one-size-fits-all industry! 

The report summed up by noting how houseplants have not only expanded to a new consumer segment for the green industry but also deepened the current houseplant appreciation of baby boomers and Generation X consumers.

See Part 2 of our report on FMF’s “Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report 2021” in our June issue.

Download a copy of the full report at floralmarketingfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Consumer-Houseplant-Purchasing-Final-Report-2021-For-Public_compressed.pdf

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