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A small introductory qualitative study was completed to set the stage for the plant valuation research project and inform upcoming quantitative studies. Intercept interviews (n=44) were conducted at three garden center locations in Southern Ontario as well as one location in British Columbia and one in Saskatchewan in September 2020.

Shoppers were intercepted on their way to the cash register and interviewed regarding their purchase decision-making process and the role of pricing in their decision. It was found the majority of shoppers mainly focus on plant attributes when making a choice and only look at price as an afterthought. Although most stated they noticed the price and made a qualitative judgment that it was “fair”, only around 30 percent made a calculated assessment of the price by comparing with other plants at the store or at other retailers.

Although all shoppers had some kind of plan for what they wanted to purchase when they walked in, two-thirds did not have a plant species or category pre-selected. Ultimately their decision to buy was based on plant dimensions, vitality, and color. Few mentioned price or hardiness and other features related to growing conditions as a determinant.

Impulse purchases were relatively infrequent, likely due to the highly purposeful and planned nature of the shopping trip for garden center shoppers. Most were targeting a plant for a specific area of their garden and for nearly one-quarter of them, this was the second visit to the same garden center on the same path to purchase.

Shoppers indicated their main reasons for shopping at garden centers had to do with the value-added experience citing reasons such as plant variety, knowledgeable staff, and quality. This experience-driven shopping combined with a lack of price sensitivity offers opportunities for the next steps in our research to examine plant features on which consumers would place a premium.

These results can help better inform multiple segments of the floral industry not just garden centers but also retailers —

“The early results from the Consumer Valuation of Plants study shed some interesting insights that could prove useful for retail florists regarding plants and other products. Initial findings show that when shopping at a destination-oriented retailer, consumers generally focus on the attributes of the product such as size, shape, and color.  Price becomes secondary in the buying decision as consumers appear to elevate the shopping experience at a ‘value-added’ retailer such as garden centers and florists because of the knowledge and service provided at these establishments,” noted Ken Young, Phoenix Flower Shops.

“It was encouraging to me to discover from the results preview is that consumers were basing their decision on Dimensions, Vitality, and Color versus price. Also, they were wanting the shopping experience of a garden center multiple times and I feel the same works for consumers shopping for custom floral designs from a professional retail florist,” added David Boulton, Flowers By George.

A full report on the intercept interview study will be available in the coming weeks.

Thank you to Van Dongen’s, Sheridan Nurseries, Grobe Nursery, GardenWorks, and Cornell Design and Landscaping for letting us into their stores. The research is supported by the Floral Marketing Research Fund, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, and Landscape Ontario.

By Grygorczyk, A., Wang, J., Miller, S. and Wang, X.

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