Editorial: August-September 2012

August 14, 2012
Written by
The way to a Millennial’s wallet is through her stomach. More specifically, if you can get a Millennial into your garden centre to check out some of the incredible edibles in store, odds are she’ll walk out with something tasty to tend to.

That was one of the main messages I heard over and over again during this year’s OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, last month. From Joe Lamp’l’s keynote address on the shopping habits of today’s consumers to Brian Minter’s talk on value adding and Roberta Paolo’s session about school gardens, food’s power to persuade younger generations to get into gardening was one topic that everyone kept coming back to.

As a Millennial, this is something I’ve witnessed in my own peer group. Some of my friends are using window boxes and small containers to grow herbs in their tiny spaces in downtown Toronto and Vancouver. A few who have graduated from apartment dwelling to home ownership have also traded up for bigger planting projects. Their small-scale successes have given them the confidence to tackle bigger gardening challenges.

This spring, my Facebook feed was flooded with photos of fledgling gardens. As summer unfolds, some of the albums are becoming more impressive with every new photo upload. One foodie couple I know has had a blast experimenting with new recipes made with the bounty harvested from their backyard garden (and sharing mouthwatering photos of the finished dishes). Other gardens are looking a little worse for the wear, or have disappeared from the social media scene completely – never a good sign. These new gardeners are becoming discouraged because their plants aren’t performing.

The good news is that we Millennials are more persistent than some people give us credit for. Garden centres that can offer solutions to help discouraged newbies get their gardens back on track stand to gain loyal customers. During his keynote, Lamp’l reminded his audience that the best way for anyone to learn how to garden is by making mistakes. That being said, it’s still important for garden centres to support customers of all ages after the sale. There’s no substitute for knowledgeable staff in your store, but handouts featuring plant care tips and website and social media updates offering timely advice for growing in local conditions are great ways to provide 24/7 support. Other suggestions that came up during various speaker sessions included a series of in-store seminars that walk beginners through the gardening season and “office hours” when experts are available to meet with those who need a little one-on-one coaching.

As an independent garden centre, you’ve got a lot going for you when it comes to the Millennial market. Many in this age group are choosing to spend what shopping dollars they do have in support of small businesses in their communities. You also have the power to appeal to environmentally and socially conscious Millennials by promoting how your business fits into the local food movement. This demographic may not have a lot of purchasing power right now, but as the years go by, that will change. When it does, don’t you want your garden centre to be top of mind?

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