Trendspotting 2007 and Beyond

January 27, 2007
Written by Michelle Brisebois
12Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat.  Home is where they have to take you in when there’s nowhere else to go.  There’s no place like … well, you get the picture – home is one whopper of an emotional subject. 

Our homes function like a sort of architectural North Star remaining true and constant in an uncertain world.  Considering our need to have a home base that we can depend on, it’s somewhat ironic that home design, decorating trends and gardening trends are some of the most dynamic of all the markets.  It’s probably because our homes are so close to our hearts that it’s here we visually express our true feelings.  As our feelings about the world evolve, so do trends.  Here are some existing trends that are morphing in new directions for 2007 forward.

Was: Cocooning
Now: Armoured Cocooning
Our world is scaring us and our addiction to 24/7 news reporting feeds our fear.  Contaminated water, avian flu, war, terrorism and one of my favourite oxy-morons “the war on terrorism” all make us want to retreat to our comfortable homes. “Comfort” is the key word. We’ve heard of comfort foods (foods that grandma made that remind you of your childhood).  Why not comfort flowers?  Peonies, iris, lilac, heather and roses are all very popular right now. 

Gated communities, home alarm systems and the family dog all try to keep the boogey man out.  Create soothing themes that speak to a “kinder, gentler time.”

Was: Grilling in the Garage
Now: Outdoor Kitchens
Backyards are the new cottages.  People are installing outdoor ranges, fridges and countertops to withstand the elements.  Even pizza ovens are showing up in some designs.  The kitchen is traditionally where guests gather and taking it to the back yard allows the hosts to interact with guests while preparing a gourmet dinner. 

The National Kitchen and Bath Association reports that Americans spent 11.1 per cent, or $47 billion, more on kitchen remodeling last year than the previous year, with homeowners citing a particularly strong interest in outdoor kitchen space.

Was: Disposable Convenience
Now: An Inconvenient Truth

Weather logs confirm that the 15 warmest years on record since 1867 have all happened since 1980 and statistically, that’s no coincidence.  Climate change is considered by many scientists to be the most serious threat facing the world today, more serious than any terrorist activity or economic pitfall.  In fact, compared to what will happen if we don’t get our act together, consider hurricane Katrina a gentle wake up call. 

The sheer urgency of environmental issues makes addressing them one of business’s biggest challenges. The gardening industry should care because it’s ideally positioned to be a “green innovator.”  Bio-degradable packaging, packaging and pots with multiple uses and fertilizers that don’t harm the environment are all key trends to address.

Was: Sprawling Flower Beds
Now: Adapted Gardening

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians older than 65 will grow from 3.6 million today to 5 million by 2011, and then climb to 9 million by 2031.  The proportion of elderly Canadians will almost double from the current 12 per cent to 22 per cent by 2031.  We will stay in our homes longer and live longer and garden longer.  Look at adapted gardening tools that have extra long handles to avoid bending.  Raised beds and yes – containers will continue to be very popular.

Was: Kid Centric
Now: Pet Centric

As Baby Boomers become empty-nesters, their need to nurture focuses on our four-legged friends.  More than 50 per cent of Canadian households own pets of some kind and these animals are more than pets – they are part of the family. Each year, Canadian families spend about $3 billion on their pets. This exceeds consumer spending on children's toys, footwear, eye care, and dental plans.
A recent survey of pet owners revealed that nearly 80 per cent of respondents gave their pets holiday or birthday presents. More than 60 per cent signed their pets' names on cards or letters. A slight majority (51 per cent) gave their pets human names (Ontario Veterinary Association). According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, Americans spent an estimated $31 billion on pets in 2003.

A few of the luxury services cited include pet hotels complete with heated floors, limousine rides, day cruises, and personal shoppers. And apparently the spa trend has extended to the pet world
with exfoliating treatments, aromatherapy, liposuction (I kid you not), and chiropractic services.

The World Wide Pet Supply Association relocated their pet product trade show, “Super Zoo,” to Las Vegas to partner with the garden industry. This was prompted by the fact that increasing numbers of garden supply shops are carrying pet products and that consumer demographics for the pet and garden industry are very similar.  The association reports that pet products accounted for up to 17 per cent of sales for garden shops in 2003.

Was: Bricks and Mortar
Now: Bricks and Clicks and Mortar

Luddites beware!  The Internet is here to stay.  Make sure you have a website that’s kept up to date.  Test online ordering if you don’t have it.  Run a contest and collect permission-based e-mail addresses and then send an e-newsletter four times per year.  Consider starting a blog to complement your website and definitely make it a resolution to read other gardening blogs to pick up on trends. To get a list of popular gardening blogs visit www.gardenweb.com.

Was: Cutting Garden
Now: Vegetable Garden

Designer vegetables are hot.  Even Oprah raves about “purple sweetie potatoes.”  Store-bought spinach and carrot juice made headlines for being contaminated so growing our own food is a means of controlling our supply and our health. This new audience means seed and plant companies will be focusing more attention on variety and on developing plants for specific conditions, such as the small spaces, shorter seasons and higher nutrient value.   One big trend is to combine container and vegetable gardening – called “potager gardening.” The practice, which originated in France, involves growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in a decorative way.

Was: Dried Flowers for Crafting
Now: A Dyer’s Garden

The crafting trend around making wreaths and floral arrangements has shifted to more “textile-based” projects.  Spinning yarn, knitting and weaving cloth are becoming more popular.  Spin-Off, a magazine devoted to spinning, had a 46 per cent increase in newsstand sales 2002-2006, its publisher reported, and spinning wheel manufacturers have recorded a steady increase in sales.

Many of these artisans wish to use natural dyes to create their fibres.  Consider carrying popular dye plants such as madder, indigo and marigold and marketing them along with seminars and promotional information about natural dyeing.  This is a trend appealing to the younger consumer as well.  What’s old is new.

Was: Chemically dependent gardening
Now: Organics

Foods marketed as grown organically are continuing to post double-digit growth and the retail organic market is estimated to be worth $250 million Canadian. Organic, or at least less toxic, gardening is becoming more popular, thanks to so many new products that trigger a plant’s natural response system, resulting in minimal disturbance while treating diseases and pest problems. Soil additives like Soil Soup, add living “good microbes” to the soil to facilitate growing.

Was: Lush Lawns
Now: Grayer Pastures

As water becomes a scarcer commodity, the cost of watering a lawn to keep it green will become less attractive.  Alternative forms of ground cover are replacing the traditional lawn and the New York Times reports that paving the front lawn to gain space to park more cars is becoming common.  Municipalities are scrambling to implement bylaws to “curb” this tendency but the desire to move away from the grassy lawn is a definite trend. 

Ground covers are problem-solvers, providing an option for that area that is too shady, hard to mow or needs to be stabilized. And it can all be done with some ornamentation.  McGill University has utilized ground cover as a means of saving money spent on upkeep and to minimize the use of pesticides.  Some homeowners are choosing to plough under the traditional lawn and cover the space with decorative stones or ground cover in a move to save the time required for the upkeep of a traditional lawn. 

There is enormous opportunity for the gardening industry within the emerging trends.  The overriding theme appears to be an enhanced desire for simplicity and getting back to nature.  These sentiments pretty much sum up the essence of our industry and it’s our job to help the consumer make their houses into homes.

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