Consumers are changing, becoming more impatient and seeking total solutions, according to industry officials at the National Hardware Show, held Aug. 10-12 in Chicago.
In a panel discussion, ``Where Is Lawn & Garden Headed From Here?'' officials discussed directions for the industry, including broader product selection, consolidation and competition from so-called big-box stores.
There are a few key trends that manufacturers can't ignore, officials said, including the need to sell ``solutions,'' such as kits for water gardening.
``As an industry, we're undermarketed,'' said Stan Pohmer, president of Pohmer Consultant Group in Minnetonka, Minn. ``The vast majority of dollars spent in this industry are spent marketing to ourselves. ... All you're doing is trading market share. Marketing to the consumer increases consumption. It's one of the major challenges our industry faces today.''
There is a tendency among manufacturers to think of the retailer as the sole consumer, Pohmer said in an Aug. 26 telephone interview. Big-box retailers such as Home Depot Inc. will begin implementing programs in which the responsibility is on the manufacturer.
``It's changing the way the supply side addresses their position in the marketplace,'' Pohmer said. ``It's a whole mind-set shift. Manufacturers are going to have to start thinking about how they can appeal to the consumer. I'm not saying the retailer is going to abdicate the responsibility. They're not. ... But the supplier is going to have to think more about sell-through.''
As for the changing consumer, Baby Boomers are the mainstay. But Generation Xers follow quickly. They are the adults aged 25-43 who tend to be better educated and less brand-loyal, sources said.
Among those consumers, certain trends are gaining momentum, such as water gardening, which is growing at a 20 percent annual rate.
Additionally, the living room is moving outside, said Dave Meder, director of Garden Centers for TruServ Corp. in Chicago. The deck has become an outdoor living room and people are even bringing bars outside.
There are even instances where people spend more money on grills than they do on kitchen stoves, Meder said.
Processors have geared up with their own solutions to target those dollars. Two firms made their debut at the show with all-plastic garden walls and spa systems.
Rotomolder SPI Industries Inc. made its debut with a new line of lawn and garden products. Its CastleRock product gives the look of a finished stone wall, according to the firm, but it's molded from polyethylene.
``More than anything, we've always wanted to be diversified,'' marketing director Theresa Schnurr said in an Aug. 22 telephone interview. SPI Industries, based in Shallow Lake, Ontario, uses the patent-pending product for garden walls, pillars and raised gardens.
Leisure Bay Industries Inc. of Orlando, Fla., is responding to consumer demands with its rotomolded Eclipse spa. The firm touts the polyethylene spa as an easy-to-use, true plug-and-play system that can be plugged into any outlet. The spa withstands extreme heat and cold and has a fully foamed insulation chamber for energy efficiency, the firm said. Leisure Bay outsources the molding.