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Jennifer H. Dennis and Bridget K. Behe

In Sept. 2004, an Internet study was conducted to evaluate and determine differences in gardening participation, purchases, and levels of satisfaction and regret by ethnic background. Consumers were asked to identify their participation in seven gardening activities and about the purchase of 12 gardening product categories. The sample was stratified by income and age. The number of differences in garden-related activity participation and purchases decreased as income level increased across ethnic groups. At every income level, persons of Caucasian descent had a higher satisfaction average score and factor score and higher regret mean score and factor score. This indicated that Caucasians did experience greater satisfaction and less regret than persons of other ethnic backgrounds, regardless of income. For marketers, this shows a heterogeneous market at lower-income levels and a more homogeneous market at upper-income levels. Ethnicity could be used as a basis for market segmentation, and differences are indeed present.

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Kathleen M. Kelley and Bridget K. Behe

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Kristin L. Getter and Bridget K. Behe

Christmas tree and poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) sales are static or declining nationally and in Michigan. The objectives of this project were to evaluate a “buy local” educational media campaign (“Make it a Real Michigan Christmas”) designed to increase sales of poinsettias and Christmas trees. Consumer online surveys were administered four separate times (Oct. 2011, Jan. 2012, Oct. 2012, and Jan. 2013) to collect measures of awareness and knowledge both before and after each year’s educational media campaign. The survey asked Michigan residents about their Christmas tree and flowering plant purchases for the holiday, Christmas attitudinal questions (scored on a five-point Likert scale), awareness of this campaign, and demographic information. There were 1712 respondents, roughly split into a quarter per survey. Most measures of demographics and purchasing habits were very similar across the four sampling times. A little over a quarter (28% to 30%) purchased a Christmas tree the previous holiday, 16% to 20% which were live trees and 9% to 10% were artificial trees. Roughly a third (31% to 39%) of respondents purchased live poinsettias the previous holiday. “Make it a Real Michigan Christmas” had 3.3% to 5.0% of consumer awareness. Factor analysis identified two key attitudinal dimensions of the Christmas holiday. Factor 1 was described as a dimension of live Christmas trees being difficult, whereas Factor 2 showed a dimension of live trees being worth the effort. Participants were segregated into four clusters based on their factor scores. Emerging groups were either low/high on factor 1 (live trees are difficult) and/or factor 2 (live trees worth the effort). Few demographic differences were identified between the four groups, indicating they are relatively homogeneous in demographic composition. The largest group produced in the cluster analysis was 44% of the sample (cluster 1) and those consumers were more focused on the difficulty of live-tree purchases while the smallest group (6%, cluster 3) had factor scores less than 0 for both attributes.

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Bridget K. Behe, Patricia Huddleston, and Lynnell Sage

Marketers invest nearly 8% of their advertising budget on in-store marketing because >70% of all buying decisions are made at the point of purchase. Older consumers, especially Baby Boomers (typically classified as persons born from 1950 to 1965) have long been considered a core target market for horticultural products. However, some industry concerns have arisen with regard to the lack of purchasing among younger age cohorts, especially Gen X (born 1966–77) and Gen Y (born 1978–90). Brands help to create the perception of added value while also differentiating products from competitors. Often, brands are one of a few pieces of information consumers use to make product choices. We conducted an online survey in May 2014 to investigate the role of age cohort and brand recognition on the likely to buy (LTB) rating of two herb and two vegetable transplants. We showed study participants images of 16 plants, varying the container color (white, green, and yellow), plant type (basil, parsley, tomato, and pepper), plant brand (generic and three national brands), and price. About equal numbers from three age cohorts (Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y) were represented in the sample of 566 plant purchasers. We observed that more Boomers had seen (recognized) Brand P, whereas more Gen X and Gen Y participants had seen Brand L. Subjects who had seen the plant brands before the study had a higher mean LTB rating for branded plants compared with those who had not seen the plant brands before the study. Furthermore, both Gen X and Gen Y were more LTB branded plants compared with Boomers. In the conjoint analysis, we found that plant type was the most important product attribute. Price and brand were similarly important but also less important than plant type. All three attributes were more important than container color. Having no brand on the container detracted $0.20 from the perceived value of the plant while the brands added up to $0.15 to the perceived plant value. Future marketing strategies which include branded plants at the point of purchase likely will increase perceived product value and LTB, especially among younger consumers.

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Kathleen M. Kelley and Bridget K. Behe

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Kristin L. Getter and Bridget K. Behe

The objectives of this study were to survey Midwest consumers to assess their willingness to buy alternatives to Impatiens walleriana given the confirmed presence of Impatiens downy mildew (IDM; Plasmopara obducens) in Michigan landscapes in 2012. An Internet survey queried consumers from four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio) and questions consisted of likelihood to buy, purchasing characteristics considered, impatiens purchases in 2012, and demographic questions. Roughly 500 participants per state responded and almost three-fourths (73.8%) of respondents said they planted impatiens in their landscape in 2012. Of the 16.4% who said their plants did not look healthy at the end of the growing season, 69.3% self-identified the plant as having IDM symptoms. Purchasing characteristics that had the highest mean scores were bloom period, flower color, and longevity, whereas the lowest mean scores were for compact shape with no spindly growth, fragrance, and locally grown. Three impatiens alternative species were acceptable alternatives (scored a positive utility in the conjoint analysis) for shade-tolerant species. Begonia semperflorens was the most preferred followed by Browallia speciosa and then Impatiens hawkeri. Solenostemon scutellarioides was the least preferred. Three impatiens alternative species also scored a positive utility in the conjoint analysis and would serve well for partial shade-tolerant species. Heliotropium arborescens was the most preferred followed by Salvia splendens and then Lobelia erinus. Hypoestes phyllostachya and Iresine herbstii were preferred least as impatiens alternatives. The attribute with the highest relative importance was species for both conjoint analyses, whereas the price attribute was the least important.

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Ariana Torres, Petrus Langenhoven, and Bridget K. Behe

The domestic market for melons, Cucumis melo L., has not been well characterized. The 2011 cantaloupe-related foodborne illness outbreak reduced melon production by 32%, and per capita consumption of cantaloupe and honeydew melons has not recovered. Our objective was to profile and characterize consumer segments of individuals who purchased melons in the 3 months before the survey. Responses from 1718 participants were analyzed by consumption volume and subjected to cluster analysis based on importance of melon attributes. Heavy and moderate consumers preferred local melons over imported. The top four melon attributes were flavor, freshness, ripeness, and sweetness. As consumption increased, consumers placed more importance for their diets. The heaviest consumption group accounted for 22% of the market, and consumed nearly three times the melon servings per month compared with the moderate consumer, and nearly 10 times the servings of the light consumption group. Cluster analysis produced three distinct clusters. Cluster 1 was the most promelon in attitudes and consumption, as well as general health interest, craving sweet food, food pleasure, and variety seeking in foods. The largest segment was cluster 3 and was the ideal group for future targeting of marketing and advertising campaigns for increasing the melon market share with their intermediate consumption and promelon attitudes. Last, members of cluster 2 consumed the lowest amount of melons, spent the least on melons, and traveled the fewest number of miles to purchase them, relative to the other two segments.

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Susan S. Barton and Bridget K. Behe

The retail portion of the green industry, valued at $50.55 billion, continues to provide a major connection between the industry and consumers. Given the importance of retailers in the green industry and little research exists that documents their advertising practices and impacts, the 2013 Trade Flows and Marketing Practices survey included questions to capture data for retail-only firms. This paper reports on the percentage of sales retailers allocate to promotion and advertising, including a breakdown of media used; point-of-sale (POS) materials and how they are acquired; how green industry retailers are using social media and mobile marketing [in particular, quick response (QR) codes]; the methods retailers use to collect customer demographics; customer loyalty programs (CLP); and how they are managed by retailers and a comparison of retail firms’ advertising practices by size of firm. A combination of mailed and Internet-distributed surveys resulted in a total of 699 useable retail business responses with greater than or equal to $1000 in annual revenue. The median expenditure as a percentage of sales on advertising was 3.6% for all retail firms responding with 33.7% spending no dollars on advertising. In examining the distribution based on media type, the Internet was the most frequently listed by firms (32.3%) with a mean expenditure of 42.5% of total advertising dollars. Social media was listed second most frequently (21.5%) with a mean expenditure of 29.6%. Newspapers were listed as the third most frequently used type of media (18.0%). Social media use is strong and among social media platforms, Facebook (60%) far exceeds any other platform. A third of the respondents (34.2%) reported the use of POS materials. A very small percentage of firms (3.0%) reported using QR codes and 19.4% reported having a CLP. Of those, 45.8% used customer purchase cards, whereas 35.4% used POS software. Nearly 33% of the firms collected demographic information about their customers. Of those, the method with the highest percentage use (multiple responses were permitted) was social media (50.7%) followed by CLP (48.9%), web visits (34.5%), questionnaires (15.7%), social coupons (13.5%), census data (3.9%), and marketing firms (3.1%). There were firm-size differences in seasonal employees and mean sales per employee with large firms having greater numbers than hobby, small- or medium-sized firms. There were no differences in the percentage of advertising media allocations based on firm size, but large firms used web visits, social coupons, and social media more than other types of firms to collect customer demographics. While, green industry retailers are currently using social media for marketing green industry goods, they have much more opportunity to use electronic media for CLPs and to begin using QR codes or other mobile-centric technologies to deliver in-store promotional information to consumers.

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Ken Tilt, Bridget Behe, David Williams, Heath Potter, and Dwight Bunn

A survey was developed evaluating the preference of consumers for purchasing three alternative Christmas tree species. Trees included: Pinus virginiana, a traditional Alabama Christmas tree; a containerized Ilex × `Nellie R. Stevens'; and a cut × Cupressocyparis leylandii. Virginia pine and leyland cypress were rated higher than the holly. The average rating on a scale of 1 to 5 for the Virginia pine and the leyland cypress was 3.75 and 3.63, respectively. Consumers rated the holly an average of 3.29. A rating of 1 indicated a strong negative response and a rating of 5 offered a strong positive response for buying the tree. The median rating for all three species was 4, indicating that 50% of the participants rated them a 4 or higher. The mode, or most frequent rating, was 5 for all three species. Although the average rating for the holly was lower than the average for the Virginia pine and leyland cypress, the holly and the leyland cypress may have a market niche with >50% of the respondents indicating that they would purchase the trees.

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Bridget K. Behe, C. Fred Deneke, and Gary J. Keever

Tissue-cultured plugs of Nandina domestica Thunb. `Hat-hour Dwarf' and `San Gabriel' were grown in 1.5-liter pots under 30%, 47%, or 62% shade. After 20 weeks, plants were moved to a simulated consumer environment (SCE) maintained at 21C, ≈60% relative humidity, and a 12-hour photoperiod with an irradiance of 7 μmol·m -2·s-1. Final quality ratings (after 35 weeks in the SCE) for both cultivars were good, but the plant quality of `San Gabriel' declined more quickly than that of `Harbour Dwarf'. Final quality rating of `Harbour Dwarf' grown under the highest percentage of shade was higher than that of plants grown under 30% or 47% shade; production shade percentages had no influence on the final quality rating of `San Gabriel'. Plants (of both cultivars) grown in 0.6-liter (11-cm-diameter) pots were test-marketed through six supermarket floral departments and captured 16% of total 10- to 11-cm-size foliage plant sales. Sixty percent of consumers indicated the plant's “newness” as the primary consideration for its purchase. These two N. domestica cultivars could be marketed successfully as interior foliage plants.