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Jennifer H. Dennis, Bridget K. Behe*, R. Thomas Fernandez, and Robert Schutzki

Consumers face risks each time they purchase and consume products. Guarantees provide a means of potentially decreasing risk for products that cannot be evaluated until consumption has begun, as with ornamental plants. Despite the potential risk reduction, the effect of guarantees on consumer purchases has been a source of debate for many retailers. Research conducted at Michigan State Univ. examined the effects of guarantees on consumer satisfaction and regret of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and perennials. Over half (56%) of respondents stated the retail outlet provided a guarantee. Twenty-six percent stated the guarantee was a deciding factor in choosing that particular plant while 27% stated it was the deciding factor in shopping at that particular retail location. Results show that guarantees reduce risk for consumers, reducing the incidence of regret but have no effect on customer satisfaction.

Free access

Shannon C. Mason, Terri W. Starman, R.D. Lineberger, and Bridget K. Behe

Retail sales of container gardens have increased dramatically in recent years, rising 8% from 2004 to 2005, to $1.3 billion. The objective of this study was to determine consumer preferences for three attributes of container gardens; color harmony, price, and amount of care information provided with the purchase. A hierarchical set of levels for each attribute was used in a 3 × 3 × 3 factorial conjoint analysis. A Web-based survey was conducted on 18 Oct. 2006 with 985 respondents. Survey participants were asked to complete a series of questions on a 7-point Likert scale. Survey participants also answered questions about past experiences with and future purchase intentions of container gardens as well as demographics. The three attributes accounted for 99.8% of the variance in container garden preference. Relative importance decreased from price (71%) to amount of care information (23%) to color harmony (6%). Survey participants preferred a container garden with a price point of $24.99, extensive care information, and complementary color harmony. A large portion (76%) of participants in this study indicated that they would be more likely to purchase a container garden if extensive care information was included with the purchase and 85% of participants said they would be willing to visit an Internet Web site that would provide more information on how to care for and maintain a container garden. Results of this study show that there is a potential to increase the value of a container garden through providing educational material with the purchase.

Open access

Kellie J. Walters, Bridget K. Behe, Christopher J. Currey, and Roberto G. Lopez

Controlled environment (CE) food crop production has existed in the United States for many years, but recent improvements in technology and increasing production warranted a closer examination of the industry. Therefore, our objectives were to characterize historical trends in CE production, understand the current state of the U.S. hydroponics industry, and use historical and current trends to inform future perspectives. In the 1800s, CE food production emerged and increased in popularity until 1929. After 1929, when adjusted for inflation (AFI), CE food production stagnated and decreased until 1988. From 1988 to 2014, the wholesale value of CE food production increased from $64.2 million to $796.7 million AFI. With the recent increase in demand for locally grown food spurring an increase in CE production, both growers and researchers have been interested in using hydroponic CE technologies to improve production and quality. Therefore, we surveyed U.S. hydroponic food crop producers to identify current hydroponic production technology adoption and potential areas for research needs. Producers cited a wide range of technology utilization; more than half employed solely hydroponic production techniques, 56% monitored light intensity, and more than 80% monitored air temperature and nutrient solution pH and electrical conductivity. Additionally, the growing environments varied from greenhouses (64%), indoors in multilayer (31%) or single-layer (7%) facilities, to hoop houses or high tunnels (29%). Overall, producers reported managing the growing environment to improve crop flavor and the development of production strategies as the most beneficial research areas, with 90% stating their customers would pay more for crops with increased flavor. Lastly, taking historical data and current practices into account, perspectives on future hydroponic CE production are discussed. These include the importance of research on multiple environmental parameters instead of single parameters in isolation and the emphasis on not only increasing productivity but improving crop quality including flavor, sensory attributes, and postharvest longevity.

Open access

Ariana P. Torres, Alicia L. Rihn, Susan S. Barton, Bridget K. Behe, and Hayk Khachatryan

Online advertising is becoming a mainstay business practice to reach firms’ customer bases. Yet, the adoption and use of online advertising in the green industry are topics that have not been adequately researched. Using a national survey of green industry firms conducted in 2019, this research uses a double-hurdle model to investigate factors that impact firms’ adoption of, and amount spent on, online advertising. Our results show that one-third of the companies invested in online advertising. Of those investing in online advertising, the average percentage of online advertising as a share of all advertising expenditures was 46%. Small businesses were less likely to invest in online advertising compared with larger businesses; however, once they invested in online advertising, the percentage of investment was 25% higher among small firms when compared with their larger counterparts. Increasing years in operation as well as trade show participation was related to a 3% decrease in likelihood to use online advertising. Business owners who perceived hiring competent employees as a barrier to business growth invested 19% less of their advertising budget in online channels, which may indicate a lack of human resources to advertise online. We also compared the industry results with data from a 2014 survey and found the amount invested in online advertising increased ≈3% to 5% between studies. The percentage in wholesale sales influenced the amount spent on online advertising in 2014 but not in 2019. Being a small firm in 2014 increased the amount spent on online advertising, but the effect was 14% lower in 2019. In 2014, firms located in the Pacific, Southcentral, and Southeast U.S. regions invested more in online advertising compared with other regions, but in 2019, the only geographic difference was that firms in the Great Plains spent less on online advertising. Despite their lower adoption rates, the increased expenditures on online advertising implies that smaller firms that implement online advertising receive value through that channel and are willing to allocate more resources to leverage its reach. Firms contemplating adopting and investing in online advertising should consider their resource availability and marketing goals related to reaching different customer groups through online advertising.

Open access

Alicia L. Rihn, Ariana Torres, Susan S. Barton, Bridget K. Behe, and Hayk Khachatryan

The landscape service sector is an important part of the environmental horticulture industry. However, research addressing factors impacting its business and marketing practices are scarce. This manuscript uses data collected via online and mail industry surveys in 2014 and 2019 to investigate U.S. landscape service firms’ advertising and marketing practices and different factors that influence their business strategies by firm type and size. Product mix, advertising method, and the importance of different business factors were impacted by firm type. Landscape service only firms had the most diverse product offerings, while firms with wholesale production had the least diversity. Landscape service only firms primarily used in-person and telephone advertising, while firms with wholesale production used a broader swath of advertising medias to reach a more diversified clientele. Overall, weather and labor-related factors had the most impact on landscaping firms’ business practices. Larger firms perceived labor factors as more important than smaller firms.

Full access

Kathleen M. Kelley, Bridget K. Behe, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff

Three separate marketing studies were conducted during 2000 to determine consumer purchase behavior, use, and potential for purchasing edible flowers. First, a telephone survey was administered to 423 randomly selected residences in the Metro-Detroit area. Participants with some college education were more likely to have eaten edible flowers, would be more likely to eat them, and would be more likely to buy them. A second survey conducted with 25 Michigan Master Gardeners collected more detailed responses about edible flower purchase and use. Females were more likely to purchase edible flowers than males. Single-person households were less likely to have grown edible flowers than larger households. Participants with an annual income ≤$39,999 were half as likely to have purchased edible flowers as the higher income group. A third consumer survey was conducted over a 6-week period with three Metro-Detroit area grocery stores where consumers purchased containers of edible flowers with an attached survey form. A total of 243 of 360 containers of edible flowers were sold, and we received a 27% response rate. All respondents (100%) with an annual income ≥$30,001 were likely to like the flavor of the flowers. Across all three studies, there were few significant differences between demographic characteristics, which indicates that a homogeneous marketing strategy may effectively reach consumers. Based on these results, there appears to be is consumer interest in edible flowers, some consumers have had experience using and serving them, and will purchase them in grocery stores if marketed to attract the consumers interest.

Full access

Mary B. Musgrove, J. David Williams, Bridget K. Behe, and Kenneth M. Tilt

Before analyzing the responses of Alabama garden center employees about the training they had received, we determined how satisfied 100 Alabama Master Gardeners were with the employee-s who helped them in the store from which they most often purchased plants for their homes, landscapes, or gardens. We mailed the primary survey to 472 employees of 130 retail garden center businesses in Alabama to determine the percentage of employees who received job training and the amount, frequency, and methods of training they received while working for their current employers (37% responded). Employees were categorized as managers (28%) or subordinate employees (72%) and full-time (72%) or part-time (28%). Forty-four percent of the employees had received some training at the time they were hired. Training continued for 68% of the respondents. Only 39% of the employees had a written description of their job responsibilities discussed with them. Most (85%) believed the training they received had prepared them to do their jobs well, but 82% said more training would increase their confidence in their work performance. Most employees were trained by one-on-one instruction (60%) and small-group sessions (5 or fewer persons) (65%). Few employees received training from videotapes (5%) or educational seminars (26%), and most that did were managers and full-time employees.

Open access

Ariana P. Torres, Susan S. Barton, and Bridget K. Behe

As more individuals use the Internet for business and leisure, the opportunities for firms to promote products and services and to communicate with consumers online increases. The objective of this study was to investigate green industry managerial decisions to engage in online advertising and how much to invest while determining the main drivers contributing to these decisions. A double-hurdle model analyses of 1735 responses to the 2014 National Green Industry Survey, which gathered information on business practices, showed >40% of green industry business invested in online advertising. Typically, businesses investing in online advertising spent more than 43% of all advertising expenditures in online methods, including websites, social media, and newsletters. Furthermore, the decision to engage in online advertising was driven by the percentage of wholesale and contract sales, market access, firm size, product mix, and business owners’ perceptions. Results also showed that the amount of dollars invested in online advertising depended on firm size, tools used to find customers, location, and business owners’ perceptions. Our findings can help extension personnel and policymakers with the design and deliver social media training and educational events. Our findings can also help green industry businesses understand the two-step nature of the decision to invest in online advertising.

Free access

Kathleen M. Kelley, Bridget K. Behe, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff

Two surveys were conducted to determine characteristics important in containerized edible flowers that could be sold in retail outlets. Self-selected participants at Bloomfest at Cobo Hall, Detroit, were assigned to one group that rated the importance of attributes such as color of pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams. `Accord Banner Clear Mixture'), color combinations, container size, and price. Participants assigned to a second group rated color, color combinations, and container size. Flower color was allocated the most points in the purchasing decision (63% for the first group and 95% for the second), with a mixture of all three colors (blue, yellow, and orange) being the most desirable. Responses were subjected to Cluster Analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago), which resulted in the formation of three distinct groups. The groups were labeled “Likely Buyer” (those who had eaten and purchased edible flowers before and rated characteristics of edible flowers favorably); “Unlikely Consumer” (those who had eaten edible flowers before and had rated characteristics of edible flowers unfavorably); and “Persuadable Garnishers” (those who had not eaten edible flowers before, but were very likely to purchase edible flowers for a meal's garnish).

Free access

Kathleen M. Kelley, Bridget K. Behe, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff

Do consumers prefer certain combinations of edible-flower species and colors over other assortments? Two hundred and sixteen people were self-selected for a survey at a Michigan flower show to rate 15 photographs of edible flowers arranged in 0.24-L, clear, plastic containers. Each container had either an individual species or combinations of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' and `Tip Top Apricot' (nasturtium). To determine what color(s) of nasturtium participants would prefer, containers held either orange and crimson, peach and cream, or a combination of all four flower colors. Participants rated photographs using a semantic differential on a 7-point Likert scale (7 being the highest rating) based on their likelihood to purchase each container of edible flowers to serve to family and friends in a meal. Participants were asked an additional 21 questions regarding their attitudes about edible flowers, gardening habits, dining habits, and several demographic questions. Responses were subjected to conjoint analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago). The addition of other species to nasturtium (viola, borage, viola, and borage) had a greater relative importance (53%) than the color of the nasturtium (47%). A mixture of all four nasturtium colors (peach, cream, orange, and crimson) was awarded the highest utility (0.091). Peach and cream nasturtiums or containers that did not contain any nasturtium flowers at all were least preferred (-0.070 and -0.083 utilities, respectively). Mean ratings that participants assigned to containers of edible flowers supported these utilities. The container assigned the highest mean rating included nasturtiums of all four colors, yet 66% were unlikely to purchase any container with 10% insect damage. Differences in preferences were noted using selected demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and income.