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Bridget K. Behe, Jennifer H. Dennis, Charles R. Hall, Alan W. Hodges, and Robin G. Brumfield

Nursery production contributed $18.1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2002 and created nearly two million jobs. A U.S. Department of Agriculture multistate research committee on economics and marketing has conducted The National Nursery Survey four times at 5-year intervals (1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003) to help fill the void of publicly available information on production, marketing, and management for the nursery industry. In 2003, the committee conducted the National Nursery Survey using a standard sampling methodology targeting 15,588 total firms representing 44 states with 2,485 nurseries responding. The objective of this analysis was to provide a regional profile of the marketing practices of nursery producers. Regional differences were present in several areas of sales management, selling practices, pricing, and advertising. Generally, the coastal regions had a higher percentage of wholesale sales, whereas interior regions had a higher percentage of retail sales. Newsletters and yellow pages were the most important form of advertising in the Great Plains; trade journals were the most important method in the south central and southeast regions; and catalogs were the most important advertising method for all other regions. The percentage of sales to repeat customers varied from a low of 65.6% in the Great Plains to a high of 76.2% in the southeast. The Appalachian (26.9%) and southeast (26.8%) regions had the highest percentage of negotiated sales, whereas the northeast had the lowest. Although significant differences generally existed among regions in the percentage of sales spent on various transaction methods, nurseries in all regions used in-person, telephone, and mail order as their three most important sales transaction methods, except for the southeast where trade shows were the third most important method of sales transactions. Landscape professionals, rewholesalers, and single-location garden centers were the major market outlets in all regions. Respondents in all regions identified production, personnel, and marketing as limitations for expansion.

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Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin Campbell, Jennifer Dennis, Charles Hall, Roberto Lopez, and Chengyan Yue

Savvy marketers rely on the principles of customer segmentation and product targeting to more efficiently allocate scarce resources and effectively reach groups of consumers with similar likes, preferences, or demands. Our objective was to identify and profile consumer segments with regard to their gardening purchases to determine whether there were differences in their ecofriendly attitudes and behaviors such as recycling. Our underlying hypothesis was that different types of gardeners may exhibit more environmentally friendly behavior, predisposing them to be more receptive to product innovations specifically designed to be ecofriendly. Researchers collected plant purchases, recycling attitudes and behaviors, and preferences for ecofriendly containers from 763 consumers in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas. A cluster analysis based on plant purchases yielded three consumer segments: low use, woody plant buyers, and herbaceous plant buyers. There were some differences with regard to recycling behaviors among consumers in the three groups, including recycling aluminum drinking cans, newspapers, magazines, use of energy-saving bulbs, and composting yard waste. Generally, herbaceous plant buyers were most ecofriendly followed by woody plant buyers and low use. Given these differences, there appears to be some merit in the future to segment consumers by plant purchases versus others to target specific types of ecofriendly products to them.

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Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin L. Campbell, Charles R. Hall, Hayk Khachatryan, Jennifer H. Dennis, and Chengyan Yue

Some consumers are becoming more interested in and purchasing products that are locally grown and/or ecologically friendly. Market segmentation and product targeting are efficient methods to allocate a firm’s scarce marketing resources to supply heterogeneous markets. This study’s objective was to identify consumer segments, focusing on their gardening purchases, to determine whether there were differences in consumer preferences for provenance and environmental attributes for transplant purchases. Using a consumer survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers, we found that participants who purchased different plant types had distinct preferences for varying environmental attributes and provenances. We profiled nine consumer segments, identifying their plant purchases and preferences for local and sustainably grown products and plant containers. Results provide plant producers and retailers with market segments that can be identified and targeted and provide a basis for customizable marketing communications to enhance profits.

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Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin L. Campbell, Charles R. Hall, Hayk Khachatryan, Jennifer H. Dennis, and Chengyan Yue

Information plays a vital role in the purchase decisions of retail lawn and garden consumers. Consumers have readily adopted personal computers and Internet technology as a way of seeking information and/or making purchases online. However, the extent to which horticultural consumers specifically seek information and make purchases online is not well documented. Our interests for this project were driven by an interest in the impact of smartphone ownership and Internet search behavior on product purchasing related to gardening products and items and how search and purchase were similar to (or different from) non-gardening information and products. Given the sharp rise in the use of smartphones and mobile media use, we explored differences among online shoppers, specifically those who had searched online for gardening information with those who were online for other purposes. We found differences between those who had searched online for non-gardening information compared with those who had searched online for gardening information. Women were more likely to search online for both gardening and non-gardening information, but men were more likely to make online gardening purchases. Education level, ethnicity, and geographic location of residence had varying impacts on the likelihood of online search and purchase. Having searched online for non-gardening information increased the likelihood of an online purchase by 16%, whereas the likelihood of purchase increased to 19% for online gardening-related searches.

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Jill Hardy, Bridget Behe, Susan Barton, Thomas Page, R. Thomas Fernandez, Robert Schutzki, and D. Bradley Rowe

For most residential home improvements, excluding landscapes, professionals can document return on investment. Our objective was to compare costs of installing landscapes with perceived home value, and determine return on investment. We administered surveys in eight selected U.S. cities in 1999. Self-selected participants from home and garden shows were asked to examine a photograph of a home without landscaping (base home), and were given its value estimated by local realtors. Participants were asked to view 16 additional photographs of the base home with different landscapes. Cost estimates for landscape materials and installation were calculated. Results showed that a sophisticated landscape with large and diverse plant material added up to 13% to the perceived value of a new $200,000 home. On average, any level of landscaping added value to the home. The increase in perceived value as a percentage of project cost was greatest for simple designs with small evergreen plant material. Complicated designs that included hardscapes and large, diverse plant material returned the least. In general, we found that return on investment for landscaping is comparable to the returns gained on several major home improvements, yet differed with respect to geographic region. We found that colored hardscape, developed from a red brick paver walkway, returned less than color from flowering annuals. Return on investment was greatest for annual plants added for color.

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Jay T. Hudson, Bridget K. Behe, Harry G. Ponder, and William E. Barrick

We compared service quality perceptions and expectations for consumers from five traditional garden centers (TGC) and three nontraditional garden center outlets (NTO) in Charlotte, N.C., in 1995. NTO and TGC customers had very similar expectations of service quality from their respective retailers. However, TGC customers perceived that their retailer better met their overall expectations. Service quality gaps, the difference between customer perceptions and expectations, were identified for both types of outlets for four of five service quality dimensions. Both TGC and NTO customers ranked assurance and responsiveness as the most important service quality dimensions. Empathy was more important than reliability to TGC customers. This order was reversed for NTO customers. Both sets of customers ranked tangibles as the least important service quality dimension.

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Wayne A. Becker, Bridget K. Behe, James L. Johnson, Christine D. Townsend, and Kerry K. Litzenberg

After a survey describing the range of products and services offered by Texas florists and supermarket floral departments, a modified SERVQUAL instrument measured customer perceptions and expectations of floral service quality. Florist customers were 3.2 years older, had a slightly higher household income, bought floral products twice as often from a florist, spent $14.53 more on each florist purchase than supermarket customers; they also made four fewer floral purchases from supermarkets during the previous 6 months. Supermarket customers spent $14.40 more on each supermarket floral purchase than did florist customers. Reliability was the most important and tangibles were the least important of the five service quality dimensions. Although expectations for both groups were similar on 18 of 22 service quality items, florists' customers perceived higher service quality than did supermarket customers. Although customers of both retail outlets had expectations higher than perceptions, florist customers had smaller, less negative gap scores. This result showed that florists better met customer expectations than did supermarket floral departments, a potential competitive advantage.

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Christopher A. Frank, Robert G. Nelson, Eric H. Simonne, Bridget K. Behe, and Amarat H. Simonne

Most bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) produced and consumed are green. However, yellow, red, orange, white, black, and purple bell peppers are also available. While bell pepper consumption in the United States has been increasing in the past 10 years, limited information is available on how their color, retail price, and vitamin C content influence consumer preferences. A conjoint analysis of 435 consumer responses showed that, for the total sample, color was about three times more important than retail price in shaping consumers' purchase decisions, while vitamin C content was nearly irrelevant. Six distinct consumer segments were identified through cluster analysis. Four segments favored green peppers, while one segment favored yellow and one favored brown. Demographic variables generally were not good predictors of segment membership, but several behavioral variables, such as past bell pepper purchases, were significantly related to segment membership. While green is generally the preferred color, market segments exist for orange, red, yellow, and even brown peppers. Applications to marketing strategies suggested that price sensitivity could explain why green peppers were priced individually, but those of other colors were priced by weight, and that promotion of increased vitamin C content would be most effective if associated specifically with yellow and orange peppers.

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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).

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

Two surveys were conducted to assess consumer and professional chefs' perceptions of three edible-flower species. Our objectives were to determine opinions, preferences, and uses of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' (nasturtium). Flowers were grown using certifiable organic methods and chosen to reflect a variety of flower tastes, textures, and appearances. We quantified three attributes (taste, fragrance, and visual appeal) with a total of seven semantic, differential scales adapted from a scaling authority. The attributes were rated as: visual—“appealing”, “desirable,” and “very interested in tasting”; fragrance—“appealing” and “pleasant”; and taste—“tasty” and “desirable”. Garden Day participants were self-selected to evaluate and taste flowers from a consumer perspective. When asked to rate the three species on visual appeal and desire, no less than 76% of consumers awarded all flowers an acceptable rating. We found similar results when consumers answered questions regarding the taste of two of the three species. Results from this study support our hypothesis that customers would rate edible flower attributes highly and would be likely to purchase and serve the three species tested. Members of the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association participated in a similar survey. At least 66% of these chefs rated the three visual attributes and two fragrance attributes of viola and nasturtium acceptable. Chefs' ratings of the fragrance of borage as “appealing” and “pleasant” were higher than those of consumers, but the ratings were still low, 21% and 25%, respectively. Unlike consumers, chefs' ratings of the taste of viola as “appealing” and “desirable” were low (29% and 36%, respectively). We found some minor differences in ratings when groups were compared, using demographic variables as a basis for segmentation, indicating a homogenous marketing strategy may be employed.