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  • Author or Editor: Bridget K. Behe* x
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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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Competition among floral retailers has promulgated industrywide structural changes while giving consumers more choices in locations for purchase. Consumer panel data collected by the American Floral Endowment from 1992 to 2005 were used to evaluate consumers' choice of different floral retail outlets among box stores (BS), traditional freestanding floral outlets (TF), general retailer (GR), other stores (OS), and direct-to-consumer (DC) channels. Since 1992, market share and percentage of transactions decreased through TF but increased for BS. Mean expenditure per transaction in TF was higher than in BS and GR. Consumers who made floral gift purchases were more likely to patronize TF, but those who bought floral products for themselves were more likely to purchase from BS. Consumers patronizing TF or DC were more likely to buy arranged flowers rather than unarranged flowers. Consumers who purchased foliage plants and outdoor bedding or garden plants were more likely to buy them from BS. Reasons consumers who choose BS and GR cited for using those outlets included convenience and lower prices, whereas consumers who purchased from TF and DC cited delivery, reputation, and service as major drivers impacting their use. Demographic and geographic differences were also identified among consumers using the aforementioned outlets.

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Flower color is a dominant attribute of fresh flowers, likely playing a key role in purchase preference. Several prior studies showed flower color preference differed by gender, but other information on color preferences is sparse. Data for this study were collected by the Ipsos-National Panel Diary Group for the American Floral Endowment, which maintained an extensive panel of consumer transactions from 1992 to 2005, including floral purchases. Multinomial logit analysis of single-stem cut flower purchases showed that men and women differed in their cut flower color preferences but that flower color preference also varied with demographic characteristics and by occasion. We grouped colors into six categories: BluePurple, RedBronze, PeachPink, White, Yellow, and Other. The highest percentage of flowers purchased were RedBronze (34%), whereas the lowest percentage of flowers were Yellow (10.01%) with Other flower colors accounting for less than 5% of purchases. Although women used a more diverse color palette, both men and women were more likely to buy RedBronze flowers for an anniversary and buy PeachPink flowers for Mother's Day. Between 1992 and 2005, women were less likely to purchase PeachPink flowers and men were less likely to purchase RedBronze over time. Overall demand for BluePurple and Yellow flower colors increased over time, whereas the demand for other color categories decreased over time.

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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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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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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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Survey analysis of 510 floral product consumers in Ohio supermarkets identified 34 factors that affect floral purchasing. Responses to 106 survey questions were factor-analyzed using a principal component analysis with varimax rotate that yielded 34 independent factors, accounting for 64% of the total variance. Factors were grouped into five major categories: product, consumer, store, use (gift), and use (location) factors. The analysis condensed the domain of consumer floral purchasing issues into fewer factors that represent the most important influences on floral buying decisions. The factors are useful in market segmentation and were used to define five market segments of supermarket-floral customers.

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A profile of consumer groups who purchased floral products from supermarkets was studied with a 106-item questionnaire developed to determine the domain of issues affecting supermarket floral purchases. Thirty-four factors were identified in factor analysis and formed the basis for cluster analysis. Cluster analysis was performed on survey responses to create five homogeneous consumer segments. Demographic data and floral-purchase factors were used to profile market segments and distinguishing elements. Fourteen factors contributed most to the differences between segments, including factors of product assortment, number of purchases, degree of personal use, and package importance. Clusters can be used by supermarket and florist management as potential target markets.

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Sales of many products, including umbrellas and skis, depend on weather conditions. Anecdotal evidence from plant producers and retailers indicate that their sales are also heavily reliant on weather conditions. Still, little published literature documents weather's influence on plant sales. Daily sales data of herbs, vegetables, and flowering annuals were acquired from 42 retail stores in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan (which were divided into four regions based on zip code). The multisite Midwestern retailer sells food and household items year-round but seasonally sells plants in outdoor covered areas. The data were analyzed using time series regression and the model produced significant results, but the amount of variance captured by region, weather parameters, month, and day of the week was only ≈40% for herbs and vegetables (H+V) and flowering annual plants (FA). Precipitation amount had no effect on sales of H+V and FA, likely because the plants were merchandised under cover. Increasing units of sunshine lowered sales by 1%. H+V sales were greatest in the southeast Michigan region but for FA were greatest in the mid-Michigan region. Lower minimum air temperature reduced sales for sales of both H+V and FA, whereas higher maximum air temperature increased sales. Sales were substantially higher in May and lower in June and July compared with April. Sales were higher in 2009 than 2007. Compared with Wednesday, sales were higher everyday and highest on Saturday. Day of week and month had a greater impact on sales than did any weather parameter. Thus, region, weather, month, and weekday do influence daily plant sales but did not account for most of the variability in 42 U.S. midwestern retail outlets.

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