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  • Author or Editor: Bridget K. Behe* x
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Water is becoming scarcer as world population increases and will be allocated among competing uses. Some of that water will go toward sustaining human life, but some will be needed to install and support landscape plants. Thus, future water resource availability may literally change the American landscape. Recent research suggests that consumers’ attitudes and behavior toward potable water supplies have changed in other countries because of greater social awareness and increasingly widespread exposure to drought conditions. We conducted an online survey of 1543 U.S. consumers to assess their perceptions about landscape plants, the water source used to produce them, and plant water needs to become established in the landscape. Using two separate conjoint designs, we assessed their perceptions of both herbaceous and woody perennials. Consumers placed greater relative importance on water source in production over water use in the landscape for both herbaceous and woody perennials included in this study. They preferred (had a higher utility score for) fresh water over recycled water and least preferred a blend of fresh with recycled water for perennials and recycled water used for woody perennial production. In addition, the group that did not perceive a drought but experienced one placed a higher value (higher utility score) on nursery plants grown with fresh water compared with those which were actually not in drought and did not perceive one. Educational and promotional efforts may improve the perception of recycled water to increase the utility of that resource. Promoting the benefits of low water use plants in the landscape may also facilitate plant sales in times of adequate and low water periods.

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An online survey of plant purchasers was conducted to ascertain the influence of plant benefits messaging on consumer behavior. Three plant attributes, including type of plant, price, and plant availability, were used to distinguish purchasing preferences. To assess plant purchasing behavior, participants viewed a list of 12 different plant types and selected those they had purchased in the past year. The 12 plant types included annuals, vegetables, herbs, perennials, flowering shrubs, evergreen shrubs, fruit trees, evergreen trees, shade trees, flowering plants, foliage plants, and succulents. The most common retail locations patronized for plant purchases were home improvement stores, closely followed by independent garden centers. Consumers were grouped according to eight different plant benefit messages that they were exposed to, including physical, emotional, cognitive, social, educational, environmental, financial, and aesthetic benefits. Although some of the groups (clusters) exhibited similar purchasing behaviors in terms of plant types purchased, price levels preferred, and their preference for rare, common, or moderately available plants, there were just enough differences among groups to be able to distinguish them from other groups. The plant benefits were obviously affecting purchasing behavior, but further study is needed to understand the underlying reasons more fully.

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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.

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A survey was conducted with 130 retail garden centers in Alabama to assess personnel training. The 59 item survey was mailed to 472 employees of these garden centers on 1 June 1992 requesting the amount, frequency, and methods of training they had received from their current employer. 176 surveys were returned for a 37% response rate. 69% of employees received verbal policies and standards from their employer when hired, whereas only 37% were given a written job description of responsibilities. 42% of the employees had received some kind of formal training with 56% received all of their training on an individual basis. Of the employees who received training in small groups, it was performed one to three times among 47% of employees and more than 10 times with 25% of employees. Significant decreases were shown in the amount of training received between the first week and the end of the first six months on the job. The results suggest not enough emphasis is being placed on employee training in the management and operation of retail garden centers in Alabama.

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Consumer horticulture (CH) programming can result in outcomes and impacts at the individual level, such as money saved by reducing inputs, greater return on the landscape investment, healthier plants, and improved quality of life. It may also lead to community-level impacts that provide public value, such as water quality protection, water conservation, and protection of biodiversity. In addition to documenting such outcomes and impacts, it is important to quantify their economic value, connect the value to actions taken by extension audiences, and demonstrate to extension’s stakeholders a return on investment. However, it is difficult to document the economic contributions of consumer horticulture and even more difficult to document the economic impact of consumer horticulture extension programs. CH reaches individuals and communities directly and indirectly through personal gardens and landscapes, indoor flowers and plants, school and community gardens, and horticulture therapy. The economic contributions and benefits of consumer horticulture are challenging to quantify, but can be evaluated using several different strategies, including measuring the consumer dollars spent and the economy driven by consumers’ purchase of gardening supplies and landscape services. A second strategy is to examine the value of consumers’ gardening actions on environmental ecosystem services that support soils and plants, provide food and raw materials, and regulate functions, such as pollination, storm water catchment, water quality preservation, green waste reduction, and wildlife habitat and diversity. A third strategy is to focus on cultural, social, and health system services, such as education, recreation, and therapy, that result in exercise, nutrition, health, and happiness. Using a combination of these strategies, workgroups of Tennessee extension professionals are balancing the feasibility of data collection with the usefulness of the data gathered by developing realistic and robust outcome indicators that will form the basis for local and statewide reporting.

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A consumer research study was conducted examining effects of plant guarantees on satisfaction and regret in the purchase of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and container perennials. Five hundred and seventeen respondents were divided into two groups: those who were offered a guarantee and those who were not offered a guarantee. The effects of satisfaction and regret on repurchase intentions were recorded on multi-item seven-point Likert scales. A structural equation model was used to examine simultaneous relationships between regret, satisfaction, and intention to repurchase. Survey results indicated guarantees would increase satisfaction and decrease regret for hanging baskets, but not for container perennials and potted roses. Five of six models showed regret and/or satisfaction directly impacted intention to repurchase. Both satisfaction and regret had a direct influence on repurchase intentions for the hanging baskets model regardless of the presence or absence of guarantees. When guarantees were absent, satisfaction and regret had direct effects on intention to repurchase for the perennial model. Regret was the only construct to directly impact intention to repurchase in the potted rose model. Guarantees appear to lower the risks of buying some products and may improve the perception of quality of the offering.

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An aging American population may be less willing than a younger population to install and remove a live, fresh-cut evergreen tree in their home for Christmas celebrations. An alternative to using traditional, large, fresh-cut or potted Christmas trees could be forcing these evergreen species in a small (≈1-L) container that could be displayed on a tabletop. We initiated this study to determine consumer preferences and marketability for six evergreen tree species produced for tabletop display and used three decoration themes and three price points. We constructed a web-based survey in which 331 participants were compensated with a $5 e-coupon for viewing 27 photographs of tabletop trees and providing preference and use information. The conjoint model accounted for 91.2% of the variance and showed that consumers valued tree species as the most important attribute (61% of the tree value), with decoration color/theme the second most important feature (27%) and, last, price (12%). Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata (Moench) Voss) was the most preferred species overall, and red was the most preferred decoration theme. Logically, the lowest price point was the most preferred. However, price was the most important attribute for participants younger than 25 years. The importance of price decreased as participant age increased until age 60, when price became a more important component. With a cost of production of $5.45 and decoration and shipping estimated at an additional $4.00, the product could be a profit generator priced at any of the tested price points ($14.95 and above).

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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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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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Currently, one of the most widely discussed topics in the green industry, which is promulgated by consumers exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness, is the issue of environmental sustainability. This has led to a desire for products that not only solve the needs of consumers, but are also produced and marketed using sustainable production and business practices. Consumers increasingly place a greater emphasis on product packaging and this has carried over to the grower sector in the form of biodegradable pots. Although various forms of these eco-friendly pots have been available for several years, their marketing appeal was limited as a result of their less-than-satisfying appearance. With the recent availability of more attractive biodegradable plant containers, a renewed interest in their suitability in the green industry and their consumer acceptance has emerged. The objective of this study was to determine the characteristics of biodegradable pots that consumers deem most desirable and to identify distinct consumer segments, thus allowing producers/businesses to more efficiently use their resources to offer specific product attributes to those who value them the most. We conducted a conjoint analysis through Internet surveys with 535 valid observations from Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana. Our results show that on average, consumers like rice hull pots the most followed by straw pots. Our analysis identified seven market segments and corresponding consumer profiles: “Rice Hull Likers,” “Straw Likers,” “Price Conscious,” “Environmentally Conscious,” “Carbon Sensitive,” “Non-discriminating.” Idiosyncratic marketing strategies should be implemented by industry firms to market biodegradable containers to the identified consumer segments.

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