GROW! Marketing and Public Relations Tips

Sold Out!  Plants are Running Low... But What are Customers Saying?

Posted by Becky Paxton on Mon, Jun 14, 2021 @ 2:05 PM

The headlines seem to be everywhere – skyrocketing plant sales, seed shortages, and a cut flower frenzy. On the heels of the pandemic, 2021 has seen a fervor for plants and garden goods that our industry hasn’t experienced in years.

Sold Out GraphicAs industry struggles to meet the demands of the massive “plantdemic” gardening trend, many are acutely aware of how limited supplies are this spring.

And this has led to an important question: how much of the “sold out blues” are consumers feeling? 

This spring, many gardeners (including first-timers) arrived at the garden center ready to shop, only to be met with empty shelves and in some cases, unfulfilled wishes. In our visions of worst-case scenarios, we imagine them getting frustrated and giving up – even abandoning the hobby.

Luckily, social media is giving us insight into consumers’ thoughts and feelings…

Read more to find out what they’re posting - it isn’t what you might expect!

We analyzed over 10 million social media messages from 2019-2021 to see whether garden supply shortages had an impact on consumer satisfaction or likelihood of future gardening. What we found was surprising.

Even though our industry is seeing supply pressure in 2021, the biggest spike in negative social media “sold out” posts and Google searches was actually… April 2020!

Social Media and the Early Pandemic

In March and April of 2020, social media posts about gardening soared asEmpty Grocery Store Shelf the pandemic spread worldwide. Social posts about gardening reflected fears of supply chain shortages, the need for self-reliance, and homesteading. For the first time in recent memory, many products – not just seeds and plants – were sold out. Store shelves were bare in a way that shocked and unsettled many.

Individuals took to social media to express observations and fears around plant and seed shortages – because any shortage felt newsworthy in that uncertain moment. But by the summer, fall, and winter of 2020, “sold out” posts had declined significantly. They later experienced a small increase again in April-May 2021.

So, if plant and seed supply in 2021 is approximately as low as 2020… why hasn’t the social media outcry been bigger?

Spring 2021 or: How I Learned to Embrace the Shortage

From toilet paper to gas crises, by 2021 we had become a society that sews our own face masks and brews homemade hand sanitizer. In short? We had seen a lot.

Additionally, issues with national and international shipping made product delays and shortages relatively commonplace by 2021. In today’s post-pandemic world, it takes more than a few empty shelves to spawn a social media post.

What are consumers talking about in 2021?

Right now, posts using the phrase “sold out” are divided between memories of 2020 shortages, or are observing a current shortage.

Starting Seeds GardenImportantly, a large number of the “current" sold-out posts are users blaming themselves for not planning their gardening purchases well ahead of the season. But it’s important to note again that the volume of these 2021 “sold out” posts is less than it was in April 2020.

Why fewer posts? The drop may indicate consumers aren’t overly surprised or alarmed by the scarcity of gardening supplies. The overwhelming tone of today’s posts express an intent to plan ahead and purchase earlier next year. This bodes well for the garden industry and shows an intent to continue the hobby in the future.

One other theory is that new gardeners don’t know that these shortages are at all unusual. Their only experience with purchasing garden supplies is in a pandemic, so they may not realize that seed, bulb, plant, and soil shortages are the exception and not the norm in our industry. This would go far in explaining why many posts (particularly from first-time gardeners) speak to the shortages, but reply that they’ll plan to buy earlier next year.

How Can You Shape the Conversation?

Educate garden shoppers! This is one way we can help ensure they return to the hobby next year. Consider online or in-store education on the following topics:

If you like (sold out plant/product), try this (comparable in-stock plant/product) – Use this topic for a blog or social media post, or a curated plant collection on a store shelf or online.

Tips and Hacks – Does your store always run low on certain seeds by March? Clue shoppers in! A short social video gives them the inside scoop on what to buy – and more importantly – when to buy it.

When we’re active participants in the social conversation, we can channel the world’s enthusiasm for plants and keep the momentum going in the future!

Want to learn more about trends? Download our 2021 garden Trends Report!

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Topics: marketing communications, garden PR consultant, Instagram, Garden Trends, social media

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