Field Agent study of 300 young adults tracks attitudes, purchasing habits in ‘green’ aisle

Millennials ages 18 to 35 are all city-dwellers, live in apartments and spend their free time on weekends seeing live music and attending art openings. They are not cutting the grass or planting flowers … right?

Wrong, according to research conducted earlier this spring by Field Agent, which examined the topline shopper habits of young adults in the lawn and garden aisle. The bottom line results: 85% of Millennials who responded to the Field Agent survey participate in some form of “green” activity, and of those respondents, 86% make at least occasional purchases, 29% do so “fairly” often and 6% do so “very often.” They make those purchases most often at home improvement centers (82% listed the category) and mass merchandisers (77%), although considerably less often at local nurseries (38%) and nationally branded hardware cooperatives (31%).

“We wanted to know, ‘What does it look like across those categories in terms of the green activities they’re involved in?’” says Chris Medenwald, marketing manager and research analyst for Field Agent. “One of the storylines is that the Millennial market is pretty accessible to lawn and garden brands. When you think of 20-somethings and 30-somethings, I don’t know that lawn and garden care come to mind.”

But lawn and garden executives and shopper marketers who might have considered the Millennial demographic somehow off limits need to readjust their thinking, Medenwald says. “They’re at least occasionally involved in those categories, and they spend money in those categories," he said. "The question that drove it was, ‘Are Millennials involved in green activities, and if so, to what extent?’ We had a suspicion that even if they’re not rolling up their sleeves and getting into the yard, maybe they’re doing some indoor green activities.”

The survey broke down the 85% who do participate in “green activities” into three groups:

  • 63% handle lawn care, including 84% of those who are homeowners and 65% of house renters;
  • 58% participate in outdoor gardening, including 72% of homeowners and 52% of house renters; and,
  • 47% care for indoor plants or flowers bought in a store, including 51% of apartment renters.

Among the specific results that Medenwald found most noteworthy: only 11% of Millennials purchased their lawn and garden equipment online, far below the number who did so at home improvement centers, mass merchandisers and other channels. “Most of them, just like an older person might, rely on home improvement centers and rely on mass merchandisers,” he says. “That was a little bit surprising.”

Medenwald also was struck by the fact that 73% of respondents seek out family or friends for information on purchasing lawn and garden equipment, while only 48% used a smartphone or other device for such information; 44% ask store employees for advice, and 38% use company/brand websites. “Millennials tend to be fairly traditional” in that regard, he says.

Half of respondents rank cost or value at the top of the list of five shopping priorities, while 35% of them ranked quality the highest — far above environmental protection (8%), in-store convenience (7%) or, notably, brand name (1%), demonstrating that Millennials are not particularly brand loyal, with 51% ranking that fifth. “Cost, value and quality were tops in their minds,” Medenwald says.

Lastly, even apartment renters expressed an interest in lawn care and gardening, even though many of them were projecting ahead into their futures. Of those who do not currently garden, 66% found the concept at least “moderately” appealing and 41% said the same about lawn care.

The survey, based on the responses of 300 people, was conducted over smartphones and intentionally divided among homeowners, house renters and apartment renters, Medenwald says. “It was technologically sophisticated, yet talking about something as basic as you can get: getting your hands dirty in the soil.”

Field Agent sees this survey as the first in what could be a series on the subject. “We wanted to do a little bit of exploratory research that we could use as a launching pad for some of the in-depth studies we want to do later on,” Medenwald says.

In other words, stay tuned — but be sure to wash that dirt off your hands before you check back for more.