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Consumer Demand Trends for Potted Azaleas
Drs. Tom & Tim Prince, Prince & Prince, Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Highlights of this article were published in the April, 2003 issue of Greenhouse Grower magazine
NOTE: Updated consumer floral-purchasing trends are available in the Prince & Prince U.S. Consumer Floral Tracking Survey, now available as a one-day, on-site, comprehensive seminar, with Q&A session, or as a "Seminar on Flash".
Author's Note: We would like to thank Yoder Brothers (Barberton, OH, now Aris Hort.) for contributing information for this feature article.
Today's potted azaleas have a long and prodigious history, yet very little is known about the ultimate consumers of these year-round and holiday flowering plants. Recent research by Prince & Prince provides valuable insights for growers and floral retailers to identify new market opportunities for this "historic", yet ever-new year-round and holiday potted plant.
Azaleas actually belong to the Rhododendron family, which dates back to the late Cretaceous period of 70 million years ago. Today, horticulturists propagate thousands of azalea varieties. The basic azalea flower colors, i.e. red, white, pink, coral and bi-colors, can be found in an endless variety of shades and color patterns that make each plant's color appear slightly different. By using advanced methods of plant production and environmental manipulation, Yoder Brothers (Barberton, OH) has developed a grower method to produce fresh potted azaleas virtually every week throughout the year.
In 2001, about 14 million potted azalea plants were produced by growers in the 36 states surveyed for the USDA, with a wholesale value of about 63 million, a 2% gain in value over the prior year (Floriculture Crops, USDA, NASS). At Prince & Prince, we attempt to understand who buys these azaleas through an analysis of consumer purchasing and demographic trends.
In this article, we extract consumer floral purchasing data from several Prince & Prince consumer studies, and model consumer demographics that influence potted azalea purchasing. We also combine this consumer trend information with US household Census projections and make future demand projections for potted azalea purchasing. Results show that moderate gains in azalea demand are predicted in the US over the next ten years.
Our Market Studies & Analyses
Since 1996, Prince & Prince has monitored the consumer floral marketplace with its periodic nationwide survey, "Consumers Rate Their Floral Outlets". In these studies, we measured the consumer household incidence of purchasing numerous floral products, including potted azaleas. By household purchasing incidence, we mean the purchase of one or more potted azaleas by the household throughout the year.
In order to perform an in-depth analysis of consumer demographic trends leading to future azalea purchasing, we pooled purchasing incidence data for azaleas across our three study periods (1996, 1998, and 2000). This provided us data from over 3,300 randomly-selected floral buying households throughout the US. Due to the nature of our surveys, our respondents tend to be floral buyers, as over 95% of our households had purchased at least one floral product over the prior year. The surveys also collected various consumer demographic measurements that are used in our analysis (Table 1).
Our methodology comprised "tree segmentation modeling", a data-mining research technique that is efficient in uncovering relationships in a database structure (see "About Our Analysis"). The output from this analysis results in a predictive tree diagram that succinctly shows how the purchasing of potted azaleas and consumer demographics are related.
Household Potted Azalea Purchasing
The top box in the tree diagram (see Figure) reveals that across 3,300+ randomly-selected US floral-buying households, 14% had purchased at least one or more potted azalea plants annually. The household demographic characteristic that best distinguishes high and low purchase incidence for potted azaleas (from all of those listed in Table 1) is the age of the respondent. This means that the age demographic is the most important underlying consumer factor that distinguishes potted azalea purchasing. Floral buying households where the respondent is under 35 years old have only a 10% likelihood of azalea purchase. This purchase likelihood increases to 13% for those aged 35-44 or over 74, and the purchase likelihood reaches its highest level of 17% for those aged 45-74.
The right portion of our tree diagram explores in greater detail the highest purchase likelihood group, those aged 45-74. For this age group, the gender of the householder is the next best determinate of purchase likelihood. Single male households in this age group are only 10% likely to buy an azalea, whereas the likelihood rebounds to 17% in single female or "more than one adult" households. This finding suggests that the potted azalea plant may be somewhat lacking in specific attributes for the maturing single male segment. No other demographic characteristic (of all those listed in Table 1) further delineates azalea purchase likelihood for this age group.
For households where the respondent is aged 35-44 or those aged 75 or older (center portion of tree diagram), the characteristic "single vs. more than one adult" household best delineates potted azalea purchase likelihood. For this age group, living in a "single adult" household reduces purchases likelihood to 9%, whereas those in "more than one adult" households show higher purchase likelihood at 15%. For this latter group, region of the country further delineates azalea purchase. Those living in the Northeast, South Atlantic, or South Central regions show the highest purchase likelihood (18%), but those in the North Central (Midwest) and West regions show lower purchase likelihood (11%). No other household demographic characteristic further delineates azalea purchase likelihood for this age group.
For households where the respondent is under 35, azalea purchase likelihood drops to 10%, the lowest of our age groups (left portion of tree diagram). Again, those living in the Northeast, South Atlantic, or South Central regions show higher purchase likelihood (14%), whereas those in the North Central (Midwest) and West regions show much lower purchase likelihood (5%). No other household demographic characteristic further delineates azalea purchase likelihood for this youngest age group.
In two major age groups in our tree diagram, the North Central (Midwest) and West regions show markedly less purchase likelihood for potted azaleas. Industry observers have noted that the North Central (Midwest) region is generally more distant from the major US azalea production regions, and that higher costs in product shipping and potentially lower plant quality may relate to the weaker consumer demand. The softened demand in the West region may relate to a heightened competitive product environment in this region, encompassing a plethora of California floral products.
Trends in US Age Demographics
Since the age demographic is key to potted azalea purchase likelihood, we examined projected Census trends in the age of US consumer householders, from the year 2000 through the year 2010. This provided us an understanding as to how age trends may affect future consumer demand for potted azaleas. Table 2 shows actual US household numbers and projections by age of householder for the discriminating age groups shown in our tree diagram (under 35, 35-44, 45-74, etc.).
For the 45-74 age group with the highest potted azalea purchase likelihood (17%), the predicted change in the number of these households through 2010 is a substantial 26% increase (Table 2). This compares with a 9% increase in US households overall for the same time period. This age group (45-74) is also large in size, comprising about 45% of all US households in 2000 (about 52% in 2010). Thus, the sizeable age demographic shift through 2010 will likely have a favorable impact on potted azalea demand by increasing the size of a large-sized age group that tends to buy more azaleas. However, the purchase likelihood for this elder age group is only slightly higher than the overall average (17% vs. 14%). Thus, we predict moderate gains in potted azalea demand from this age group.
For those households where the respondent is aged 35-44 and 75 or older, we predict softened azalea demand. For this group, purchase likelihood does not substantially differ from the overall US average (13% vs. 14%), but there are double-digit losses (-14%) predicted in the number of households aged 35-44. These household losses, however, will be counterbalanced somewhat by small gains (11%) in the eldest household group, those aged 75 & older. Nevertheless, total households in this age group (35-44, and 75 & older) will witness declines over the next decade, resulting in softened azalea demand. We think, however, that any projected loss in potted azalea demand for this age group will be more than offset by the moderate projected gains in azalea demand of the 45-74 age segment.
For those households where the respondent is under 35, we predict little change in potted azalea demand. Although buyers in this group have the lowest purchase likelihood for azaleas (10%), the number of households in this age group is predicted to decline only slightly (-3%) through 2010. Thus, little change in azalea demand appears evident for this age group.
This reporting has presented a model that predicts US household purchase incidence for potted azaleas based on key demographic characteristics of consumer households, and how these demographics are projected to change in the future. Age, single households, and geographic region are key demographic factors that currently drive potted azalea purchase. A large projected rise in the number of householders aged 45-74 in the US over the next decade, coupled with a slightly higher azalea purchase likelihood for this group, provides the basis for a projected moderate increase in potted azalea market demand.
An assumption made here is that purchasing patterns differ among age groups, and that the generational purchasing patterns of one age group do not carry-over unaltered into older age groups as the population matures. Research with some agricultural products show that the generational effect is small, compared with the age-group effect. Thus, as we age, we tend to change and become more like our parents and grandparents, in tastes, habits, and purchasing. However, this assumption has yet to be verified in the US floral industry with long-term studies over decades.
We suggest that floral retailers use the segmentation profiles of potted azalea purchasing shown in this research, and compare these with their own market demographics. These findings should help growers and retailers to identify new market opportunities for this "historic", yet ever-new year-round and Holiday potted plant.
About Our Analysis. To identify household demographic characteristics that most influence the incidence of Potted azalea purchasing, we performed a "tree segmentation" analysis of our database. This research technique searches through our database to develop a predictive tree diagram that depicts groups of households that have high and low purchasing incidence for potted azaleas. The first branch in the tree diagram represents the best predictor demographic characteristic (of all those measured in Table 1) that most distinguishes high and low purchase incidence for azaleas. The overall group of households is then split on this characteristic, and the analysis repeats itself on the resulting household demographic groups. Subsequent branches in the tree diagrams represent additional predictors of purchasing incidence. All splits and branches in the tree diagrams are statistically significant. In essence, our tree segmentation model identifies the highly significant household demographics that largely predict potted azalea purchase, and reveals the priority sequence of those demographic characteristics.
The five Census regions shown in Table 1 are identified by the following states: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT), North Central or Mid-West (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, MN, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI), South Atlantic (DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV), South Central (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, TN, TX), and West (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY).
About the Authors. Drs. Tom and Tim Prince, formerly of The Ohio State University, are brothers and co-founders of Prince & Prince, Inc., a leading marketing research specialist in the floral and green plant industries. Prince & Prince has completed more than 50 major marketing research reports for the floral and floral-related industries in the US, and has also conducted floral marketing research in Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, and Germany. They conceptualize, design, and implement market studies and product tests for floral and green-plant suppliers, floral importers, wholesale florists, retail florists, and floral-industry associations. For more information about their marketing research and reports for sale, visit their web site at www.FloralMarketResearch.com.
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