Spring’s Bad Mood Hits Lawn and Garden Category Like a Storm

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    April 30, 2018

Spring’s Bad Mood Hits Lawn and Garden Category Like a Storm

Industry Trends
Marketing Insights

April is Lawn and Garden Month. And in early March, when the Wray Ward Blog Maven (WWBM) asked me to write an article on lawn and garden trends, I said, “Sure!” I assumed I could throw something together in a couple weeks. But here we are, at the end of April, and I’m running way behind.

And while I hate to let WWBM down (she’s really nice), it’s apropos. It’s not just me — the whole lawn and garden industry is running behind schedule. There are two big reasons for this.

Volatile weather

“While dramatic swings in weather are a normal part of every spring, this year looks to have a particularly volatile mood.” ~Chris Scott, Chief Meteorologist, The Weather Network

Good call, Chris. We all saw the headlines and shivered through spring’s bad mood. This year, the Northeast recorded its heaviest April snowfall since 1982. The Midwest experienced record lows in early April, delaying not only baseball’s opening day but also crop planting by as much as four weeks.

The result for the lawn and garden industry has been as dreadful as the skies. Lawn equipment manufacturer Husqvarna said cold weather delayed the start of the gardening season in its main markets, which contributed to a 6 percent hit on its stock price.

What’s more, the myriad of small businesses that comprise the lawn and garden contractor world are definitely feeling the chill. Consider two examples:

1.     Duke’s Lawn Care Services in the town of Dartmouth, New Hampshire, says, “April and May can make or break you because of the weather. Now we’re stuck with it and I just keep posting Twitter updates to let customers know how far behind schedule we are.”

2.     In Hyde Park, Utah’s Specialized Pest Control and Lawn Care is already counting on the summer season to recover. “I spend a lot of time watching the weather service website. You can end up with a domino effect where you’re behind in May and then all the way through June. We’ll be looking to rebound in July and get back on track.”

I’m still wearing a jacket to the office in the mornings. July feels like a long time from now.

Labor woes

Even more than Good Friday's nor’easters and Easter's freezing rain, the deepening labor shortage is putting a damper on the lawn and garden industry. A lack of quality labor continues to be the top concern in the industry, especially for companies making more than $1 million in revenue. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being a major concern), those companies ranked hiring a 7.8. For reference, the next highest concern, “lowball competitors” rated a 5.9.

  • 77 percent of lawn and garden companies believe a lack of quality employees hinders their location’s growth
  • 34 percent believe that it hinders a lot
  • This translates to long lead times for customer projects

According to Houzz, the average wait time for landscape projects due to labor shortages has now stretched from a national average of 5.4 weeks to upwards of eight weeks — and that’s just to get an estimate for outdoor design/build projects. In areas like Boston or Seattle, that delay can stretch past 12 weeks. In fact, one Seattle firm is already telling customers their project won't happen until 2019. So much for that glorious new outdoor space you've been Pinteresting about since February! Maybe next year.

Rebound strategies

Pray tell, what are we supposed to do while we wait for the lawn and garden industry to catch up? 

Unfortunately, we can’t do much to combat Mother Nature. On the other hand, an established lawn and garden pro could use the endemic and widespread labor situation as an opportunity to increase pricing with some degree of confidence. If you take this route, make sure you also increase the frequency and professionalism of communications to your customers who are waitlisted or have current projects. Top-notch customer service will help elevate the perceived value of the project they will, one day, get to enjoy. And it’s the right thing to do. 

Meanwhile, I’d suggest we all adjourn to that other outdoor living trend: the DIY Garden Shed Bar.

See you there.

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