What’s the number one complaint of native plant customers? Over and over, Native Plant Society of NJ (NPSNJ) members say, “I can’t find the native plants I want at my local garden center.” In response, the NPSNJ, as part of a Rutgers Environmental Stewards certification project is embarking on a new mission: to encourage local Independent Garden Centers (IGCs) to carry more native plants.
Headed up by Kim Rowe and Bobbie Herbs, RES class of 2023, the IGC Committee was formed January 2023 with the objective of gaining widespread distribution of native plants in New Jersey IGCs. This will make native plants much more easily accessible to gardeners of all types, including those just getting started with natives.
IGC owners are business people who are concerned about sales revenue and the bottom line. Traditionally, they may have resisted bringing in native plants because they weren’t sure their customers would buy them. But things are changing quickly. Native plants are in the news, and IGC management is becoming aware of the growing native market. Phase one of the NPSNJ IGC initiative was to build a business case that demonstrates the opportunity that IGCs are currently missing. Gardeners all over the state are currently purchasing thousands of natives from native plant sales, mail-order nurseries, and native plant nurseries, including many outside of NJ. There is a large and expanding market for native plants, and the committee plans to show IGCs that if they stock natives, customers will come.
The business case, which was compiled by Kim and Bobbie with a team of volunteers from NPSNJ, includes interviews with retailers and wholesalers, an anecdotal summary of the number of plants sold through non-profit organizations, a summary of key market research from several sources, and a large survey of native plant consumer buying habits conducted by NPSNJ earlier this year. The team plans to share the results with NJ garden center owners in a Zoom event on September 7 featuring Rutgers professors Michele Bakacs and William Errickson.
With the business case almost complete, the committee is entering Phase 2: Implementation. In this phase, we will be writing press releases and publications, pulling together Zoom events, researching and contacting industry organizations, and developing educational materials. If you would like to join this exciting and dynamic project, please contact Kim Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.