Gardening sector in bloom

It’s a fertile period in the gardening market, as the sector has enjoyed significant growth in terms of active buyers during the past 12 months. New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera estimates that there were 6.8 million 12-month buyers from consumer gardening titles for the third quarter of 2005. That’s up nearly 10% from 6.2 million the previous third quarter.

Three catalogs from the stable of multititle mailer MySeasons — Gurney’s Seed & Nursery, Breck’s Dutch Bulbs, and Spring Hill Nurseries — accounted for much of the increase, as they incorporated Web-generated names into their rental files. But for Gurney’s Seed & Nursery, at least, increased catalog circulation contributed to its growth as well.

In fact, Gurney’s added the most names to its 12-month file — 363,000, bringing its 12-month file to more than 529,000 — of all the gardening merchants. Such growth enabled Gurney’s to break into the list of the top five gardening titles in terms of active buyer files. Plow & Hearth, which sells “country living” products, remained number one: The Madison, VA-based cataloger, which is owned by Westbury, NY-based, had nearly 806,000 12-month buyers, up 4% from nearly 775,000 a year ago.

Through the third quarter of 2005, 17% of the gardening catalogs tallied by ParadyszMatera offered some sort of incentive, compared with 23% of consumer mailings overall. Discounts were by far the most popular among gardening merchants, with 14% of the catalogs received offering them.

In contrast, only 3% offered deferred payment, the same percentage that promised free shipping and handling. Those favoring the latter include Burlington, VT-based Gardener’s Supply Co., which regularly provides free shipping on orders of $75 or more.