Gardening catalogs weather the seasons

Although it’s a relatively small niche market in the consumer catalog universe, the gardening segment has deep roots in the industry. Indeed, the Mailorder Gardening Association, a nonprofit organization serving mail order companies that market gardening products to consumers, recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.

According to New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera, mailers specializing in seeds, bulbs, plants, backyard decor, and other horticulture accoutrements account for roughly 3.7% of all 12-month buyers available for list rental or exchange. As of the third quarter of 2004, the 12-month active universe for the gardening catalog market was 6.2 million, down 3% from the previous year but up nearly 7% from two years prior.

Big gainers in terms of active buyers, according to ParadyszMatera, include Kinsman Co.’s Gardener’s Catalog. Launched in 1981, the catalog of European-inspired garden gear has an active buyer file of 37,000 — small, yes, but up an impressive 98% from the previous year. Another gainer, Dutch Gardens — part of the Plantron stable of horticulture catalogs — has more than 100,000 12-month buyers, a 71% year-over-year increase. The title, which specializes in bulbs, has experimented with a number of premiums, such as plants and books, on orders of more than $50.

Also making great strides has been Michigan Bulb Co. Between the third quarter of 2003 and the third quarter of 2004, its 12-month buyer file grew 60%, to more than 200,000 names. That’s the title’s peak since former parent company Foster & Gallagher declared bankruptcy in 2001 and sold it to another multititle mailer, MySeasons.

Gardening mailers with the largest active buyer files
Rank List name 3Q 2004 house file universe Average order
1 Plow and Hearth 774,816 $70
2 Gardener’s Supply Co. 460,967 $73
3 House of Wesley 351,000 $35
4 Jackson and Perkins 310,000 $80
5 Spring Hill Nurseries 293,223 $60
Source: ParadysMatera

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