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Gardening: Interest Same, Sales Dip : Drought, smaller lawns, other interests blamed for decline in products purchased.

June 25, 1989| From United Press International

The number of Americans puttering around in their gardens has stayed about the same over the past two years, but they spent a little less money on their hobby in that time, a national survey shows.

An annual survey conducted by the Gallup Poll for the National Gardening Assn. showed about 69 million American households participated on one or more types of indoor or outdoor gardening activities in 1988, compared to 70 million households in 1987.

Results of the survey were based on findings of 2,500 at-home personal interviews conducted last October and November. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Lawn and garden retail sales in 1988 were an estimated $15.5 billion, compared to $17.5 billion in 1987. Americans spent an average $227 on their lawns and gardens in 1988 and $251 the year before, the survey said.

The widespread drought of 1988--the fourth worst on record--and extreme temperatures in many parts of the country over the summer contributed to a decline in sales for 1988, the survey said.

Smaller Gardens Gain

Aside from weather problems, other factors may have affected lawn and garden retail sales for 1988, said Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Assn.

Smaller gardens are becoming more popular, he said, and lawn and garden activities compete with other leisure activities in terms of time and discretionary spending.

The survey showed that the biggest decreases in spending occurred among the same groups of people who spent the most in 1987, said Butterfield. It is possible that many consumers purchased lawn and garden products and equipment in 1987 that they did not need to replace last year.

Through a demographic breakdown, survey results indicated the Midwest and West showed above-average participation in gardening activities.

Other Poll Highlights

America's gardeners run the gamut in terms of education, occupation and age, the survey said, with 79% age 30 or over, 94% having completed high school or college and 19% employed in a professional capacity. About 43% of the nation's gardeners earn $30,000 or more a year.

Other highlights of the survey showed:

--Lawn care was the undisputed champion of outdoor activity: 53 million households reportedly spent time caring for their lawns. They spent $5.3 billion on products and equipment, compared to $5.4 billion in 1987.

--An estimated 38 million households had flower gardens in 1988, down from 39 million reported in 1987. Retail sales for flower gardening declined 6% last year, to $1.68 billion, from $1.77 billion spent in 1987.

--Vegetable gardening increased in 1988, with 31 million households growing vegetables compared to 29 million in 1987. However, the typical home vegetable garden was 200 square feet in 1988, compared to 300 square feet in 1987.

--Herb gardening sales increased from $46 million in 1987 to $50 million in 1988, but the number of herb gardeners decreased from 6 million to 5 million in the same time period.

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