Water: What Customers Really Think…

What are consumers’ attitudes toward water restrictions? A comprehensive report assessing the public’s water-saving gardening activities offers clues to future spending habits…

A new report called A Study of Gardening Behaviour & Attitudes in the Context of Water Restrictions reveals some detailed insights into public attitudes toward water restrictions – as well as consumers’ current and proposed spending habits relating to garden items. It also confirms that hardware store operators and their gardening departments are performing very strongly.

This national report, commissioned by Nursery & Gardening Industry Australia (NGIA) and Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), was prepared by Creative Dialogue Pty Ltd, Qld, and involved surveys of hundreds of people across all mainland States.

Water restrictions have had a profound impact on many garden and outdoor sectors, causing great hardship to landscape designers, market gardeners and many retail channels.

The exception to this general downturn, however, is the hardware retail sector, which has bucked the trend to register retail growth in garden and outdoor sales. All major rival sectors such as garden centres and supermarkets have suffered sales declines.

Beautiful Garden
While water restrictions have certainly caused some consumers to give up on almost all garden expenditures, the report establishes that there are many people in the community who are still willing to maintain and improve their gardens by installing updated, more appropriate watering systems and water-efficient technologies, combined with wiser plant selections and garden bed designs.

As the report explains:
“A significant 62% [of surveyed people] in the last 12 months – because of the watering restrictions – have actively sought solutions so that ‘they can still have a beautiful garden’:

  • 63% mulched;
  • 38% planted plants, other than natives, that require less water;
  • 29% planted native plants;
  • 37% used a soil wetting type product;
  • 33% bucketed bath &/or shower water to use on the garden;
  • 28% recycled washing machine water;
  • 21% replaced or reduced lawn; and
  • 20% installed or investigated a water tank.”Watering systems are a good indicator of consumer spending activity in the garden. Despite heavy water restrictions in most capital cities, a sizeable minority of householders (5%–15% nationally) had sufficient confidence to install some kind of watering system on their properties in the last 12 months. The most popular systems now used in Australia vary dramatically depending on climatic conditions, the availability of bore water (as in Perth) and other factors, however Table 1 demonstrates that micro-spray systems remain the commonest watering systems in the country, followed closely by fixed sprinkler systems and above-ground drip systems.

    The report indicates that there may be an opportunity for retailers to capitalise on an anticipated growing demand for drip-based systems.

    For the full story, read it in the Australian Hardware Journal’s October issue.