As outdoor living trends toward an extension of a home’s indoor space, IGCs are seeing a shift in customer demands for garden décor in backyards and patios. Birdsall & Co. has been a Denver staple for more than 30 years and is known for its massive selection of outdoor containers, fountains and furniture, as well as a rotating selection of houseplants. Co-owner Morgan Huston says her customers are increasingly interested in designing and planning outdoor living areas, from gardens to patios.

“Basically, our customers are spending as much time choosing what they will feature in the garden as they do with what is inside the house,” Huston says. “Gone are the days when you just pick up the least expensive plastic pot to stick a tomato plant in by the back door; it’s much more design-oriented and intentional these days.”

The definition of what constitutes garden décor has broadened as well. Jim Stinson, assistant manager at Canadale Nurseries, is also the garden décor buyer for the St. Thomas, Ontario, garden center. He also has noticed a shift toward the outdoor living category.

“Outdoor garden décor has also become more closely tied to outdoor living and decorating as opposed to just for outdoor garden décor,” Stinson says. “I would say that most people would consider their outdoor patio furniture, accent cushions, umbrellas and patio rugs as their new garden décor. Our decks and patios are just another room in our homes that need to be decorated.”

Outdoor garden décor has shifted from plain pots to design-heavy features.

Outdoor extension

As people increasingly see their outdoor space as an extension of their homes, they are also becoming more deliberate with their choices of garden décor. As a result, the garden décor IGCs have available in their stores needs to mimic interiors more than ever before.

To fill that need, Birdsall & Co. offers a spectrum of styles from traditional to ultra-modern, tons of furniture options for outdoor living space configurations, sustainable and refined materials, and products that exhibit high levels of craftsmanship.

Huston isn’t concerned about the cost of those sustainable materials because her customers don’t mind paying extra. Like the farm-to-table movement, the craft beer boom and many other similar trends, consumers want to purchase the work of an artisan, not something that feels mass-produced that can be bought cheaply in a superstore.

“We are seeing customers become increasingly interested in the origin of the products they’re purchasing and are willing to spend a little more up front for products that are going to last a very long time,” she says.

Huston believes that this trend is not going away anytime soon. To that end, she encourages retailers to keep in mind that the environmental impact of a product is going to become a major factor in purchasing garden décor. IGC owners or décor buyers have several options ready for the consumers that are following this trend. From considering the carbon footprint of plastic production, ethical labor conditions abroad, sustainable tree plantations, there are opportunities for companies all along the supply chain to not only do what’s right for the environment but to distinguish themselves as environmentally conscious in the eyes of the consumer.

Another trend that has affected the garden décor market is the impact of technology. At Canadale Nurseries, Stinson has seen increased consumer interest in what technology makes possible for those outdoor living spaces.

“LED lighting and improvements in solar technology has allowed anyone to add outdoor lighting to their garden without all the wiring and hassle,” Stinson says. “Also, Bluetooth technology has allowed people to bring their music outdoors with water-proof speakers.

A common interest among shoppers are eclectic styles with displays of detailed craftsmanship.

What’s selling

Stinson says garden décor sales have remained consistent and show steady growth. Purchases in that category have increased in the past few years but not at an overly fast rate, he says. Anything related to outdoor living and decorating has been selling well.

“If the category has shrunk, it is because the category has changed,” Stinson says. “It is no longer just garden décor — it is more about creating an outdoor living experience with more of an emphasis on outdoor living and entertaining.”

Stinson says there haven’t been any revolutionary changes in the décor market, but there have been smaller changes. The big, heavy items are on the downswing and smaller, lighter items have become more popular.

“Years ago, we sold concrete décor like birdbaths, statues, fountains and lanterns,” he says. “Now we sell smaller décor pieces like metal garden art, wall décor, garden stakes or smaller accent pieces.”

Outdoor furniture and accessory items like accent cushions, outdoor mats and entertaining items like dishes and tableware have seen increases. Metal wall art and garden accent stakes remain very popular, especially if they have LED solar lights.

Customers are now seeking smaller, lighter furniture instead of larger, bulky items.
Huston says she sees customers purchase items based on quality, timelessness in style and lifetyle needs.
Fountains are still considered the “engine” to Birdsall & Co’s businesss.

For a boutique like Birdsall & Co., garden décor is the bread and butter. Fountains and containers are by far its largest departments and have had healthy growth year over year.

The Colorado business does exceptionally well with glazed ceramic containers. Huston chooses to carry high-fired containers because they stand up to freeze-thaw cycles for decades without special treatment, which is a major selling point.

“High-quality glazed ceramic manufacturers are really stretching themselves to offer a huge spectrum of colors, so it’s almost impossible for a customer not to find the perfect pots for their gardens,” she says. “Blues are always popular, but we’ve been finding that olive greens, metallic greys and textured containers are having a big moment.”

Fountains and containers are the engine that drives the business, but smaller décor items like wind chimes, wall art and statuary are key to Birdsall’s success. And as long as consumers continue to value quality, there will be a niche for Huston’s business to fill.

“It’s a constant struggle to stay afloat as a brick and mortar business in the internet age, but by maintaining a large inventory of containers and fountains, staying on top of the trends, and having high turnover in our smaller decor items, we have created an enthusiastic and ever-expanding customer base,” Huston says. “I see customers making garden décor choices based on quality, timelessness both in material and style, and lifestyle needs. It’s not a rush to buy run of the mill, mass-produced plastic decor; instead, people are increasingly making a choice to buy unique products that sincerely have a practical or aesthetic purpose.”