The future of niche commerce is to build brands around tribes


The adulthood of millennials has been defined by decent politics, an economic recession, and massive debt, caused by the huge costs of higher education. My oldest daughter, in her thirties, fits this bill. And like many other of her cohorts who look to passionate projects to balance their stressed lives, she chose gardening. From winter seedlings to raised beds, she has transformed her urban Minneapolis backyard into a thriving vegetable patch, cultivating the value of the entire alphabet of greens.

So it was not a total surprise to read excerpts from a National Gardening Association (NGA) survey showing that a quarter of all gardening spending in the $ 52 billion gardening industry came from the Generation Y, although they have less wealth than the older generations. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning found that “gardening promotes high emotional well-being, including feelings of happiness and meaning.” And a 2021 survey found that gardening multiple times a week was associated with “higher levels of perceived well-being, less stress, and more physical activity.” And incidentally, he supplied me with copious amounts of basil for enough pesto to get us through the long winters of Minnesota.

Capital follows enthusiasts

A recent article in Fast Company magazine demonstrated just how fertile this category is perceived to be, even among the most prominent venture capitalists among us. The Los Angeles-based Chernin Group (TCG), founded by the former President and COO of News Corp. Peter Chernin and Goldman Sachs

Alum Jesse Jacobs has spent the last decade developing digital startups built around niche communities, or “tribes.” Barstool Sports, Hello Sunshine, MeatEater, Food52, and Crunchyroll are some of the brands they’ve helped extend far beyond multimedia content in e-commerce, experiences, and more.

TCG has raised a new $ 1.2 billion fund to continue to find and save the under-explored corners of Web 2.0 as it simultaneously seeks to adapt those same principles and strategies to mainstream Web3. And one of the first categories of their sites is the very fragmented gardening industry, which they think can start to build a great content commerce business. Their research has shown that there is a strong group of one hundred million consumers who spend $ 19 billion a year on gardening as a hobby. Luke Beatty, a TCG partner, notes that “it’s a pocket of enthusiasts hiding in plain sight, growing their own kale”.

Early discussions, as reported by Fast Company, suggest that TCG is considering building a gardening business into a “house of brands” allowing other content creators to integrate the founder’s infrastructure. They also plan to expand into flower gardening and home ownership, as well as merchandise (garden tools, clothing), television, and physical retail.

Certainly not the first

There have been other retail entrepreneurs who have considered similar efforts. Billionaire founder of Urban Outfitters, Richard Hayne had a similar vision in 2008 with the launch of Terrain. It has been described as “a lifestyle brand for the garden, home and outdoors deeply rooted in nature and plant life”. By this time, my design firm had already designed a successful retail prototype in the category, and I used that as a “business card” to set up a meeting with Mr. Hayne, offering to do an “audit. swat ‘of the concept and share my thoughts with him and his staff. The “free offer” was accepted, leading to a memorable meeting with Richard Hayne.

The flagship store was built in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and at the time, they were planning to roll out the prototype nationwide. The over-the-top concept was breathtaking, merging home and garden to create an immersive natural experience featuring various native plants, planters and all-weather furniture, decorations and gifts. It differed from the regular garden center in that the interior and exterior of the space was more of a series of rooms or scenarios that showcased and sold the products.

It was as if RH (Restoration Hardware) were now creating a gardening concept. Educational classes, a beautiful restaurant, and well-designed private label gardening accessories were all extensions of the brand. The Terrain brand still exists today, online and offline, both as independent stores and as a member of the Urban Outfitters Anthropologie chain.

Like the efforts of the Chernin Group and Terrain, I expect many such concepts to take root in the future. Food shortages, sensitivities to common farming practices, and the simple desire to get our hands on the land will drive many of us to dig it.


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