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How Bloomscape is expanding beyond houseplants for millennials by using $22 million in VC funding to upend the traditional garden centers at Walmart and Lowe's

Submitted by Tech Insider on February 23, 2021 - 2:15pm

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Summary List Placement

Bloomscape is looking to appeal to a younger generation of gardeners with a new product launched Tuesday that places it in direct competition with home improvement retailers like Lowe's, Home Depot, and Walmart.

The Detroit-based, direct-to-consumer plant company debuted "Bloom Kits," a selection of outdoor patio plant sets that feature live young flower seedlings, along with detailed instructions for how to care for them. The effort marks the brand's first foray into outdoor greenery after spending its first three years selling houseplants online, and comes on the heels of its most recent $24.2 million investment round in September 2020. 

The debut of the kits also follows a year of significant growth for Bloomscape, which increased sales four-fold in 2020, while doubling its staff to keep up with overwhelming demand for houseplants largely catalyzed by the pandemic. According to CEO Justin Mast, Bloomscape sold more than 100,000 plants between last March and May, as Americans stuck inside sought new ways to enliven their homes

Now, three years after its founding and with spring right around the corner, Bloomscape is ready to add a new revenue stream and help Americans learn how to garden.  

"People found themselves spending a lot more time at home and not only looking for ways to cultivate their spaces and make their spaces feel nicer, but looking for activities that really provide relief from all the screen time, the zoom time, the digital time," Mast told Insider. "Gardening has been just such a meaningful and helpful activity for so many people."

bloom kits

Capitalizing on the home improvement boom

Beyond catering to new gardeners, the kits also act as a strategic move to capitalize on the home improvement boom during the pandemic and compete with big box retailers with traditional garden centers like Home Depot, Lowe's, and Walmart. 

Mast said that while these companies have "run the show in the garden center world" for decades now, his goal is to appeal to consumers looking for more dedicated expertise and resources, especially for first-time gardeners. He added that Bloomscape has seen success cultivating customer loyalty through ongoing engagement with consumers in the form of sending plant care tips and suggested products after they make a purchase. 

"We are taking a really unique approach to the way that we're doing outdoor plants," he said. "Right now, in most retail garden centers, you're buying plants that are fully grown at the greenhouse and then put in the garden center where they often lose a lot of their health sitting there at that retail environment. We're doing it very differently with our young plant program."

Ultimately, Mast said the way consumers shop for plants and cultivate personal gardens has also changed significantly over the years, paving the way for DTC companies like Bloomscape that are dedicated to the craft. 

"For this new generation of people getting into gardening, we need something different," he said. "We need an authentic brand that likes to know where products come from, helps make sure you're getting the right plants for your space, and gives you the support that you need to be a really successful gardener."

Catering to the next generation of gardeners

For Mast, selling outdoor plants has always been part of his long-term vision for Bloomscape. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with parents that operated commercial greenhouses, he took a shining to greenery early on in his life. At just eight-years-old, Mast began selling flowers in the communities outside the greenhouses each spring. 

"[Outdoor plants is] something that's been brewing and propagating for a really long time," he said. "It was always the plan to be able to offer flowering outdoor plants. The key was I wanted to make sure we could focus on doing one thing well first and wanted to make sure we could build the right audience and customer base, and so we chose to start with indoor plants." 

In order to keep up with rising demand, Mast said Bloomscape opened additional fulfillment centers in recent months while regionalizing its supply chain in order to cater to a growing national audience and reduce shipment and delivery times. 

And while the pandemic has driven demand for plants and home improvement projects alike, he said younger consumers were already showing mounting interest in gardening in recent years. Much like the rise in e-commerce, the coronavirus outbreak only further accelerated existing trends involving plants.

"We've seen millennials and Gen Z getting into gardening and plants for many years now, starting with succulents and then moving to indoor plants," Mast said. "Even before the pandemic, we were really starting to see people get into gardening. I think as we grow up and move into that townhouse or that bigger home or out of the city, gardening has really started to move to the center of an adult, millennial lifestyle."

SEE ALSO: Plant DTC companies like The Sill, Horti, and Bloomscape are seeing surging demand as other DTC companies are stumbling. 3 CEOs talk about having a front-row seat for the houseplant boom.

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