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What’s All the Hype About Urban Outfitters’ New Terrain Garden Center?

January 19, 2009

Many of you may be following Urban Outfitters’ (aka UO) new Terrain At Styers Garden Center in Concordville, Pennsylvania.  It’s the latest brand edition to the UO family and the company plans to add 50 more stores across the United States over the next few years.  If you haven’t seen the photos yet, they are quite inspiring.  A twitter friend, Arcadia1, asked me what I thought the impact would be on what she referred to as the “Northwest Geek World” of gardening.  Here’s a snippet of my unadulterated opinions on the subject:

Disclaimer: what I am about to share is my personal opinion and I don’t seek to offend anyone with my views on gardening.

Generation Gaps Have Emerged

So, I’m a 30-something that feels somewhat removed from the gardening community.  Not that I actively seek out my “kind,” but many gardeners seem to be 20 years older than me and love to nerd out on what they know about horticulture.  Don’t get me wrong. I love science.  I was almost a Biology major, but hated the math, so I settled for a Psychology degree instead.  Anyway, I can’t stand it when some gardeners (not labeling everyone here) try to show off their beyond-the-practical-use minutia of garden knowledge, make you feel stupid when you can’t pronounce Latin, or just plain act like a know-it-all.

Where is This Going?

What does this have to do with Terrain you might be asking? Well, my strong impression is that people who garden as a hobby are typically older people. And older people are, well, getting older.  No one has yards like the cute, little retired couple down the street from me anymore. Gardening, as a hobby, doesn’t much appeal to the Gen Xers and Y’s like it does to the boomers.  Life is way too complicated these days.  Why?  The birth of technology and the Information Age.  Yes, I agree, gardening can be soothing, a great stress reliever, and good exercise, until you don’t have time to take care of it.  For me, there is a fine line between maintenance and out-of-control.

Gardening needs to have a purpose in order for Xers and Y’s to start digging in, no pun intended. Why waste a sunny weekend digging in the dirt if I can go shopping, entertain with friends, or go wake boarding? And man, if it ain’t cool, then I ain’t doin’ it.  (FYI, I do garden on a sunny day, all weekend in fact, I was pretending to be my friends)

Out with the Old.  In with the New

What is Terrain to me? An influential vehicle of getting the younger generation excited about gardening. It’s not just a hobby that your grandmother made you do as a kid. You can actually impress your friends with the food you make from your garden, your fabulous outdoor accessories inspired by nature, and that houseplant is actually a decoration and not just a thing that collects dust.  I feel that Urban Outfitters, with its target for young, thirsty trendsetters, can help keep the garden community alive after the boomers have, well, you know.  See what others are saying about Terrain at Oh, Joy!

So go on, help me nerd out on my psychobabble and share your comments on the expansion of UO’s Terrain Garden Centers.  I dare you to disagree with me.


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18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2009 9:35 am

    I visited Terrain last year, and it ROCKS! ‘Course I can’t afford anything they sell beyond plants, but I wandered around for at least an hour and a half. As a 30-something gardener myself, I love their taste, and the fact that they’re turning gardening into something super-stylish. I’m a plant geek, but I get more excited by an awesome outdoor chaise that I do most plants. Terrain’s got my number.

  2. January 19, 2009 9:43 am

    @Michelle,
    I totally agree, UO has got it dialed in! I wish we had a garden center like Terrain around here. It is so depressing to the visit the local nurseries sometimes. No inspiration, just rows of plants.

    Thanks for the visit!
    Jayme

  3. jesshibb permalink
    January 19, 2009 9:47 am

    As you know, I totally agree with your assessment of the “old school” gardening community and the potential for gardening to appeal to our Gen X & Y peers.

    I’m going to visit Terrain when I’m in the Philly area in early March … I don’t expect to buy anything, but I’ll probably take a zillion photos. One interesting thing: They have a cafe on site. I think this is an extremely important, but often overlooked component of gardening centers. When I worked at a nursery, people would suggest something like that to us all the time. If you want to play up the relaxing, social appeal of gardening, why not reflect that in the shopping experience?

  4. January 19, 2009 9:53 am

    @Jesshibb,
    Man, you hit the nail on the head! I have never understood businesses that don’t cater to their customers, especially if they are hanging out for an hour or two. I so often don’t plan ahead and go shopping on an empty stomach. I would stick around a little longer, and possibly buy more, if I wasn’t a starving lunatic. Brilliant idea on the cafe!

    I’m so jealous your going in March. Can’t wait to see your photos!

    Thanks for stopping by,
    Jayme

  5. personalgardencoach permalink
    January 19, 2009 10:58 am

    Congrats on the great blog post Jayme!
    To all of you Terrain fans out there, a question: If I invest in buying nursery this year, and I create the type of experience that you are saying you want, how can I afford to stay in business if everyone goes and takes pictures, has some coffee and leaves?
    My goal is to create an inspirational atmosphere where garden enthusiasts of all types are excited to try new plants, explore design ideas and enjoy a hip “Super-stylish” kind of nursery. I will also have a “Garden School”, where customers of any experience level can take an affordable class on a huge range of topics- no Latin required! :)
    But, I am nervous to invest my life into this venture and possibly compete with one of Terrain’s new 50 stores opening, and then have everyone go and buy at the local Home Depot.
    Tell me I’m wrong-please!!!!
    Thanks,
    Christina

  6. January 19, 2009 11:09 am

    @Personalgardencoach,
    I have a hard time telling someone that they are wrong, but I think your wrong. I can see your hesitation in competing with Terrain, but Home Depot? I can’t stand Home Depot! However, I have been known to stop in out of convenience, but certainly not for garden stuff. Check out what Motley Fool says about UO’s green thumb. I think Alyce Lomax is spot on about Home Depot! I can go on, and on, and on about the advantages you have over both stores but this section is for the readers.

    Thanks for sharing your comments!
    Jayme

  7. jesshibb permalink
    January 19, 2009 11:50 am

    Christina:

    First of all, I wouldn’t buy plants at Terrain because my husband manages a wholesale native plant nursery. If we need plants for our garden, we buy it from his company or at wholesale prices from a grower/supplier! So my plant-shopping style is probably different from the average consumer’s.

    That said, if there was a “destination” nursery near my home, with inspirational displays, stylish & eco-friendly products, and a funky cafe, I would be in serious trouble! I think there are two key components: (1) create a place where people want to hang out and form some sense of community with each other — classes will be very helpful with this — and (2) stock plants and other items that are unique and not available elsewhere. It’s ok if the prices are a bit more expensive than Home Depot, because you’re not going to cater to the discount crowd.

    I don’t plan to purchase anything when I scope out Terrain, but it’s roughly 500% more likely that I’ll buy something there than at Home Depot.

    Just my $.02 …

  8. January 19, 2009 12:39 pm

    Ok, so I am a 25 year old guy. I don’t like gardening, actually, yard work was like the kiss of death during the summer when I was living with my parents. But what I do like the idea of is growing my own food in an urban environment. If I were to look to a place to find products that would allow me to do that I would probably look to an Urban Outfitters like store. I agree totally in terms of Gardening never being a hobby for me, and never will be, but it could be integrated into my way of life as a source of food and style. I think there is huge potential with what is going on here and I am interested to see who takes advantage of it early.

    • January 20, 2009 10:42 am

      @blockbot,
      How fun to get a guy’s perspective. Thanks for your thoughts, almost like you were reading my mind.

      You grow dude!
      Jayme

  9. January 19, 2009 4:51 pm

    I think you really captured something here.
    I think there is a real interest in sustainability,native plants, urban farming,food policy, edible schoolyards.
    I think what is “out” is elitism, ostentation,lawns,”freeway” plants, invasive plants and the like.
    Young people are getting involved, it is a radical shift; a new paradigm. We are in a new era. :)
    Thanks for a thought provoking post, and your opinions!
    Philip

    • January 20, 2009 10:40 am

      @Phillip,
      Good to hear from you! Hope you had a fabulous holiday season and happy 2009. I agree with you about the paradigm shift. The garde society is changing the younger generation is taking the bull by the horns.

      Best,
      Jayme

  10. jesshibb permalink
    July 27, 2009 6:24 pm

    Update: I finally visited Terrain today, while on vacation in the Philly area. Between brunch & terrarium plants & other goodies, we spent over $100. The fact that they were having a tent sale and a lot of items were 30-50% off really didn’t help me retain my willpower.

    (I just re-read my previous comment about how I didn’t plan to buy anything there … HA HA HA. What was I thinking?! It’s so easy to talk nonsense like that when it’s January and there’s snow on the ground.)

    For those who are interested, the shoppers who were there (mid-day on a Monday in the middle of summer) were not all the youthful hipsters I anticipated. There were a few of them, but there were also a lot of women who looked to be in their 40s & 50s, some couples in the 30-65 age group. Not hugely diverse. I’d imagine there’s a wider demographic range during the busier spring & fall seasons.

    • July 30, 2009 7:23 am

      I am so glad you posted your visit to Terrain. Sounds like it was an amazing place to hang out for a day. I feel like that is always a good gauge of how well a store can play into a customer’s emotions: You plan NOT to spend money, then you end up buying over $100 worth of stuff you couldn’t possibly live without.

      Interesting note about the demographics. I don’t know if I’m totally surprised though. From what I’ve heard, Terrain isn’t cheap and I wonder if that price range doesn’t appeal to younger gardeners yet. Very interesting none the less.

      Thanks again Jess for your observations!

  11. August 24, 2009 12:56 am

    Christina–I need to move to your neighborhood, because my Home Depot has boring plants in bad condition. I only buy the basics from them (cheap bedding annuals, occasionally potting soil). There are two independent nurseries I shop at. One is more reasonably priced but laid out in an uninspiring fashion. I try and buy as much as I can from them. The other is laid out like Terrain and is moderately (but not obscenely) expensive. I swear to myself that when I visit that one, I’m just going for inspiration. But invariably they have some gorgeous plant that I can’t find anywhere else and I tell myself that it isn’t thaaaat bad to pay $8.99 for a perennial in a four inch pot. Also, while I am a 20-something with a limited plant budget, I always see plenty of 40 & 50 somethings there who are buying cart fulls of plants.

    The moral of the story: If you have an interesting, unique selection at prices that are not astronomical, you’ll find plenty of people who buy what you have to offer. Even though places like Terrain appeal to younger gardeners, they also appeal to baby boomers who are much more style conscious than their parents and have the cash to spend in expensive nurseries.

    • August 29, 2009 7:42 am

      Great comments Fern! I totally agree with everything you said. $8.99 for 4″ perennials? Yikes!

      I’m actually traveling to Corvallis, OR, tomorrow to visit a more inspiring plant nursery. I tolerate the local independents for their basic plants and convenient location, but they could steal some ideas from Terrain to make the shopping experience more enjoyable.

      My goal is to someday visit Flora Grubb’s nursery in the bay area. I think she’s rad!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    November 4, 2009 12:59 pm

    I visited Terrain last week without realizing it was owned by Urban Outfitters, so wasn’t aware that it was ‘targeted’ to GenXers and Ys. I’m in my early 50s and Terrain is the gardening shop mecca of my dreams (always disappointed by Smith & Hawkins). It’s not inexpensive, but I was willing to pay a bit more for the experience. Last Friday afternoon the ages of customers eating and shopping at Terrain definitely tilted toward older women, probably typical for that time of day.

    When I was in my 20s and early 30s I had the interest, but not the time or money, to spend in/on a garden. Herbs on my Manhattan fire escape were the best I could manage. Now I’m a rabid gardener and beekeeper. So I don’t really think things have changed all that much between generations. That being said, I think your contemporaries are much more tuned in to sustainable agriculture, locavore eating and environmental issues, so I’m pretty confident backyard gardening has a future.

    As for those Latin name-droppers, I heard the same sort of stuff when I was your age, but now I also encounter many condescending young people just as eager to display their knowledge.

    Thanks for your informative and un-precious blog!

  13. Ann permalink
    November 4, 2009 1:03 pm

    I visited Terrain last week without realizing it was owned by Urban Outfitters, so wasn’t aware that it was ‘targeted’ to GenXers and Ys. I’m in my early 50s and Terrain is the gardening shop mecca of my dreams (always disappointed by Smith & Hawkins). It’s not inexpensive, but I was willing to pay a bit more for the experience. Last Friday afternoon the ages of customers eating and shopping at Terrain definitely tilted toward older women, probably typical for that time of day.

    When I was in my 20s and early 30s I had the interest, but not the time or money, to spend in/on a garden. Herbs on my Manhattan fire escape were the best I could manage. Now I’m a rabid gardener and beekeeper. So I don’t really think things have changed all that much between generations. That being said, I think your contemporaries are much more tuned in to sustainable agriculture, locavore eating and environmental issues, so I’m pretty confident backyard gardening has a future.

    As for those Latin name-droppers, I used to hear the same sort of stuff when I was your age, but now I encounter many condescending young people just as eager to impress with their vast knowledge.

    Thanks for your informative, un-precious blog!

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