Never before have consumers had as many reasons to bring their shopping online than in 2020. While prior to this year’s many challenges it might have felt like online shopping was already dominating everyday retail, e-commerce accounted for 20% of retail spend at the start of the year in the US. A global pandemic, natural disasters, and millions schooling and working from home have pushed shopping online from just another option to the only option for many. While at GC we look forward to safely resuming unconstrained, in-person interactions, we believe this shift in consumer shopping behavior is here to stay.
Even before the COVID-19-driven acceleration, e-commerce has proven its ability to penetrate counterintuitive consumer categories. Ten years ago, who would’ve thought consumers would be willing to buy a pair of eyeglasses before trying them on? Five years ago, it would’ve been tough to convince anyone to buy a car based on a website picture before giving it a test run. And yet, digitally native platforms such as Warby Parker and Vroom are doing just that.
As we’ve begun to see with categories like eyeglasses, cars, medicine, and furniture, if you can offer at least a comparable customer experience and build an engaging brand, consumers are increasingly willing to give digital options a try. The most authentic, compelling brands can earn the right to nurture and grow customer relationships for life.
A Hobby Grows
Gardening represents almost $50B+ in annual spending in the US alone and is one of the few large retail categories yet to have its true digital moment. Raising plants is a way to unplug, connect with nature, and foster personal growth. This practice has been especially appealing for the urban-dwelling millennial demographic who have driven the category’s acceleration in recent years.
Traditional brick-and-mortar channels like the garden center at big-box stores aren’t always meeting the needs of those plant-enthusiast consumers. Those stores base their trade on volume and price distribution, but their infrastructure is often insufficient to maintain high quality, healthy plants. Their sales associates are commonly generalists and lack the domain expertise needed to provide good guidance on the purchase and care of their products. And when you can get virtually everything else delivered to your doorstep, lugging plants home on public transit or in the backseat of your car isn’t exactly a superlative consumer experience.
Reimagining the Garden Center with Bloomscape
Consumers desire authentic brands that they can trust and relate to. We couldn’t imagine a more fitting person to build that brand for the gardening set than Bloomscape Founder & CEO Justin Mast. Both sides of Justin’s family have been in the plant business for more than three generations. His parents first met in a greenhouse, and he inherited their love for gardening and entrepreneurship. As an 8-year-old, he opened his first road-side plant stand (the traditional lemonade stand just wasn’t in his blood).
Justin Mast, Founder and CEO of Bloomscape
In 2018, Justin paired with his plant expert mother to launch Bloomscape out of Detroit. They used their experience as a family that’s been in the plant business for almost a century to perfect the logistics of shipping thriving plants nationwide. They’ve simultaneously developed a digitally native platform that lets consumers select everything from no-fuss ferns and cacti to edible garden plants. And in just over two years, Bloomscape has seen 4X growth and has more than doubled its team.
Something we appreciated about the Bloomscape approach: customer engagement doesn’t stop with the purchase. “Plant parenting” can be daunting and intimidating, so the Bloomscape team nurtures its customer relationships with plant care tools and a content-rich experience via their website and mobile app.
Our Investment in Bloomscape
In the past few months of getting to know Justin and the Bloomscape team, we’ve been incredibly impressed by their unwavering commitment to supply chain excellence, genuine joy in teaching responsible plant parenting, and ambitious long-term vision to bring the entire garden center online.
Company building is a true team sport. Concurrent with today’s funding announcement, both GC’s Joel Cutler as well as longtime friend-of-GC Bob Mylod of Annox Capital and chairman of our portfolio company Vroom will join the Bloomscape board. In addition, we’re excited to also be investing alongside Jeff Boyd. Bob and Jeff have been invaluable members of the extended GC family, working with many of our portfolio companies such as Vroom, Classpass, Rapyd, and Kayak. As always, we’re looking forward to working closely with them in tandem with the Bloomscape team.
Lastly and most importantly, thank you, Justin and the Bloomscape team, for welcoming us along on your journey. We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and work together to grow a thriving business out of Detroit.
– Joel, Johnson, and Team GC