Consumers eager for plants and plant content
Michael Leach, the owner of Dynasty Plants in Toronto, had been planning to roll out an e-commerce site in the summer of 2020. But he sped up that timeline because of COVID.
“When we posted our initial stock online … several weeks’ worth of product sold out in a couple of hours,” says Leach. “And that happened for about a month straight.”
He was initially surprised, but it made sense to him in the context of COVID: “I think it was something really easy for people to latch onto to reinvigorate their work and living spaces.”
While traffic has since levelled off, Leach’s business has grown, having added a second location through the pandemic. And he’s also seen a number of other plant shops pop up in his neighbourhood; they all seem to be doing steady business as well.
“This sort-of ‘thirst’ for plants is still quite high,” says Leach.
What’s behind the push for plants?
But Leach doesn’t think you can attribute the plant boom entirely to COVID.
“When you look at trends in fashion over the last few years … this would play into it,” says Leach. “There's definitely been a huge shift to homewares.”
He points to Zara, H&M and Urban Outfitters, popular retailers that, over the past decade, have built their home goods offerings into successful branches of their business.
Moneris, the financial technology company specializing in payment processing, released a report in mid-2021 reflecting on Canadian spending habits in the first year of the pandemic. Household, or home goods, was the category that saw the most volume growth in 2020 over the year before.
And plants are an important part of that trend.
“That's where younger people are spending their money these days,” says Leach. “There's been a big shift … people want stuff for their homes rather than stuff to put on their bodies.”
Some owners are profiting off of their plants
Like with fashion, Rago says there’s a subset of plant owners who view their “plant babies” — especially the uncommon and valuable ones — as investments.
Some savvy enthusiasts will buy highly sought-after plants like Monsteras and sell clippings for hundreds of dollars.
Rago herself has a Monstera Thai Constellation that she bought in 2019 for about $100.
“I see it as an investment,” says Rago. “As long as I'm taking care of them properly, I don't see the harm in spending a couple hundred dollars on one plant ... I'll have it for years. And if I want to make money off of that plant, I can.”
She likens the trend to investing in gold.
“If you purchased some of those uncommon plants a couple years ago, they probably performed better than some stocks or even gold,” says Rago.
It’s wild to think about, but as Rago has seen, some rare clippings go for as much as $1,000. Meanwhile, gold’s value sagged through 2021, ending the year with its biggest drop since 2015.
But profiting off her plants isn’t Rago’s goal. Her “plant babies” have offered her something positive to focus on these last few years, and helped her through her dad’s sickness and his death, along with all the other ups and downs of life.
And she’s heard from her followers — some of whom have suffered through tragedies like miscarriages and the death of family members — that they feel the same.
“There's definitely more of an emotional or spiritual side to plants,” she says. “It's very healing and therapeutic to have plants and to take care of them.”
For Rago, that type of return makes all she’s invested in her plants worth it.
Fine art as an investment
Stocks can be volatile, cryptos make big swings to either side, and even gold is not immune to the market’s ups and downs.
That’s why if you are looking for the ultimate hedge, it could be worthwhile to check out a real, but overlooked asset: fine art.
Contemporary artwork has outperformed the S&P 500 by a commanding 174% over the past 25 years, according to the Citi Global Art Market chart.
And it’s becoming a popular way to diversify because it’s a real physical asset with little correlation to the stock market.
On a scale of -1 to +1, with 0 representing no link at all, Citi found the correlation between contemporary art and the S&P 500 was just 0.12 during the past 25 years.
Earlier this year, Bank of America investment chief Michael Harnett singled out artwork as a sharp way to outperform over the next decade — due largely to the asset’s track record as an inflation hedge.
Investing in art by the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol used to be an option only for the ultrarich. But with a new investing platform, you can invest in iconic artworks just like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates do.