New DTC toolkit   //   March 28, 2024

‘There’s been nothing new for half a century’: How Sunday is trying to shake up the yard and garden industry

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Sunday wants to be the DTC brand that powers everyone’s backyard.

The company first launched in 2019 with lawn care products, but has since expanded to pest control and garden products. While it’s available in major retailers like Costco, Walmart, Lowe’s and Target, Sunday’s business is still 75% direct-to-consumer.

“To be the outdoor home platform that we want to be, we really need to be able to be across these categories,” founder and CEO Coulter Lewis said on the Modern Retail Podcast.

He joined and spoke about how the company has grown over the last five years — as well as what its plans are for the future.

One way Sunday is able to keep such a large DTC base is by tailoring its online experience. For example, it has people send in soil samples, which then creates a report on the types of products they need for their outdoor spaces.

“We actually now have the largest soil database ever created,” Lewis said.

And that type of program can’t be replicated in a store like Walmart. And even the store experience itself isn’t ideal — especially the garden sections filled with 15-pound sacks of dirt and fertilizer where Sunday is usually sold. “When you walk in that part of the store, you smell it from 20 feet away — it is legacy brands, legacy branding and incredibly confusing and intimidating.”

With this, Sunday is trying to have its customers opt for a newer brand that looks different than the previous industry leaders. And, have them purchase differently than before. While the company has been growing every year, it still has ambitions to reach new heights.

“We’re still brand new,” Lewis said. “Our category, there’s been nothing new in half a century — fifty years of the same. And so, we’re growing every year, expanding quickly.”

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Soil testing to fine-tune the customer experience
“We now have, I think, half a million-ish soil samples. So our customers get a soil test that they send back to us, and we analyze the soil and their property to spot any deficiencies or any particular needs. And so, through that, we actually now have the largest soil database ever created. So we have these new assets — data assets — that enable us to be better predictors of what you need and when you need it. So we’ve gotten smarter and smarter.”

Shaking up a behemoth industry
“The plan here was really around impact and around changing a category. This category is one of the behemoths that is hiding in plain sight. It’s about $50 billion spent on DIY lawn and garden. That makes it just as big as cosmetics, for example. It’s one of those massive categories. But when you walk in that part of the store, you smell it from 20 feet away — it is legacy brands, legacy branding and incredibly confusing and intimidating. And so it’s just the ratio between the market size and opportunity versus the amount of innovation and energy in the space is really, really off in our market.”

Sunday’s approach to customer research
“Before we make a thing we talk to people about it. My background is in design research and product design. And part of what I learned — I worked at a place called Ideo, which is really amazing design consultancy, I was lucky to be there — was this deep ethnographic research. So we talk to people about: How do you think about pests? Tell me what’s going on. And you learn about them, the life they live and really build an intuition for what they need — the kind of solution they need. So that’s the step [we] take before we actually make the thing. We don’t make things and say: How do you like it? We learn about the customer and learn about what their needs are — and their values too.”