association comment Collaboration in the industry

Garden Centre Association chairman Mike Lind discusses the garden centre inspections and looks forward to the 2020 annual conference in Bristol.

Can you believe we’re already more than halfway through the year? This month our members will be getting together at regional award meetings across the nation to find out who has done well in our annual inspections. The inspections take place each spring between March and June and our garden centres receive no advance warning about when an inspection will occur, and they don’t have the option to turn the inspector away, whatever is going on on-site. Our inspectors want to see each garden centre as they would if they were an everyday member of the public coming in for a visit.

During each meeting, the inspector for that particular area will present their findings, highlighting best practice and new ideas, and will announce all the category winners. This makes for great local PR for the winners and the runners up too.

The inspections are all about making sure our members are providing the very best in

retail standards, customer care, plant quality and reliability.

We represent nearly 200 garden centres nationwide and it’s through our annual inspection programme and sharing our findings at our award events, and the inspectors’ hints and tips for improvements, that we can really help members to achieve the very highest standards.

It’s vital for the continued success of the industry that we collaborate with each other and share best practice like this. Any tips and hints you can pick up from your industry colleagues that will help you improve your own business can only be good. I feel very positive when I hear about GCA members sharing and networking with each other. Sending key people to the award presentations and area meetings is incredibly motivational too.

As well as organising our regional meetings, we’ve also been busy bees with the planning stages of next year’s (2020) annual conference. If you didn’t already hear the news, then we

recently revealed that the venue will be the Mercure Bristol, Grand Hotel. Bristol is a vibrant city with good communication links and the city centre venue contrasts nicely with Luton Hoo last year. The Mercure Bristol, Grand Hotel is a newly renovated Grade II listed building from 1856 and is home to the largest ballroom in the city centre. The hotel was inspired by UpFest, the largest

urban street art and graffiti festival in Europe, with local artists influencing the décor. The hotel now features more than 500 pieces of commissioned street art. We’re sure our delegates will thoroughly enjoy their time spent there. Our chairman elect, Mike Burks, has been

busy working with our chief executive, Iain Wylie, to put on an event that’s even bigger and better than ever, with a large focus this year on climate change, sustainability, community, health and wellbeing, as all of these have direct links to the garden centre industry.

• Online booking for the conference will open in September, 2019.

Planning ahead for positive opportunities

Will Jones, chief operating officer of the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA), looks at the benefits presented to garden retailers at Exclusively.

With 151 exhibitors, 32 new to the show, in all representing 275 brands, Exclusively Housewares is now the largest exhibition solely dedicated to housewares and small domestic electricals – a sector with huge potential for garden retailers. Cookshops can represent significant turnover and profit for the garden centre, thanks to destination shopping and giſting. Moreover, it is an income stream invulnerable to the weather.

Back at the show, Exclusively visitor numbers were up by just over 5% with more retailers than ever attending as well as increasing numbers of consumer media and influencers, eager for a ‘preview’ of the latest products and the latest trends. The surge in consumer media is attributed to

the show’s Brand Showcase initiative, now in its third year. This has gained considerable momentum, with attendance more than doubling since last year. The Brand Showcase is a media only edit of the main show which looks ahead to Christmas, and to future trends in the market including kitchen gadget innovations and the very latest in small domestic appliances.

GCU July 2019

As ever Exclusively revealed several invaluable guides for suppliers and buyers in terms of trends to back for both product development and product listings. The Trend Talks programme delivered by trend forecasters, Scarlet Opus saw packed audiences on both show days, and provided insights into the cultural and world news influences, colours, materials, patterns, texture and shapes which will determine the desirability of products over the next two to three years. Illustrative displays supported the talks focussing particularly on three trends entitled Traveller, Fellowship and Satori. 2019 also saw the introduction of talks from “the food people” predicting the types of food likely to be popular in the next 24 months and applying this knowledge to the specialist equipment needed to prepare and serve them. On the floor of the show exhibitors echoed

trend predictions. 25% of exhibitors showcased products with eco credentials, including biodegradable, earth friendly, minimal impact on the environment and made with recycled materials. A fifth of exhibitors focussed on categories like hydration and food on the go in line with consumer desire to reduce single use | 23

plastics and the waste associated with ‘disposable’ paper cups. Cleaning, storage and homewares were also much in evidence, while over 30% of housewares and small electricals suppliers acknowledged the potential for gifting with many examples of gift presentation and merchandising.

Will said: “The mix and quality of suppliers, retailers and influencers who attended demonstrated today’s many routes to market and many evolving influences and trends. Exclusively really has become the premier exhibition in the housewares and small domestic electricals market.”

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