‘We don’t say anything until Greenpeace raises the alarm’

The aim of Hortivation at IPM Essen was to inspire garden centres with concepts for the shop floor. According to creative director Romeo Sommers, we get to see far too few inspiring combinations. “The collaboration in the chain should be visible on the shop floor, too.”

When we asked Romeo Sommers whether Family Garden had become a trend yet, his endless stream of words briefly came to a halt, while he took a moment to think. “Yes, it’s a trend, we see more and more combinations on the market, but our industry can do a lot more.” Last year, IPM asked Sommers to be creative director of Hortivation, an event that aims to inspire retailers with concepts for shop floor presentations. Sommers laid down one condition: all of the links in the chain that exhibits at IPM, had to take part.

Alphabetical order

He wanted to bring together all the separate areas, like technique, breeding, floriculture, tree nurseries and hardware, under one roof in hall 13. No more presenting plants in alphabetical order and presenting the various product groups separately, but putting them together in combinations instead. “The collaboration, which already exists in the chain, should be visible on the shop floor, too.” said Sommer.

The organic segment is a good example. Sommers feels that the industry doesn’t communicate clearly enough about all their efforts regarding sustainability. Organic is a trend, consumers want plants that are produced in a sustainable way and they want transparency. Sommers: “We don’t say anything until Greenpeace raises the alarm. While in fact, we’re quite far ahead when it concerns the environment.”

Think of the greenhouse builders, who develop certain windows and screens to help growers reduce their energy usage. And LED manufacturers who are developing energy-saving lights. The industry can show this on the shop floor, explained Sommers. One of the Hortivation exhibition areas showed a combination which included greenhouses, environmentally-friendly pots, compost and plants.

Family Garden

Combining various types of products on the shop floor like that is also referred to as Family Garden. It also includes collaboration with other industries. Take for example the kids area. The concept incorporated a life-size Playmobil figure. A result of the collaboration between Playmobil and Lechuza, producer of pots and planters. The kids area also featured air-purifying plants of Air so Pure. According to Sommers, plants have a calming effect on children, they help improve their concentration and performance and even have a positive influence on ADHD. Whether the latter is true? One of the participants admitted not to know of any scientific proof for this statement.

Collaborating with a party from a different industry can open doors. Take for example clothing retailer Urban Outfitters, who are now also selling plants, said Sommers. “There are times when growers supply more plants to Urban Outfitters than to garden centres.”

The aim of Hortivation is to inspire retailers – garden centres in particular – to make combinations on the shop floor in order to tempt consumers to buy more. “At the moment, garden centres tend to have a functional interior – a mishmash of products on the same, old, aluminium tables – and the focus seems to be entirely on price. Growers are happy when they can take an extra 5 cents, but what does the consumer want? How can garden centres differentiate themselves and ask for higher prices?” said Sommers. The answer, according to him, is to present a lifestyle. For example by bringing together plants, compost, plant food and design plant pots, all in one place.

Calming effect

Just like children, adults also benefit from plants and there’s an increasing awareness of this fact. Especially among the younger generation. “Life is so fast these days”, said Sommers. “4G isn’t fast enough. People want to slow down. They want to watch their children grow up and have some time to themselves. Indoor plants have a calming effect. An alternative is to go outside and enjoy the greenery in a park. Young consumers are aware that the air is often polluted, that’s why they like using plants.

It sounds like there are plenty of opportunities for plants. But are garden centres interested in these concepts, as they were presented at IPM? Sommers: “It’s tricky. Growers’ labels are often removed immediately. Garden centres should be proud of how the industry is constantly reducing its carbon footprint and they should tell consumers that growers are meeting their standards. They should feel proud about work

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