By John Fitzsimmons
After pandemic interruptions since 2020, Garden Inspirations Group’s GIG 2023 returned to its obviously popular face-to-face format recently with a big attendance of independent garden centre people and some newly recognised retail ‘champions’.
As it turned out, there were more than 165 acceptances for attendance at GIG 2023 – a record! The demographic was also very diverse with a healthy proportion of young and newly enthusiastic faces from the independent retail sector.
GIG’s “new ideas and possibilities” were MC’d by well-credentialled horticultural multi-media personality Chloe Thompson (www.beantheredugthat.com). Among her multi-faceted activities are the Sprout School and Sprout Squad, effectively supporting and encouraging the next generation of greenlife customers. How many other individuals or organisations are successfully doing that these days?
As the half dozen or so complementary GIG members were introduced by Chloe, threads began to emerge. The GIG format gives each member about six minutes to present to the audience. Traditionally, video presentations have been rare at GIG events but this year they were omnipresent, a medium readily connecting with the audience and allowing suppliers to quickly and effectively profile their businesses, offers, and culture. The arrival of drone-mounted cameras has also made it a lot easier to illustrate the scale, diversity, and context of manufacturing and growing facilities as well as customer service and logistics operations. Video presentations by Takasho and Biemond Nurseries were notable in this regard.
Another note was that many GIG Members are currently in a state of expansion – if not of physical capacities then certainly of IT infrastructure, announcing new ordering, logistics, and payment portals and/or apps, and often both. It’s a very positive and encouraging trend. Overall, the objective is to radically improve the (wholesale) customer experience.
The Dutch contribution to Australian horticulture (ornamental and production) is writ large and one of the most familiar names in this sphere is Van Berkel. This year the family celebrates 70 years in the industry coinciding with the arrival of the fourth generation. Several businesses trade under the Van Berkel Distributors flag including Garden Express (online nursery), Urban Foliage (indoor plants), and Trenton Cottage (spring flowering bulbs and edibles), as well as being the licenced propagator of the famous Wollemi Pine. The company has increased production capacity for 2023, and a new website is also coming to showcase and facilitate the company’s wide product range.
Biemond Nurseries has had a positive story to tell for decades, and even more so when Steve Biemond re-energised the family business in 2015. The enterprise now has three production sites totalling 25,000 square metres. This scale, greenlife quality and uniformity, plus advanced automation, has become hallmarks of Biemond’s as they service both national chains and the independent greenlife retail sector.
A GIG member not directly involved in greenlife is Takasho, but they do “connect people with nature”. Takasho Co Ltd of Japan is expanding its business realms as a “lifestyle maker that provides various solutions responding to a wide range of gardening needs”. It is pursuing a goal of becoming the “only global company” contributing broadly to gardening culture in urban environments. So – not greenlife but highly complementary to greenlife retail, showcasing greenlife in various settings and providing great diversity in the ‘accessory’ category, which expands sales values and helps expand retail margins.
Longstanding GIG member PGA continued its strong innovative trend with “new colours, new breeding, new compact forms, and new flowers” in 2023-24. Already prominent in the Salvia category, PGA is going ‘back to the future’ with the Fisher Signature Series recognising breeder the Late John Fisher – Elegance, Ocean Blue, Lavish, Glamorous. New varieties for 2023 include Vivacious, Serendipity and Ostentatious. Also keep an eye out for Magenta Magic, Cape Blue and ‘Perfect Pollinator’ Velvet.
Like others, PGA has updated its POS support resources for retailers, and now provides a visual stock list updated three times each Monday and then every third day.
Starting 30 years ago with a pelletised organic fertiliser, still an important and integral part of the business, Grow Better then expanded to today’s range of organic and organically-based fertilisers, soil improvers, mulches, potting media, and water saving products. The company’s brand is exclusive to independent retailers, with potting mix production based outside Ballarat, and administration at Bayswater (Melbourne). The company’s GIG presentation focused on achieving and consistently maintaining product manufacturing to Australian Standards, and the use of regular quality and toxicity testing.
Two areas of improved value to retailers detailed at GIG were the availability of staff training, and a new online ordering portal to make ordering and restocking much easier. Grow Better has also expanded its product offer under the banner of Bombora Pots, ranging from large and lightweight categories to hanging pots, water bowls, and indoor plant tonics and foliar sprays.
Seedling specialist Oasis completed presentations with news of forthcoming new releases and, in tune with other GIG members, a new ordering portal. The new portal was described as easy to use, providing plant availability in real time, and offering instant order confirmation.
Notable among the company’s new releases were four in the edibles category:
- A new edible AND ornamental kale, not as bitter to the taste as existing selections
- A purple broccoli rich in antioxidants
- A multi-head(!) cauliflower, extending the benefits of this popular vegetable for the home gardener
- A ‘multi-cut’ lettuce that can be continuously harvested. Cutting back by two-thirds of its height and leaving the remaining bottom third, it will develop into another harvest ready in 4-6 weeks
This year the Garden Inspirations Group made its inaugural ‘Champion’ award to Brad and Jeff Wilson-Reynolds of Valley Road Nursery at Highton in Geelong. Both Brad and Jeff came out of other greenlife industry backgrounds to breathe new life into this retail site. They totally revamped and energised the nursery with a strong focus on impressive refreshments of greenlife presentation. The result has been described as “inspirational” retail.
GIG 2023 also provided an opportunity for well-known retail industry figure Karen Moad (Rivers of Yarrambat) to be presented with the Garden Centres of Australia (GCA) President’s award for outstanding service to industry. Karen is currently president of the International Garden Centre Association (IGCA).
Leigh Siebler is still facilitating the GIG function and says that all independent garden centres and key staff are invited next year. Email Leigh (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ensure you receive an invitation.
Main photo: Garden Inspiration Group 2023 (Image: John Fitzsimmons)