An atmosphere of optimism resonated throughout the halls of Glee duringSeptember’s show. Following a buoyant spring and summer season, with manygarden retailers experiencing strong growth in key categories, an upbeattrading atmosphere prevailed, underpinning the garden retail sector’sresilience to economic headwinds in the run-up to Brexit. In a year ofmonumental change for the industry, with 145 former Wyevale Garden Centres nowin the hands of new operators, it has never been more vital for suppliers toforge new relationships with buyers – and Glee played a pivotal role byproviding the ultimate networking platform that enabled new garden centreowners to witness the latest in innovation and confidently place orders forthe 2020 season.

In fact, Glee 2019 raised the bar in terms of innovation and creativity –drawing praise for both the quality of visitors and an increasinginternational contingent, too. To gain a deeper insight into how this year’sshow unfolded against a backdrop of seismic industry change, Glee EventDirector, Matthew Mein , reveals key trends that shaped this year’ssuccessful show.

An evolving place to do business

Glee is firmly established as the networking opportunity in the retailcalendar and this year’s show was tailored to meet the needs of visitors withdemanding schedules. Feedback helps us to fine tune Glee and, followingconsultation with all partners, Glee moved seamlessly into a new Tuesday toThursday slot this year – a decision taken in response to feedback from retailvisitors. This move allowed those in the retail trade to focus on post-weekendtrading and stock replenishment on the Monday, ahead of visiting Glee – a movethat resulted in an upbeat opening to the show, allowing buyers to focus onnetworking and meetings without interruption.

Set across five halls, visitors were engaged from the moment they set foot inthe NEC, with more than 550 exhibitors set across eight carefully edited showsectors. As an added bonus, the new Glee Connect matchmaking service helpedexhibitors and visitors to strike meaningful connections with ease. Using AItechnology, the connect platform was able to give all parties a higher returnon time invested in their visit. Elsewhere rebooking for the 2020 eventreached 61% during the show, as brands look to secure their investment in thecoming seasons. In general the 2019 event saw strong numbers across the board.Including revisits, over 7,800 people visited the show, with visitors comingfrom over 40 countries. 40% of visitors were new to Glee, with retail buyerswith sole purchasing responsibility seeing an increase of 14% year-on-year.22% of all visitors also had a purchasing budget over £1million, meaningorders books were quick to fill and meaningful retail partnership conversationwere the order of the day.

A hub for innovation

Glee 2019 set a new benchmark for inspiration and creativity, and the NewProduct Showcase – a platform to unveil the most unique and sought-afternovelties coming to market – was testament to the scale of investment evidentin the sector. Innovation drives category growth in retail and the biggestever New Product Showcase at Glee, staged in association with Garden TradeNews , hosted a record 362 entries, hammering home the level of productforesight that’ll keep tills ringing next season. It was a similar story atthe brand-new Pets at Glee New Product Showcase, with fierce competitionhelping to maximise product exposure to buyers, while revealing the mostexciting new lines that hold the potential to inspire pet-owners to make in-store purchases.

The greatest showroom

Now an established feature and widely regarded as the beating heart of Glee,the highly acclaimed Retail Lab returned for its third year, with a theatricaltheme for 2019. Run in association with the HTA, and brought to life by RetailLab Creative Director, Romeo Sommers, the 2019 theme of The Greatest Showroomoffered the ultimate in inspiration for merchandisers, showcasing the latesttrends and highlighting how a bit of theatre can entertain and engagecustomers. The Lab’s two key themes – Saving the world: Nurturing, Nature andAnimals, and Do it yourself (and have fun) tapped into the fashion forbringing nature into our homes and threw the spotlight on in-store conceptsthat capture the imagination of customers and inspire consumers to connectemotionally with issues they care about, such as reducing plastics, caring forpets and urban greening, all of which can lead to increased sales whenpresented alongside future products.

We are very grateful to all of our sponsors, especially our gold sponsorsWoodlodge, Scheurich, Meadow View Stone, BPI Products, Ivyline and Hozelock,who together ~~~~ helped to transform the Retail Lab from an ambitiousconcept into a futuristic showcase for modern merchandising.

Harnessing the Power of One

2019 will go down in Glee’s history as the year in which sustainabilitydominated the agenda. With GCA members turning out in abundance, as well asrepresentatives from DIY sheds, supermarkets and DIY chains, buyers were outin force looking for products that demonstrated a closed-loop approach tousage of materials. Many exhibitors were taking steps to move away fromsingle-use plastics, while there was a significant shift towards products thatrepurposed former waste items. The industry has made strides to cut the volumeof peat used in compost, and while the Government’s voluntary 2020 target forretail horticulture to be peat-free isn’t yet reality, the latest peat-reducedand organic formulations made their debut at Glee – alongside a growing bandof natural, chemical-free plant foods, pest controls and weedkillers which areall experiencing strong demand as organic gardening gains momentum.

With environmental initiatives topping the retail agenda, it was timely thatthe team behind Glee, along with visitors and exhibitors, made their

PowerOfOne pledges at the show – a new feature for Glee 2019 that saw the

exhibition team up with the Power of One movement, an international UN-backedinitiative designed to show how small, individual changes can create a moresustainable future for everyone. From embracing reusable shopping bags toshunning fast fashion, pledges on social media came thick and fast across thethree days of Glee, proving that, one by one, we can all make a difference.

Inspirational expert speakers

Industry collaboration is at the heart of everything we do at Glee and thisyear’s line-up of guest speakers inspired with their in-depth knowledge andexpertise. Ellen Mary, best known as a presenter of The Plant Based Podcastand a host on Future Radio, presented Grow Your Own magazine’s 2019 GreatBritish Growing Awards, throwing the spotlight on suppliers and retailers who,through innovation, have driven demand for grow your own to new highs. Otherkeynote talks provided expert insight into visual merchandising, harnessingthe power of SEO, successful catering, using social media to grow businesses,reducing plastics and getting the most out of new ranges – all offeringinspirational ideas packed into 30-minute sessions, while the Glee Buyer’sPower List Awards celebrated the outstanding talent of retail buyers whoseinfluence shapes today’s garden centre market.

Glee to grow alongside new Pawexpo

It has been confirmed that Glee will be back on 15th to 17th September 2020,again taking advantage of its new Tuesday to Thursday slot at the NEC. Whilethe show will continue to evolve, reflect the latest industry trends andbecome even more dynamic, the big news is that a new pet show designed to meetthe growing demands of the pet-buying market will run alongside Glee nextyear. Launched at a special drinks reception at this year’s Glee, the Pet &Animal Wellbeing Expo (Pawexpo) will support suppliers and retailers acrossthis rapidly expanding industry, helping to maximise sales and revenueopportunities while adopting a personal touch to the pet trade show experiencewith a fully curated offering.

What’s next?

Plans for Glee at Spring Fair 2020 are gathering pace. Born in 2018 andstrengthening its position as an ideal event for visitor crossover buying atSpring Fair 2019, the event is now a firm fixture in Hall 3, with Spring Fairset to take place on 2nd to 6th February next year. As well as showcasingranges ahead of the busy spring sales season, visitors to the 2019 event spokeabout how they’d met with influential buyers from retail sectors and HighStreet chains who hadn’t previously visited Glee, opening up new businessopportunities and generating additional leads.

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