Glee workshop - How to be a successful exhibitor and identify the buying signs
Standing out from the crowd, know your products and customer engagement were the key themes at the Glee Exhibitor Workshop, which took place on 4th July at Poplars Garden Centre in Toddington.
Over 80 delegates from across the garden industry attended the event aimed at making the most out of the annual show. In a format new to the workshop, Trevor Pfeiffer of Garden Trade News interviewed leading garden retailers to learn their top tips on how to engage influential buyers and industry experts, as well as how to secure those vital sales, ahead of Glee 2018 in September.
“Exhibitors at Glee often don't see the buying signs,” said Alastair Jackson, General Manager at Poplars Garden Centre, an experienced Glee visitor having attended the show for 24 years throughout his career. “If I'm asking questions, I'm interested and want information. It's important for sales staff on the stands to understand their products, be prepared with pricing and communicate with retailers in order to secure sales.”
Alastair has seen a lot of change in Glee over the years, as it goes from strength to strength, and now regards the revitalised show as the key date in the buying calendar. Attending with his department managers and shop staff, Alastair walks every aisle of the show with his team so they can meet with existing suppliers and new ones. As Poplars plan their ranges six months in advance, he emphasised how important it was for Glee suppliers to keep the communication channels open and follow up on any interest shown to ensure their products are stocked in store.
Simon Bourne, Managing Director at Perrywood Garden Centre, echoed this sentiment on communication and how important it is for exhibitors to ask questions, and most importantly, understand the customer they are talking to. The large family-run, award winning independent centre sees Glee as the most important show of the year and make a significant investment in seeking out the latest products for the upcoming season. Simon takes a dedicated team of eight from all departments, as well as members of his marketing team to spot the innovative, new gardening trends before they hit the shelves.
“The latest trends play an important part in Perrywood's offering,” explains Simon. “Our houseplants area already has a really large floor space and has seen a sales growth of 25% over the last 18 months. We look for stands that have made an effort with bold, inspirational, visual displays and eye-catching merchandising that we can replicate in store. Our stoneware, indoor living, gifting and clothing offerings are also expanding so I want to see what's new and exciting immediately on the stand I'm visiting. That's what makes me stop and start a conversation.”
Get in the shoes of the customer was the message from Caroline Linger, Head of Buying at Crocus. With a diverse customer offering through Waitrose, the RHS and Next, as well as its own website and garden centre which attracts designers and horticulturists, Crocus has a very intense, product specific focus and requirements.
“As we operate mainly online, we can represent ‘new' very quickly,” explained Caroline. “My team of seven use every minute of the show and last year saw 60 suppliers, new and existing over the three days. We want to know price, the benefits, how it works and how it will fit on the Crocus website. We need suppliers to sell their products with confidence and have good displays on stand to give us an idea of how we would present it ourselves. It is important to know your pricing structure depending on the time of season and know our competitors. Being competitive online is hard, Crocus can't compete with Amazon or the volume supermarkets so it's important when you pitch to us, this is understood as a good trading relationship is so important.”
Caroline also emphasised the importance of the marketing of the products displayed at Glee. She encouraged retailers to work hard before the show and utilise all marketing opportunities available from the copy in the show catalogue, videos to online representation and social media to make sure suppliers stand out from the crowd and shout about their products to guarantee a stand visit.
As well as hearing from each of the garden retailers on how they approach Glee, delegates learnt about the exciting features and opportunities from the show's team. Marketing Manager, Luke Murphy gave an overview of this year's Retail Lab which will focus on the theme of ‘Happy Gardening.' This trend will build on much of the content showcased within the Retail Lab last year but will dig deeper into the many ways that gardening can enhance our lives. Focussing on consumer purchasing patterns, this year's offering will be split into five key areas: Grow Your Own, Feel Good, Play, Pets and Easy Gardening, giving retailers and suppliers inspiration and take-home ideas for their own business.
Marketing and PR experts also told delegates how to increase their brand exposure at Glee with Trevor Pfeiffer outlining the opportunities in Glee Daily News, the Glee Show Catalogue and the New Product Showcase. Kimberley Hornby, Managing Director at Hornby Whitefoot PR encouraged exhibitors to send preview news and take advantage of the PR opportunities available with UK and international media, bloggers and vloggers, as well as how to get your products into editors' hands through the VIP goody Bag. Rachel Cryan, Social Marketing Manager at Glee rounded off the session with an in-depth look at how to use social media to promote presence and products before, after and during the show, the best channels to use, the hashtags to use to engage in conversation as well has how to widen the reach of each post.