29 Sep 2021

Glee 2021: Refueling Garden Retail

Glee 2021: Refueling Garden Retail

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and this certainly felt like an accurate sentiment at Glee last week, when the garden retail sector was finally able to reunite after a two-year hiatus.

Millions of new British gardeners have made the past two years, even with all its many challenges, a period of tremendous growth and innovation for the industry and Glee is the most important launch platform, where suppliers can bring new products to market and engage with the retail trade.

Featuring over 300 brands, 125 of which were brand new to the show this year, the long-anticipated return of Glee as an in-person event was positively received from all corners of the retail sector: from traditional garden centres, DIY Stores and farm shops to high street retailers, department stores, builders' merchants and thriving e-commerce sites.

As the first occasion since 2019, when so many gardening brands and retailers could meet face to face under one roof, it wasn't surprising that Glee opened its doors on Tuesday, September 14th to a large and eager crowd, who helped create “the busiest start to Glee ever” for many exhibitors. The show provided an essential hub for educational business content and future trends; also hosting a number of prestigious industry award ceremonies to celebrate the best of garden centre retailing and the most innovative and exciting new products launched over the past 24 months.

Buyers flocked to the NEC, raring to go and ready to meet their regular suppliers, source new product solutions and place those all-important trade orders at Glee. The ability to touch and feel products in person – something that's been sorely missed over the past two years – brought a fantastic buzz to the busy show, which lasted for the full three days.

Among the many show highlights, British Garden Centres was voted Garden Retailer Buying Team of the Year (six stores or more) and Aylett Nurseries was named Overall Independent Garden Centre Buying Team of the Year (up to five stores) in this year's Buyer's Power List Awards; Pot-mate™ was awarded this year's GIMA Innovator's Seed Corn Fund; Hills Plants scooped the Best Glee Green Heart Display award; and 19 fantastic new garden and pet products were named winners of the coveted Glee New Product Showcase.

All the fun of the fair

Individual exhibitors had plenty of their own highpoints at this year's exhibition. Nigel Thompson of Sipcam Home & Garden, which provides innovative solutions for home, pet and garden care, said:  “We had some great leads at Glee 2021. In fact, we had probably as much quality in one day as we might do in three days previously. People were really engaging and were just glad to be there. There was a great vibe, and you could feel the halls buzzing. We saw existing customers but some new as well. It also feels as though people were really open and responsive to change. The consumer demographics have changed, and they are not your traditional gardener. There is maybe some good to have emerged from the world spinning on its head.”

GYO specialists, Green Digit (Grow So Simple™), were also feeling the buzz, saying: “It doesn't seem that long ago that we were making our Glee debut within the GIMA Innovators Zone, with one product and a head full of ideas and now, we are here as a fully-established brand that is growing its portfolio and international reach. This has easily been our best-ever Glee. Everyone has been so positive about being back at shows, but more were ready and willing to place orders. There is such a thirst for gardening and retailers are engaged with diversifying their product offering to keep this momentum going. We'll definitely be back next year.”

The positive sentiment was echoed by visitors. Paul Smith of Chessington Garden Centre explained: “It's great to be back at Glee, it's been a long time coming and the whole organisation of the event has been really good, especially given the challenges. What we've really found encouraging is the number of new suppliers we've seen. That has definitely made our visit worthwhile!  We are particularly looking for environmentally-friendly products – especially peat free – and many of the companies we've' seen have ticked all the right boxes in that respect. They're really trying to do the right thing and that's been the standout for us; it's a huge achievement.”

Glee also offered the perfect sourcing ground for new entrants to the garden retail market. One such example is Ariel Martin and brother Samuel, who launched online garden centre, City Garden Horticulture, 18 months ago and were visiting Glee for the first time this year. Ariel said: “We're selling everything you'd expect to find in a bricks-and-mortar garden centre and we have a very varied customer base - urban gardeners, indoor plant enthusiasts, traditional cottage gardeners, lots of young people; anyone and everyone, really! I've found this to be a really good show. It's been great to make physical connections with suppliers and there's a really good variety of products here. We're particularly looking for new Christmas lines and also want to shop new ranges for spring, new plants and tools. Sustainability is very important to us and we already have over 50% recycled packaging; something we plan to improve on over the next few years.”

Event Director, Matthew Mein commented after the show: “I am truly delighted with how this year's show went. It has exceeded all of our expectations and I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of our loyal customers and retailers who turned out to support Glee after such a challenging time. I really don't think it could have gone any better and we are now looking forward to Glee 2022, when our biggest-ever change will come, with a different June date for the show. We are confident that this new date will be better aligned with buying cycles for the garden retail sector and can't wait to unveil the new event when the time comes.  Rebooking has gone very well and 65% of next year's plan has already been booked, so this is already looking like a really welcome move.”

You can also visit www.gleebirmingham.com/news-and-views to see all the news from the 2021 event, including the winners of the Glee New Product Awards and Buyers Power List.

Many more exhibitors, visitors and Glee's supporting trade associations have shared their thoughts on Glee 2021, where retail was reignited and the growth of gardening was celebrated.

Woodlodge: “Glee 2021 was an amazing show for Woodlodge. Not only was it an opportunity to meet all of our customers that have supported us over the past 24 months, but also to showcase our entire product portfolio. Though outdoor pots will always be our main focus, we have been busy building additional product ranges that complement our core offer. Pride of place went to the container range we have developed with the RHS. This was warmly received by all of our customers, and orders are well above our initial expectations. Though we had featured our garden & home décor brand, Honey & Wild, and the extensions to our Root Indoor pot range at the on-site showroom in Tetbury, the return to Glee gave us the opportunity to present this to a wider audience. Glee also provided us with the perfect vehicle to launch our extended furniture, fire pit and water feature collections as the outdoor living category continues to grow. We look forward to building on the success of the show over the coming months and would like to pass our thanks onto the team at Hyve for their organisation in putting on such a well-run event.”

Antony Harker, Altico: “I've always been a big advocate of Glee and it was a pleasure to be back this year presenting our new business to the industry. It was great to see the show back in action and to connect with so many familiar faces during the event and subsequently. We're delighted with the early reaction we've had, and Glee definitely provided us with a strong platform to showcase our offer to the market ahead of the new season. We look forward to returning in 2022 with even more new products.”

VegTrug: “We saw a good mix of new and existing customers and took some very nice orders - we were pleasantly surprised. We launched a new watering system, which has had a lot of interest but, to be honest, people have been interested in everything we've got on the stand this year. It's been great! Previously, we have just been all about product but, this year, we have done things a bit differently and have been more geared towards merchandising and showing what you can do with the space in store. We have taken a more focused approach for garden centres, saying ‘this is what you can do with a six-pallet space'. Retailers have really liked that and gone for it.”

Ivyline: “Glee 2021 was an incredible show for us. We had expectations regarding visitor numbers and quality, but these were far exceeded. We've taken orders, built new relationships and generated a really important buzz ahead of the 2022 season. We've also rebooked for the 2022 show, as we have to be there!”

Goodchaps: “Glee 2021 was definitely about quality over quantity, which is what you want. Our Friendly Squid, which is helping to clean up the coast, and our Treat a Dog in Need products have had a lot of interest. People mentioned seeing them in the New Products Section, which has brought them over to us, which we were happy about. Our first Glee was in 2019 and we have only done two other trade shows since then. We were pleased to be back and to have seen such a wide number of garden centres, as well as the other organisations, such as RNIB.”

DLF Seeds & Neudorff: “Glee is an important event for us, and the 2021 show did not disappoint. The quality of visitor was incredibly high, and all were wanting to place orders, as well as being keen to learn more about latest innovations across both our product and merchandising offering. There is no question that Glee was missed, so it's great to be back and to see our sector thriving.”

Deco-Pak: “We did things a little differently on our stand this year, which really paid dividends but, even without this, we believe we would have been walking away from another successful show. From the open of the show, we were busy talking with both new and existing customers, all of whom were looking to place orders and were really positive about the coming season.”

Zest 4 Leisure: “Glee 2021 was a fantastic tradeshow for Zest 4 Leisure. The event was well run and the Zest 4 Leisure stand welcomed more customers than ever before. Zest enjoyed having a bigger stand, as it was extremely important for customers to feel safe and to have enough room to move around the stand and see the new product ranges. The Glee portal allowed us to share business updates and to communicate with new and existing customers about the developments that the business has made in preparation for 2022. Zest is already looking forward returning to Glee in June next year.”

MSpa: “We saw all the big retail chains, as well as lots of garden centres expressing an interest in our spa offering. This is our second time doing Glee, but we have already seen a huge difference since our last time exhibiting here. The interest was far greater this year.”

MNP Plants, winners of the Glee New Product Award 2021: Plant, Seed & Bulbs: “Glee was just brilliant. We've missed attending shows and Glee is such a great event to come to and to kickstart the season and the return of events. Glee is great for both plant suppliers and buyers, and we'd like to thank Glee for having us – we'll be back next year!”

Kamado Joe – winner of the Glee New Product Garden Leisure and Entertaining award: “We're over the moon to win best new product for our Kettle Joe. Glee New Product Awards is always extremely competitive, with a staggering number of entries from many of the well-known brands across the UK. Our team of engineers are passionate about designing innovative products that inspire people to grill all year round. The awards recognise our hard work, dedication, love and care that each and every one of our team contributes to making our products.”

YPHA: “As an association that represents young people who work within horticulture, we view Glee as a key event, as it enables us to tell more people about the work we do, gain more sponsorship and grow our membership.”

“There is no substitute for face to face,” visitors say

Simon Bourne – Perrywood Garden Centre: “I loved being back at Glee and did lots of great business. It felt just as busy as normal and there was a really good vibe amongst exhibitors and visitors. There were a few people that should have been there, and I hope they will be back another year. Those that were there went to great lengths to be back at a trade show and it really was appreciated.” 

Woodstone Plant Centre – Emma and Stephen Emmerson: “We spent a lot of money at Glee! We expected to spend money but not maybe as much as we have. It is so great to see, touch and feel product again. And, also to see nice, friendly faces; to talk to and meet up with people we know – it has been so nice to be back at live events again.”

William Blake, St Peters Garden Centre: “Glee was absolutely fantastic, really pleased I took the time to be there for a couple of days! So nice that things are getting back to normal and that we can again meet industry friends face to face! Everyone was on good form & the place certainly had a buzz about it. In reality must of our preseason ordering had been done prior to Glee, but it was certainly useful to see new suppliers, ranges & new product developments. Great to see sustainability becoming a bigger part of the offer too!

Speaking on day two of the exhibition, Dan Kirby of British Garden Centres, said: “It's really good to be back at the show and we're here for all three days – we have 58 stores, so there's a lot to do! I'm looking for everything across the whole landscaping category, and sustainability is something we're looking at options for. There are some very good lines coming through that are made from recycled materials. We will also use our time at the show to start developing relationships with new suppliers.”

Michelle de Lavis-Trafford – Choice Marketing: “We really enjoyed Glee, it was great to re-connect with the industry and to spend time with the exhibitors.  It really was so good to be back”

Sue Allen, Millbrook Garden Centre & Greenfingers Charity Chairman; “I have not attended Glee for eight years and had feared it would now be too small to justify one, never mind two or three days. I was glad to be proved wrong! From Greenfingers point of view it gave us a great opportunity to reconnect with our already committed supporters and to meet some who did not know of our work. We were able to get the message over that we are now able to push on with creating new children's hospice gardens and to build up our new ‘makeover' programme. The need for this has become more apparent following the pandemic and the enforced restrictions on volunteers in the hospices. From Millbrook's perspective I know the team thought it was two days well spent, and we all appreciated the value of, at last, being face to face with real people and seeing and touching the products. All the zooming in the world can't make up for that.” 

Trade associations back the triumphant return Glee

Amanda Sizer Barrett, Director General of Gardenex and PetQuip: “It was great to see so many in our industry at Glee. Face-to-face contact in business has been sadly missed by suppliers and buyers, so the three show days were really welcomed. We'd like to congratulate the Glee show team for putting together a strong showing of exhibitors this year in testing circumstances. We are looking forward to working with the team on planning the next Glee event on its new dates in June 2022.”

Vicky Nuttall, Director of GIMA: “It was a joy to be back at Glee this year, and well done to Matthew Mein and all the team at Hyve for bringing it all together.  GIMA members were there in force and we were very pleased to host around 200 introductory meetings with key retailers as part of our Buyer Connect event at the show.  On a personal note, it was so great to reconnect with all those fantastic people that make the UK garden retail sector such a great industry to work in. Lovely to see so many new faces too, many of which we hope will be joining GIMA in the not-too-distant future!”

Martin Simmons, Director of Membership at the HTA: “It was a real pleasure to be back at Glee this year. The show was buzzing, and it was great to see so many of our members there. HTA's involvement in the seminar programme and Leaders for Change Lunch provided the perfect platform for us to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities the industry is facing post covid and the EU exit. We're in a good position to take advantage of those opportunities and help meet the challenges of climate change and health & wellbeing.”

See the HTA's latest news here: https://hta.org.uk/news-current-issues/news-current/news/uk-s-green-economy-worth-42-billion-by-2030.html 

Glee 2021: a new chapter for the leading garden retail exhibition

Whilst the doors may have closed on the 2021 event, the momentum keeps moving and the sector is already gearing up for Glee 2022, which will represent the biggest change to ever take place at the exhibition.

In 2022, Glee will take place from Tuesday, 28th June to Thursday, 30th June. This move, reflective of the changing buying cycle, has been well received by the industry with exhibitors rushing to secure their place on the 2022 floorplan. During the 2021 event, more than 65% of the 2022 floorplan was secured by a host of big brands, as well as emerging innovators and many companies making their return to Glee after a short break, as the value of the show became too hard to ignore!

Talking about the 2022 event, Matthew Mein added: “As a hub for the industry, it is our responsibility to move with the times and to create an exhibition that works best for all those involved. After much consultation with key stakeholders, it became apparent that a move to a June dateline would be the most logical development for Glee as it aligns better with the buying cycle. This significant development has been met with huge positivity from across the industry, and to see so much buzz building around the 2022 event has been heartening. We look forward to delivering yet another valuable event; one which we hope will help facilitate the further growth of our industry.”

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