01 Aug 2023

Glee 2023 in Review

The future of garden retailing takes shape and its resilience is proven

As the doors closed on this year’s edition of Glee, the international festive for garden, leisure and pet demonstrated the continued resilience of the garden retail industry in the face of ongoing economic challenges, whilst giving participants a sense of the future direction it will takes.  Across three days the show saw thousands of buyers flock to the NEC to support hundreds of exhibitors and brands, together representing ten core product sectors.


Trade Associations including GIMA (Garden Industry Manufacturers Association), HTA, PetQuip, Gardenex and the GCA (Garden Centre Association) had a strong presence throughout the show, underscoring the importance of Glee as a networking hub and trading powerhouse.


Glee 2023 saw a wealth of new initiatives unveiled, including a new partnership with the British Home Enhancement Trades Association (BHETA) and British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), which demonstrated the importance of its new DIY sector. BHETA members joined the existing line-up of suppliers and brands exhibiting at Glee, where BIRA members and other retail buyers had invaluable access to exciting new suppliers and product innovations. The exciting development gave retail buyers across the garden and home improvement sector an invaluable access to new suppliers and innovative products.


Another new pavilion was devoted to Home, Gift & Clothing, where artisan candlemakers and skincare specialists rubbed shoulders with the best of greetings cards, plush toys and fairtrade gifts. Kate Leach of renowned greetings card publisher, Woodmansterne, commented during the show: “We’ve had a brilliant day today (Wednesday). In fact, I think it was our best day ever at Glee! We’ve spent some time with our wonderful existing customers, and also met some new ones. We’ve had some fantastic leads”. Woodmansterne celebrated its 70th birthday during the show with drinks, nibbles and a host of industry friends.


Elsewhere at the show, Philip Wilson of Pot-Mate agreed with the positive sentiment, saying: "We wouldn’t be anywhere without Glee! We came here for the first time in 2021 and we won the GIMA Innovators Seed Corn Fund, which was fantastic. Glee is so great for meeting new people. I love it! I never stop talking to people. Over the course of the show so far, we’ve had people on from Australia, America, Sweden, Finland, to name but a few. The great thing was that they spent a long time talking to us – a good quarter of an hour each time – so you could tell they were genuinely interested in the product”.

Content is King

The unified strength of the sector was also to be seen at Glee’s exceptional seminar theatre, The Stage, where topics ranged from sustainable macro trends and outdoor living trends (as forecast by Trend Bible) to optimising digital marketing and promoting diversity in the gardening sector. 


Kicking off the seminar programme was David Denny, Head of Research at the Horticultural Trade Association, who explored how “global trends driven by climate change will affect business operations in the coming years and drive changing consumer needs and expectations.” With significant growth on the horizon for our sector, Denny delved deeper into those aspects – including biosecurity, demographic change, the amount of water and green space available, the availability of labour and skills, research and development and sustainable productivity – that could restrict this forecasted growth opportunity. 


Glee Brand Ambassador, Michael Perry (AKA Mr Plant Geek), breathed new life and panache into the Green Heart of the festival, where future innovations of the plant world were showcased in the atrium, flanked by new Talent Store concepts put together by competing teams of young visual merchandise professionals.


As a highly respected and much-loved horticulturalist and social media influencer, Michael could also be found at The Stage on 28th June, as Glee celebrated Pride Month with the panel discussion, Glee X Pryde: Embracing Inclusivity. Michael joined hostess Rachael Forsyth, Senior Reporter at Horticulture Week, Jason Williams, multi-award-winning Balcony & Small Space Garden Designer, the Cloud Gardener and Mollie Higginson of the YPHA in an enlightening discussion about the importance of diversity in the gardening retail world. Suppliers and retailers alike would do well to reach out beyond the traditional garden centre customer to newer generations with different requirements, helping to open up new product categories and tap developing market sectors.


Elsewhere, the inaugural Talent Store contest – where merchandising new talent came together to create two highly visual concept stores focusing on indoor and outdoor plants - was won by the Outdoor Plants merchandising team, who impressed judges Debbie Flowerday, Visual Merchandiser and Stylist Consultant, and Peter Burks, Chairman of the GCA.


The winning team showcased how sustainability can be placed front and centre within displays. Concepts included a tablescape of edible ideas that not only look good but taste good too, a pond in a pot that will make a difference to the ecosystem in customers’ outdoor space, a display of pollinating plants to create a wildlife sanctuary, as well as a wildlife product display that will turn the garden into a bug wonderland.


Debbie Flowerday said: “Everything you see in the Glee Talent Store at the show can be used to create a scene and retail theatre, guiding customers through a store, and we hope that retailers are inspired to try these simple tips when they get back to their businesses.”


Industry Award Winners

Every year, Glee actively celebrates the best of the industry with a series of prestigious awards which together recognise the exceptional achievements in new product development, the most exciting new plants, excellence in retail and expertise in visual merchandising.


Hills Plants were named the winner of this year’s Green Heart Best Merchandising Display, with a spectacular showcase which demonstrated how foliage-dense plants can be coupled with flowering beauties to create an irresistible presentation in store. The concept is simple to replicate in even the smallest plant area and superbly demonstrated how plants can be used to entice shoppers.


Retailers were recognised in the prestigious Buyer’s Power List Awards, where winners are peer-voted, making them an invaluable accolade. The full list of winners is as follows:

  • Plants buyer/buying team of the Year - Colin Dale, Notcutts
  • Garden Care buyer/buying team of the Year - Al Sheppard, Haskins
  • Outdoor Leisure buyer/buying team of the Year: Nigel Gates, Gates Garden Centre
  • Landscape buyer/buying team of the Year: Dan Kirby, British Garden Centres
  • Home & Gifts buyer/buying team of the Year: Jodie Smith, Perrywood
  • Pet buyer/buying team of the Year: The Old Railway Line
  • Retail Food & Drinks buyer/buying team of the Year: Bents Garden & Home
  • Christmas buyer/buying team of the Year: Rachel Churcher, Perrywood
  • Online buyer/buying team of the Year: Helen Henshaw, Crocus
  • Overall Multiple Retailer buyer/buying team of the Year (hardware, DIY, high street): QD Stores
  • Overall Multiple Garden Retailer buying team of the Year (6 stores or more): Blue Diamond
  • Overall Independent Garden Centre buyer/ buying team of the Year (up to 5 stores): Haskins


On the supplier side, the New Product Awards once again yielded treasures, with several hundred entries received across 15 product categories. This year’s winners, revealed during a ceremony held at The Stage on Wednesday 28th July included:


  • Overall Glee New Product: Kent & Stowe Surecut Loppers & Shears - Westland
  • Best of British: Firestorm Phoenix Pellet Patio Heater - Pinnacle Agri Products Ltd
  • Sustainability Award: EcoMade Indoor Hemp Planters - Woodlodge Products
  • Wild Bird Care and Wildlife Products: Peckish Natural Balance Coco-Not® Wild Bird Feeders - Westland
  • Pet Products: Pet Bed Topper - The Wheat Bag Company
  • DIY Products: Racan Premium Anti-Rodent Sealant (RACARSM) - Lodi UK
  • Landscaping: Rubber Play Space Tiles – Primeur
  • Retail Services & Experiences: Indoor Gardening Essentials Merchandising Solutions (G.E.M.S) - Westland
  • Gifts, Body and Bath, Christmas, Greeting Cards, Toys and Games: Playpress Vets Mini Playset - Playpress Toys
  • Home: Recycled Bottle Scarf - Art on Scarves
  • Leisure & Entertaining: Firestorm Phoenix Pellet Patio Heater - Pinnacle Agri Products Ltd
  • Tools & Machinery: Kent & Stowe Surecut Loppers & Shears - Westland
  • Garden Decoration: Gemini Solar Wall Light pack of 2 - The Solar Centre
  • Growing Containers Joint Winners: Cottage Garden 12L Beehive Planter - EP Barrus Ltd and EcoMade Indoor Hemp Planters - Woodlodge Products (joint winners)
  • Growing Accessories: ClipGlove Warm 'n' Waterproof - Treadstone Products
  • Growing Materials: Coco & Coir Houseplant Compost - Southern Trident
  • Plants Seeds & Bulbs: Nymphya Purple Fantasy - Anglo Aquatic and Petunia Tumbelina Nicola and Colegrave Seabrook Foundation/Kerley & Co (joint winners)


Commenting on the coveted awards, Glee Event Director, Matthew Mein, said: “Every year, our exhibitors continue to impress with the level of innovation that they bring to market. This year’s quality of the entries has been really impressive, and the pitches demonstrated the passion and dedication that goes into every product entry. Congratulations to both our shortlisted entries and the winners. I sincerely hope the win will positively impact your growth in the coming season as it has for many previous winners”.


See you next year!


When the doors finally closed on Glee 2023, it was to a re-energised and fully activated trade, where retailers and suppliers alike were optimistic and looking forward to seeing what the second half of the year will bring for this thriving industry.   But what of the 2024 event?


One of the biggest developments will be the introduction of the new Connect @ Glee online platform, where buyers and exhibitors can proactively choose who they want to meet with, based on a criteria that’s important to their business. Connect @ Glee enables suppliers and buyers to request meetings, and when a double opt-in is achieved provides the perfect opportunity for new retail relationships to be forged. Taking place on exhibitor stands and offering complete flexibility, the new Connect system has already garnered a positive response as its ability to improve time efficiencies at the show is fully recognised.

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