Visitors to the Four Oaks Trade Show and Glee, along with the congregation at the memorial service for Charles Notcutt, were described by one of our respected pundits as bullish. Very few will admit to a good year, but the past nine months have certainly put a spring in the trade’s step.
Four Oaks was better than ever. It oozes quality plants and the organisers pay such attention to detail. One of the continental exhibitors said to me: "They can’t do enough for us. We ask for a fork lift truck and it is there. When plants arrive early they water them for us." Long may it so remain.
This show has such a wide trade representation from home and abroad that after a full day, walking every avenue under glass and seeing most of the outdoor displays, there was information enough to update me for the year.
Glee I am not so sure about. There have been so many mergers, buyouts, sell-offs and staff changes that every time you meet someone in the aisles you have to think what company they represent. Perhaps it is my age, but I miss some of the great sales people such as George Mold with his hundreds of branded one-pint sprayers.
A speaker at Glee recommending social media as the new one-to-one selling tool reminded me of the days we had a card index with personal details for every buyer. My sales trainer (Michael Oliver) came from the Fisons era, when representatives wore a trilby and proffered a cigarette. Nothing changes, it seems. We still need to know our customer, have a record of their purchases and give good service.
Charles Notcutt was fittingly remembered — how could one man serve our industry and the wider community so well? What is known as the nursery stock Mafia were out in force, several expressing regret that they no longer meet regularly to brief one another and co-operate on the supply of woody plants for big projects. They may well get together again as a result of the service.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster