A revitalised Glee (14-16 September) brought back a buzz to the trade show, which has seen falling interest over recent years. Shifting halls at Birmingham NEC gave the opportunity to refresh the layout and reintroduce growers into an atrium space outside the main halls. But, probably more importantly, the industry's biggest wholesaler, Solus, going into administration this summer meant garden retailers needed to source new suppliers. This brought several new companies to the market, hoping to fill a £100m gap.
Glee attracted 7,066 visitors this year. Visitor numbers were 7,600 in 2013 and 9,000 in 2012. Exhibitor numbers this year were around 500, including 20-plus nurseries in the atrium space. Organiser Matthew Mein said the atrium nursery exhibition part of the show will return for a second year in 2015.
He added that issues around footfall to the nursery area are possible to overcome by rejigging the layout. But, because of slipping hazards, watering can still only be done before and after the show. Sunday opening, which some exhibitors reported was quiet this year (14 September), will be extended from 4.30pm to 6pm next year.
More than 20 nurseries filled the atrium, with Quantil and Gardeners Kitchen selling edible plugs, and conifers represented by Kilworth and Golden Grove. Paul Jackson displayed quality bedding material at Channel Island Plants, which has a new agreement with Briers to market unrooted cuttings produced by Cohen Propagation.
Darby Nursery Stock had all its nurseries on display. Javado and Garden Centre Fresh had stands showing European product selected for the UK market. Anglo Aquatic Plants was celebrating its golden anniversary. Newleaf, Gedney, Lovania Nurseries, Hawkesmill Nurseries, Chapel Cottage Plants, Chamberlain Nurseries, Viking Nurseries and Beaver Plants were among other quality exhibitors in the "Green Heart" nursery area.
Mein told Garden Retail that general feedback was "really strong" from exhibitors and visitors. He said visitors had to "re-shop" the new halls, so stayed longer, while exhibitors were seeing new customers because of this and because of changes in the supply market brought about by Solus having gone into administration.
The bird care, tools, watering and general sundries supply and distribution markets have been up in the air this season, with new outfits Crest Garden and Smart Garden supplying the market. Others such as Karcher and Gardman have now realigned their offer in the wake of the loss of Solus, which Scotts bought out of administration and relaunched as Scotts Solus at the show.
Smart Garden launched 350 products that it is supplying, such as hanging gardening, as an extension of the Smart Solar business owned by former Gardman owner Paris Natar, who said he wants to be a top 10 company within five years.
Gardman chief executive officer Stewart Hainsworth, who is taking product out of B&Q to concentrate on higher-profit garden centre sales, said: "The market has changed massively. What's happened is phenomenal with one major player (Solus) falling over." But he pointed out that Gardman has taken advantage, with revenues and profits up. Choice, Hillier and Klondyke are all new customers, having left Solus.
He said Gardman is moving from 55 per cent to 70 per cent of its product going to garden centres and withdrawing brands, including bird food, from B&Q from January 2015. "I'm interested in profit more than turnover," he explained.
Gardman has also developed garden tools and solar lighting upmarket, with Moulton Mill tools and Cole & Bright security and colour-change lighting. Hainsworth said the lighting market is up 40 per cent to £7m and could grow quickly to £10m.
Other themes at Glee included prices and quality moving upmarket post-recession, the promotion of fertilisers rather than pesticides related to increased legislation (Scotts, Bayer, Westland), "urban jungle" products for smaller gardens (Leuchuza, Wildlife World), pleas to concentrate on selling core products rather than looking for novelty (Town & Country), peat use (Westland, Scotts, Bord na Mona) and resin animals and solar lights (Vivid Arts, Gardman, Smart Solar).
Garden Industry Manufacturers Association president Steve Millington said: "With the uncertainty of what happened to the supply chain in 2014, people at Glee were thinking they needed to source new suppliers." But he added: "Certainly there's too much competition in certain sectors of the sundry market. For instance, tools is now over-supplied. Burgon & Ball, Crest, Gardman and Solus brands are four big names fighting for a small area of the garden centre."
Former Solus managing director Nick Davies said: "I'm sure there are too many suppliers. It's gone from one extreme to another. Before the market was dominated by a couple of big players. People played reasonably safe, but now there's a lot of choice out there."
But he pointed out that with a lot of garden centres being located close to each other, a point of difference is becoming increasingly important, particularly as the economy improves and consumers become less price conscious. "It's important if the consumer is shopping around to have a point of difference with products. No one wants the same range in every centre." Davies also said Glee had "exceeded expectations", with the launch of FloPro watering, Plantpak propagation and Kent & Stowe-branded tools.
Millington, who is also sales and marketing director at Bosmere, said: "With an upturn in the climate people are looking to trade upmarket. Hopefully prices are starting to creep up to where they should be rather than be driven down as they have been." Retailers are increasingly looking to specialist suppliers and keener to sell brand names than they were during the recession, he added.
Bosmere's core product of garden furniture covers is "seeing massive growth in 2014" with the first reversible protector covers on the market, he added.
New product awards
Catering and speciality foods: Retro Collection Bon Bons
Garden care accessories: Easy Path Haxnicks
Chemicals, fertilisers and composts: Gro-Sure Tomato Food Westland
Garden leisure: Bakerstone Pizza Box Oven La Hacienda
Landscaping and construction plus Best of British: Glazelite Planter Apta
Machinery and tools: RHS Cutting Tools Burgon & Ball
Pet and wildlife product: Bee & Butterfly Biome Wildlife World
Plants, seeds and bulbs: Gift Box Garden on a Roll
Green award: Birch Candles Nest for Nature
Home gift and clothing: Historic Palaces Garden Accessories Range Briers
Pick of the products introduced at September's Glee trade show in Birmingham
Westland introduced Gro-Sure Tomato Gro-Pack. The tomato growing-media product is 70 per cent peat and 30 per cent West+. Westland Gro-Sure Easy Containers Compost also launched, with roughly half peat and half West+. It features water-storing clay granules and six months' slow-release feed. Westland also released its Seramis indoor plant-care range, having bought the brand from Mars. Europe's number one in orchid care, it includes a potting mix, liquid plant food and leaf spray.
Wildlife World's new Urban/City range of bird boxes and insect habitats is designed specifically for people who enjoy nature in an urban environment but have little outdoor space. The range is ideal for people living in apartments or those who have balconies or outdoor roof space at their city homes. There are four products featured in the range - a bee and insect hotel; a bird nest box; a bird feeder table; and an insect winter home and summer refuge.
Town & Country's see-through macintosh coats are designed to appeal to style-conscious consumers. PVC wellingtons in navy and raspberry to match the trims and spots on the clear macs make up the collection and a free stand and mannequin are being offered with each deal. New Town & Country gloves and boots include spring 2015 colour concept, comprising polka-dot Master Gardener Gloves, padded kneepads and cloggies in lime or pink.
Bord na Mona introduced a Chelsea Mix compost, linked to its RHS show gardens. The Rich brothers will return in 2015.
Lechuza launched a new table planter, the PURO 20. Available in white or slate, it matches the larger PURO 50 containers. The firm also released its Delta 10 planter and Cascadino in the Cascada range.
Scotts Miracle-Gro launched Magic Start, a new "hybrid" double-action planting mix that it says will transform all soil types.
Vivid Arts launched a collection of wild bird garden statues made from resin.
Round-up of other launches
Vitax Amenity introduced 10 new products including additions to the company's lawn care and Q4 ranges.
CSY Retail Systems and Joy of Plants announced a collaboration linking Joy of Plants' information services to CSY's Vector electronic point-of-sale system. La Hacienda launched new branding as well as its updated website along with pizza ovens, enamelled firepits, metal animals, a magnesia fire bowl and lanterns on its 25th anniversary.
Deco-Pak introduced Garden Bazar birdhouses and Champagne Gold and Strawberry Cream aggregates. DexShell launched as a new brand of waterproof hats, socks and gloves. Neudorff released three plant-growth boosting products. EP Barrus's Wilkinson Sword brand introduced new garden scissors ranges, while the company's WOLF-Garten brand showcased its MultiChange range and its Energizer brand debuted at the show. Kelkay launched the Garden Gabions ranges. The company boasted the largest presence at Glee, with a total of 107 new products on stands A1-C11 and F06-E07. They featured patio kits with rebranding of Gardenstone to Borderstone, Twit Twoo easy fountains and new block paving ranges among the new products. Scotts had two stands at the show to display its new Miracle-Gro, Weedol and Evergreen products, while Scotts Solus was showcasing new Garden Nation and Chapelwood bird care ranges on other stands.