Adapting to change

This year's Four Oaks workshops will offer advice and ideas on how to beat the downturn.

International retail consultant John Stanley has become a regular fixture of the Four Oaks Trade Show workshops. His advice and insight into modern and forward-thinking retail puts him in demand, having helped turn around the fortunes of many garden centres worldwide.

Last year Stanley warned that independent garden centres had only 12 months to save the industry from the threat of multiples. He advised his audience to concentrate less on the 55- to 65-year-old "baby boomer" consumer group and move towards a younger audience - "Generation Y" (15- to 25-year-olds).

This year he returns to explore how garden centres can maximise profits in a changing marketplace, with an emphasis on consumer interest in environmental responsibility and a desire to "go green".

Stanley says: "We live in challenging times - food prices are increasing, fuel prices are increasing and the economies of the world seem to be creaking under the pressure. These are the times when you need to redevelop your business to meet the demands of a changing consumer.

"Gardens are shrinking in size but at the same time the consumer is more environmentally aware than ever before."

Stanley believes garden centres can use this as a chance to grow the market. Rather than invest to redevelop a business, retailers should be looking to redesign their offering to the consumer.

"The plant categories that worked in the past will not be ones that work in the future," he says. "This year's presentation will challenge retailer visitors to rethink how they group their plants. Consumers are changing; they want a different retail experience and are looking for solutions in an environment that they are now comparing with other leisure retail outlets. How the garden retailer meets those needs without breaking the bank is a challenge. Ideas will provide a direction for the future."

Stanley will look at what it means to be green from a consumer's point of view and the amount of plastic used in pots and containers, introducing potting ideas while challenging retailers to start making changes.

Boosting sales

Plant Publicity Holland (PPH) UK and Ireland national representative Mark Long will be presenting essential information for all involved in garden retail and the production side of horticulture while introducing the new Colour Your Life promotional campaign, including a new suite of PPH materials. Long will be telling his audience how to use the resources to create great branded materials and informing them of the range of images, practical planting information and motivational ideas and information that is also available.

The seminar presents a brilliant opportunity to get a preview of the new designs for the 2009 campaign and a briefing on getting the best from Colour Your Life.

Long said: "Building on 10 years of success with the Garden Messenger (market-building campaign), our new resources respond to the changing priorities of growers and retailers. They offer flexibility, choice and independent ease of use.

"Come along to see examples of best practice in garden retailing, optimal use of point-of-sale material and co-ordinated promotions using web, printed media and events to get the best sales results."

- Laverstoke Park agronomist Joel Williams joins the workshop team this year to give an introduction to soil biology and the use of compost and compost teas in sustainable agriculture. He will draw on research at Laverstoke's new chemistry lab, while highlighting lab services and research available.


John Stanley Workshop

"A Green and Shrinking Pound - How to Maximise your Profits in a Changing Marketplace"

Dates and times: 2 September at 10.30am, 12pm and 2pm; 3 September at 11am and 12.30pm

PPH Workshop

Date and time 2: September at 1pm

Laverstoke Workshop

Date and time: 3 September at 2pm.

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