IPM Essen appears to be challenging Horti Fair for the position of top European trade show. This year's event, which takes place at the end of next week, offers an ever- expanding range of exhibitors - and a bumper crop of UK companies are signing up because the exchange rate is so favourable.
As a result, UK exhibitors will be at this year's show in force. HTA director general David Gwyther says UK growers at Essen will be looking at export opportunities because of the pound's weak state against the euro.
The 27th annual show - which takes place in Essen, Germany - features 110,000sq m in 16 adjacent exhibition halls at the Messe. In 2008 the trade fair attracted:
- 59,400 wholesalers, growers and retail trade visitors;
- 1,423 exhibitors from 46 countries;
- visitors from 93 countries.
Pot plants, foliage plants and nursery stock are the main exhibits at the show but there are also halls for products, equipment, retail and floristry sundries.
For the past 11 years, the Commercial Horticultural Association (CHA) has organised a UK group stand in Hall 10 supported by UK Trade & Investment. Hall 10 is one of the main nursery stock halls. The UK stand also benefits from easy access to the upper and lower retail and floristry halls.
CHA events and marketing manager Stuart Booker says: "We have actually attracted the largest UK group in several years to this event, with 14 companies in the UK pavilion and a further five or six companies exhibiting independently."
The government-funded CHA, which provides grants of up to £1,800 towards small companies' exhibition costs, has increased the pavilion space (in Hall 10, stand 304) by 50 per cent, because of growing interest in the event from UK companies.
Among the UK exhibitors, rose breeder David Austin Roses will be showcasing its new English roses, including 'Wisley 2008' and 'Sir John Betjeman'. The firm will also be giving away copies of its first German wholesale brochure.
New exhibitor John Woods Nurseries will be showing a range of its UK-grown stock, including the biodegradeable Mattocks NaturePot roses, the instant patio planting range "Terrace Treasures" and the Waterers' ericaceous range.
Returning to the show after a gap of 10 years is Johnsons of Whixley. Johnsons' managing director Andrew Richardson says the company stopped attending when the exchange rate was unfavourable, and he became a regular visitor instead. But now, he says, the exchange rate has changed to the extent that it's almost a pound for a euro so "it's a great opportunity for us to export to other European countries".
"In the past three months we've been putting an export plan in place and have started to see orders on the back of it so we decided to exhibit at IPM Essen.
"I think IPM is becoming the (top) European show. It's better than the UK shows. You're likely to end up talking to someone from Russia or Scandinavia. It has everything from flower-arranging to plants to big trees. It's on a large scale, it's well-organised and it's at a good time as Europeans are gearing up for their busy spring season."
Johnsons will be promoting its five- and 15-litre stock in particular. It has already won some decent contracts recently in Holland and Germany.
"Our UK plants complement Italian nursery stock well - we can offer plants that they cannot grow successfully. So for big cash and carries in Holland and Germany we offer a good range."
Richardson explains that it used to be necessary to speak German, but most exhibitors now converse in English, alongside Dutch and German. "It's changed a lot - and there is a lot of signage with English text."
However, Johnsons will be sharing an interpreter with John Woods Nurseries and has translated its promotional material into German. "They appear more upbeat out there than customers in the UK," says Richardson. "The financial situation hasn't hit them hard yet."
Access Irrigation managing director Matthew Pearce comments: "We're dipping our toe into the water this year, with a small display on the CHA stand. We've been showing at Horti Fair and had heard that IPM Essen was becoming more significant, and went last year.
"We'll be promoting our diluter product, which dilutes concentrated fertiliser into a weaker mixture. It's been sold for 30 years in the UK but over the past four years we've been trying to build up the export side of the product and attending IPM Essen is part of that."
Access Irrigation has printed its leaflets in English, German and Spanish.
New launches at IPM include several plants from Ball, bred by its breeder PanAmerican Seed. These introductions form a preview to the full range of the 2010 season introductions, which Ball will introduce in spring this year.
Plant buyers will be able to cut out the middleman and buy directly from Dutch growers via a new online shop, www.Green-Base.nl, which is being launched at IPM. House and garden plants as well as pottery are some of the items available from Green-Base.
The Dutch grower who set up the web-based shop says the direct contact between buyers and growers will lead to quick responses, competitive prices and will reduce the risk of incorrect deliveries.
The idea for the new online shop came about after discussions between a Dutch growers' group and buyers about the delivery of garden plants.
- Visit www.ipm-messe.de for further information
UK COMPANIES IN ESSEN
Adrian Ayley UK
David Austin Roses
HSK Garden & Leisure
Joseph Noblett Christmas
Trees & Stands
Johnsons of Whixley
John Woods Nurseries
Plant Marketing International
Tyne Moulds & Machinery
Valcent Products (EU)
Venture Lighting Europe