Top buyer calls for national plant show

A single national plant show, better marketing methods for introducing new plants and regional transport networks are some of the ways UK growers could take advantage of the beneficial exchange rate and ensure retailers buy from them, according to Wyevale Garden Centres plant buyer Tim Clapp.

Speaking at hardy nursery stock conference Contact 09 last week, Clapp, category manager for Wyevale, said the exchange rate between the euro and the pound could benefit UK production enormously as retailers, who until now have imported around 35 per cent of plant stock from Europe, were turning to British growers.

But he said there were barriers to choosing UK-grown over Dutch, which provides a wide choice of product and efficient logistics.

"I believe new plants have lost their way," Clapp told the HTA-run conference. "New plants are now being used to secure an advantage over competitors."

He cited the introduction of the Noack Rosen-bred Flower Carpet Roses, "which were supplied to every garden centre in the UK", and Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' from Farplants as ideal examples of how to introduce and market a new plant.

"Work by breeders and nurseries is going to waste as plants are often rushed to market. What we need is high-quality photos for magazines, strong labelling and point of sale, and a wide supply to garden centres. We don't need 50 new plants a year - just five good ones," he added.

"One good UK plant trade show is needed to challenge the big European fairs. With time constraints, buyers can only make it to a few shows. We need one in June or July as September is too late for buyers. It needs to be attended by as many growers as possible and priced so that it attracts small nurseries, too."

Setting up regional transport systems would also increase efficiency, providing smaller, regular deliveries and reduce wastage, he said. He cited the example of Midland Regional Growers, the Anglia Group and B&Q - which moves up to 26,000 Danish trolleys around a week - as a blueprint for growers setting up new hubs.

Clapp added that an industry-led training scheme was required to improve the skills of nursery and garden centre staff, along the lines of Notcutts' and Wyevale's courses.

Farplants sales and marketing director Nick Richards said: "I'm keen to see a national plant show. We need a show that's affordable for all, not just large plant and product suppliers. The current thinking is that Glee has legs - I don't think it does long-term for plants."

He added: "We need a show in a central location, over a couple of days early in July. It doesn't need to be swish - it's for growers and garden centres."

HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe said: "At the moment we are supportive of what Glee is doing. It is still the main show for garden centre buyers."

He added: "We do need to constantly review the situation, including the attendance at shows and what the industry wants.

"There are not many national buyers - most are local and like their regional shows. The HTA is also supporting the British Plant Fairs, which are a different model to the trade shows. It will be interesting to see how that model develops and how the buyers take it up."

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