Businesses need to innovate or die, the challenge is often coming up with new and innovate ideas. This is one reason I enjoy travelling, it forces you to be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Italy has always been known for its innovation in a number of different areas of retailing and manufacturing. The recent “MyPlant” trade show held in Milan was one of the most innovative garden trade shows I have seen in some time.

The Italian industry is coming up with new innovative ways of interesting the consumer in the garden sector. Many of the exhibitors are in-tune with the millennial consumer and are developing products to attract these consumers into garden centres. Not all the products on display were from Italy, many other European countries were also exhibiting, this made the event a truly international platform for

Attracting Children

Children are the gardeners of the future and we need to connect with them through plants. At the same time, children connect with both their parents and their grandparents and I was therefore fascinated to see The Dutch development of getting children involved in Grandparents Day by Felinifoundation. Grandparents Day is normally in October, but this changes around the world.

To engage across the generations the company has developed “Paint Your Plants”

The package consists of a succulent plant, paintbrush and paint. The child can then paint the plant based on their own design and present it on Grandparents Day. What attracted me to this concept was this was an excellent activity that could be developed in the garden centre to attract new and existing customers.

I can accept that horticulturists will cringe at the idea of plants being painted, but sprayed and painted plants have proven to be popular, especially in the autumn/fall in Europe for a number of years and this is just one more step in this process to engage the customer and especially children

Attract Millennials

Millennial consumers are not looking for indoor plants they are often looking for plants that will clean the air. I was therefore attracted to one company who had identified the needs of a target consumer. The “Air So Pure” branded plants provide an oxygen reading and advise how many plants a consumer should have in a room. This research has been around for a number of years, but few suppliers have taken this initiative.

Impulse sells

Once a consumer is in garden centre clever merchandising and packaging of plants can create impulse sales. The majority of plants are sold on impulse and a number of suppliers at the show were presenting great ways of developing the impulse package. Impulse can be as simple as telling the consumer what is this year’s fashion color and then providing a plant that has the same color.

Small succulent gardens were also evident and this is a trend that will continue through the year.

My Plant is held every February in Milan and based on this year’s show, I would recommend that you put it on your show list for next year.

John Stanley