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IGC Show ROCKS Chicago
| Ellen C. Wells
>> Published Date: 9/25/2013
Chicago in August is a city in all its glory with sunny skies, stunning lake views and deep dish pizza and sausages for miles. The Windy City is made even more appealing to the garden center-minded each August with the Independent Garden Center Show held at Navy Pier. With five acres of garden retail products and dozens of educational sessions, buyers are buying and staff and owners are brushing up on the business.
The IGC Show put on another well-attended show this August, with visitors coming in from all 50 U.S. states and 20 foreign countries. Show organizers say that vendors who were writing orders on the floor were up 50% over last year. That bodes well for Spring 2014.
Green Profit staff counted itself among the thousands of attendees at the IGC Show. What products caught our eyes? What news debuted? Read on for all that and more.
An Olla (pronounced “oye-ya”) from Dripping Springs in Austin, Texas, is an unglazed clay pot that a gardener buries in a garden bed, raised bed or large container. Fill the olla with about 2 gal. of water and it’ll slowly seep through the porous clay and into the soil, making water available to plant roots up to 3 ft. around the pot. The advantages of this technology that is thousands of years old is it efficiently provides water so there’s less waste and it releases water slowly so it doesn’t have to be filled constantly. Perfect for your dry-climate customers.
Rootcup is another new product that got its start with a boost ($10,000) from Kickstarter. Rootcups are small cups made of a food-safe, BPA-free silica-based proprietary material in which cuttings can be rooted. A lid holds the cutting securely in the cup while blocking light (good for root growth and even better for lessening the growth of algae) and helping to prevent evaporation. It comes in two sizes and three trending colors.
The Personal Vertical Garden from Sage Vertical Gardens is a square box with horticultural mineral wool that can be planted with herbs, succulents, tropicals or any small plants. The box fits into a swivel base to become a tabletop or countertop piece of personal garden. The side opposite the plants is a magnetized acrylic cover, under which photos can be secured. It’s both useful and decorative—a dual trait that young, small space-living consumers appreciate.
Modern Sprout raised nearly $77,000 this spring via the online funding program Kickstarter to launch this self-contained, countertop-sized hydroponic growing system. Couple Nick Behr and Sarah Burrows, the product’s inventors, are young apartment-dwelling “urban homesteaders” who needed a reliable way to grow herbs indoors. They developed this pint-sized solution in a number of trendy styles. A version that is run via a small solar panel is in the development stage for those wanting to grow off the grid.
Not all the metalwork we saw was über colorful—or from Mexico. Desert Steel produces pieces—cacti, large-leaved tropicals and so on—in more subdued colors. And it’s made in America; Kansas, to be more specific.
In the “cute for kids” category, the Harry Approved line of vegetable seeds from In the Koop. The seeds—greens, turnips, carrots and beans—complement a series of illustrated children’s books featuring Harry the Dog. The seeds are sold in milk carton packaging as individual crops or in egg cartons as a vegetable garden collection.
The World’s Coolest Rain Gauge. What a bold claim! And one that is pretty much true, too, in our opinion. Moira “Mo” Clune’s version of the common rain gauge, made from copper and polycarbonate, works by floating the blue plastic portion upwards as the copper collection flute fills with rainwater.
What happens when two college kids belly up to an all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffet and wonder what happens to all the food that’s wasted? They start a company to divert fruits and vegetables from landfills and convert it into nutrient-rich OMRI-listed compost and garden products. That’s the story behind EcoScraps and its line of soil mixes, media and plant foods.
Jamie Durie Partners with the Berry Family
During the IGC Show, Jamie Durie—the award-winning Australian landscape designer and host of HGTV’s “The Outdoor Room”—announced he’s partnering with The Berry Family of Nurseries (DFN) to launch a line of products aimed at those living in an urban environment. The goal of the partnership is to get up-and-coming gardeners and even non-gardeners engaged in the beginnings of gardening.
The line is called “Jamie Durie’s Urban Designer Collection” and will be available in select stores this coming spring. The collection will include both plants and décor items that will help city dwellers make their “urban spaces sensational,” says BFN CEO Randy Roush. The off-the-shelf décor designed and paired together by Jamie himself will help urban consumers get started with decorating their spaces with plants, both indoors and out. The collection will include pots, baskets, vertical walls and other accessories.
Green Profit chatted with Jamie at the IGC Show about his new collection and partnership with BFN and the celebrity gardener was brimming with Aussie enthusiasm. Jamie says he and BFN have been working on a “designer collection that will, hopefully, inspire some young gardeners to get back into gardening,” because gardening has become something hip and cool for the younger demographic.
“The trick of this is you’ve got to make them feel like the designer and we’re just the shepherds through the process,” Jamie says. “I call it DIY design. You put the design back in the hands of the customers rather than you doing it for them. You just put together all the elements and watch them get empowered. If they start to gain confidence with a couple of pieces or they feel like they are having some success with color, shape or texture, then they’ll come back for more.”
Jeff Morey on IGC East
This fall, IGC Show creator Jeff Morey announced a second IGC Show in Washington, D.C. GrowerTalks/Green Profit Editor Chris Beytes caught up with Jeff at the show in Chicago to get the details.
Chris Beytes: Why a second show, Jeff?
Jeff Morey: When we started the IGC Show seven years ago, I was asked, “Jeff, why are you doing this IGC Show? The last thing this industry needs is another show.” My reply then and my reply now is, “Yeah, we don’t need another show. We need a better show.” I think that’s what the industry has accepted from us in Chicago. The IGC Show is a unique platform for garden center retailers. It’s their show.
CB: How did you decide on the East Coast?
JM: Because even though ICG Chicago has drawn really well—we literally get people from all 50 states and over 25 foreign countries—there’s a decent-sized group of garden center retailers on the East Coast [who don’t attend].
The “garden center belt” as I see it starts up in Minnesota, wraps down around through the Midwest, goes out through the Mid-Atlantic and up to New England. Within that “swoosh,” that belt, is about 80% of the industry. We get a good representation of East Coast folks in Chicago. However, our research shows that there’s a large group that isn’t going to get on an airplane [to attend a trade show]. Even though we’ve seen a lot of our friends from the East in Chicago, there’s a much larger group that has heard about IGC, but they don’t attend.
CB: Do you think you’ll draw as big an audience to IGC East and without losing attendance in Chicago?
JM: Time will tell, but we’re fairly optimistic. Our numbers tell us that we have a lot to gain on the East Coast in terms of attendance and not that much to lose in Chicago, because the bulk of our attendance is from other parts of the country than the East—although we certainly attract the prime players and a nice representation of the East. The reality is that a large percentage of East Coast garden centers love the concept of our show, but they just aren’t prone to go to Chicago. But now we’re in their back yard, we’re bringing it to them. We’re giving people the choice.
CB: Explain the timing. Why three weeks apart instead of six months apart? Why not summer and winter IGC Shows?
JM: It’s all about the buying cycle for retailers. We all know that the distributor shows are in September. When we started the show in Chicago the third week in August seven years ago, we hooked on to a timeframe that really ended up being ideal. It’s late enough in the year that the peak busy time is over with. They have a pretty good feel as to what sold and what didn’t sell, they’ve reviewed their season, so it’s a great time to preview new products they might be interested in.
CB: Does that mean there’s no time available for an IGC West?
JM: We got real close to doing an IGC West, which would probably be in the February/March timeframe, probably someplace like Long Beach [California]. They have a great facility out there … we were ready to go on that three or four years ago, but with the economy being what it was on the West Coast … we didn’t think the time was right. But if you ask me about future projects, that’s certainly on the drawing board.
Key Words on Creating Great Customer Experiences
Social media strategy expert, customer service advocate, author and serial entrepreneur Peter Shankman was the IGC Show’s opening keynote speaker. The theme for Peter’s talk was how to have your customer tell your story—in other words, encouraging your current customers to promote your business to new and potential customers. Giving customers a great experience is the foremost way to ensure they’ll share your story.
Here is Peter’s four-pronged approach to giving your customers a great experience:
Be transparent. Your Number 1 goal is to be honest. Own up to mistakes and make every effort to rectify problems.
Be relevant. In an age of multiple sources, ask customers how they prefer to receive information from you. If you’re investing time and money on Facebook and customers prefer emails, you aren’t being relevant to them. The best way to find out is by asking, and it may mean you’ll end up providing information in multiple formats.
Be brief. You have approximately 2.7 seconds to grab someone’s attention. Get your message across as effectively and as quickly as possible.
Be top of mind. According to research there are approximately 15,000 requests on an individual’s attention each day. Be among the top few.
Peter’s parting advice was to focus on the customers you have to get the customers you want. Start the conversation to get the ball rolling. GP
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