Engage mindful millennials through innovation

One of the most enjoyable trade exhibitions of the past few months – we being nature-loving allotment-holders, after all! – was specialist garden centre event, Glee. Not only was the show itself remarkably revitalised and buzzing with the happy atmosphere of prosperity being enjoyed by so many in the garden centre trade, but it also incorporated an excellent content programme and was brimming with innovative product ideas.


One of our favourite presentations was given by celebrity gardener, Nick Bailey,  of Gardeners World Live fame, who held court at the Inside Retail seminar theatre several times during the show. The session we attended looked at emerging trends in the world of horticulture and garden centre retailing, and ways to attract the vitally important but relatively untapped consumer demographic known as ‘millennials’.

The 18 – 34 age group is the most influential new buying group for horticulture, which has traditionally aimed its marketing and merchandise at older age groups, and “Innovation attracts mindful millennials.”

With 27 years spent in a variety of important industry roles and long experience as a horticulturalist, Nick is well placed to see developments in the industry and gauge its future direction.  He began by noting strong drivers and influencers in the British trade, citing such factors as consumer demand, media focus, exhibitions, flower shows and American trends.

He likens the millennial phenomenon to the Arts & Crafts movement, which involved “getting back to basics, crafting skills and a holistic mindset.” Garden centres need to actively target and capture these consumers – and even younger ones by working with schools, to develop lifelong engagement.  “Millennials seek connection to nature,” Nick explained and they are certainly engaging with grow your own product solutions” designed for smaller apartments with balconies rather than extensive gardens.

Novelties are also important to anything retail-related and garden centres were encouraged to “put that bizarre new thing up front” in their window to attract shoppers. He also emphasised the value of social media as well as more traditional news and PR mediums, pointing out that “many retailers successfully use social media as a platform to launch new product.”

Current trends he noticed will also be apparent to other trade show veterans.  Cacti were cited as “a trend driven by hipsters,” while “online plant sales are increasingly a driver for the industry.” Looking at 2018 and beyond he said that “millennials will make a big difference to how we sell”. We must get under the skin of this tech-savvy, environmentally conscious, organic-loving, small-space-dwelling age group to sell to them effectively.

He noted the “organic products upsurge” as public awareness of the dangers of pesticides builds by the minute, with all its serious ramifications for the bee populations. Green product ranges are to be encouraged at every level, from supply through retail and into consumer households and gardens. (See greengardener.co.uk for detailed information).

If anyone is still in doubt that LED lighting is set to make an enormous impact on the retail market, become a believer now before someone else scoops you on this soon-to-be-huge sales boom, which together with grow your own has the potential to transform the industry. The business of LED lighting is becoming widely accessible for increasingly  low prices and is excellent for engaging tech-based people and male shoppers.  Over the past ten years sales of LED lighting has grown tenfold, “it is of the future,” Nick added.

He encouraged retail outlets to set up instore demos and put together affordable start-up packages for grow-your own systems based on LED lights and hydroponics. Traditional garden centres need to break free of the old connotations of these items being used solely as cannabis growing devices and look to the fantastic new product innovations that are set to revolutionise both horticulture retailing and consumer lifestyles.

Nick’s thoughts on emerging trends were echoed by GIMA Director, Vicky Nuttall, who commented on the “Hipster generation and rise of hyrdroponics” as an important industry driver, adding that she was seeing “lots of contemporary product coming to market” via shows like Glee. “Solar products are also doing well,” she added.