Squires Garden Centres’ Matt Tanner and Klondyke Group’s Jayne Scott,who were sponsored by the Garden Centre Association (GCA) Trust to attend the International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) Congress, are back from their trip.
The young duo were picked for the Trust’s Dick Allen Scholarship Award Scheme and joined 200 delegates at the 60th annual event, held for the first time in the Czech Republic.
Matt, who is the manager of Squires at Chertsey and is a previous GCA Rising Stars candidate, said: “The whole trip from start to finish was a fantastic week. The standards of merchandising of houseplants in the Czech Republic has certainly made me re-think what we are currently doing in store and made me review the houseplant area. The use of houseplants in gift departments and in the cafés was definitely something I would like to implement.
“I was made to feel welcome by all the delegates and the amount of knowledge that is shared informally on the coach trips between venues is priceless. I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of attending the congress and will certainly be recommending it to my colleagues and peers.”
Delegates from 16 countries attended the IGCA Congress this year, including 40 visitors from Great Britain, who made up the largest contingent.
Jayne Scott, who was voted the Rising Star at the 2018 GCA conference, said of the trip: “An invaluable experience – making connections with people from all around the world is not something you get the chance to do every day! From talking to each other about how we do things to seeing fresh new ideas within the garden centres sparks inspiration immediately!
“A week-long packed schedule saw us visiting garden centres, gardens, factories and much more and I am so grateful I got to have this experience. With fantastic merchandising especially within houseplant sections, I have certainly come away inspired. What a week!”
The Trust is now inviting donations to fund delegates to future congresses, including the next one in the United Kingdom in September 2019.
Trust chairman Sue Allen said: “I am so pleased that for the third successive year the Dick Allen Scholarship Fund, as part of the Trust, has supported this initiative. It has proved to be such a valuable part of helping young staff members within GCA garden centres to broaden their horizons, make new like-minded friends on an international level and help them to gain confidence and to express their opinions within discussion groups.”
Next year the IGCA Congress will be based in Windsor from September 1-6.
Visits are already planned to some of the leading garden centres in the London and South East areas and it is hoped that up to 230 delegates will attend.
“Guests will be offered trips to a combination of amazing historical and tourist venues too including: the Bombay Sapphire Gin distillery and a boat trip on the Thames through London with a stop off at the London Eye. To add to this, we will host a medieval banquet and private tour of Hatfield House.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the best garden centres and venues in the world, which we have in this country, as well as network and learn from colleagues from many different nations.”
For those who wish to enter for next year’s award, there will be an announcement at the GCA Conference in January 2019 inviting applications.
Sue added: “If anyone wishes to make a donation to ensure the future of this exciting and successful initiative, they should contact Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA on 01244 952170 or visit www.gca.org.uk for more details.”
A promotional video about the 2019 IGCA Congress can be viewed here https://youtu.be/Wb6f9wpxxnI.