Focus on Innovation

Glee 2015 exhibitors share their thoughts and experiences on how innovation is helping to change the garden retail industry

Innovation is a word often used in new product development, with retailers and suppliers both acutely aware of how important it is in stimulating ongoing interest in the garden industry.  Visitors at Glee this year (14th-16th September, NEC Birmingham) will find innovation incorporated into each exhibitor’s stand, within the Glee New Product Award areas, and in its rawest, most inspirational form in the Innovators Zone.  

 

Here we find out what how important innovation is to Glee exhibitors’ business strategy, how they create successful innovative products, and the very latest news and insight into new products being launched at this year’s show.

 

Unique problem solvers

One of the fundamental aspects of a successful new product is that it should provide a unique solution to a common problem.  So many new products fail because they don’t address real problems with an imaginative enough solution.

 

One of Glee’s biggest exhibitors, Westland Horticulture, has positioned itself as a top supplier in the UK by consistently launching problem solving innovative products.  Marketing Director, Keith Nicholson believes the company’s long term success is directly attributable to this. “Innovation is a key part of our business strategy. Over the past 25 years, Westland Horticulture has revolutionised the gardening industry with unique and creative solutions to common gardening problems.”

 

Launched at Glee 2014, Forest Garden’s Victorian Tall Wall Greenhouse is now a bestseller, mainly because it solves the common problem of a lack of space in an elegant and versatile way.  New products launching at Glee this year will be a new range of FSC greenhouses that build on the success of its bestselling Grow-Your-Own ranges.

 

Clear Marketing

A successful innovative new product needs to be communicated in the right way – if consumers can’t see instantly how it solves their gardening problems (including ones they didn’t know they had) they are of course less likely to buy.   Rapidly growing Glee exhibitors Deco-Pak continue to invest in clear marketing and improving the design of its packaging and point of sale displays.  “As our business expands we have come to realise that clear marketing is as fundamental as the products themselves,” said Craig Hall, Marketing Director at Deco-Pak.  “New products launched at Glee 2014 – including the bestselling Champagne Gold aggregate mix, Easybuild and Chelsea Garden ranges – would not have sold in the quantities that they have without updated packaging and POS spelling out the clear benefits to customers and consumers seeing them for the first time.”

 

Researching into consumer needs and behaviour

Product development stems from careful research, and a lack of care in this department is one of the most common reasons that new products fail to become successful.

 

One company that is doing some really exciting research into new composite recycled materials backed up with consumer testing is Anglo Eastern Trading.  Its range of recycled outdoor pots and planters is innovation verging on experimental – with each new design and colour variation put through vigorous consumer focus group testing.  The company will even be encouraging customer feedback on future ranges in the early stages of development with planters made from pulp waste (newspapers and magazines) on show at Glee this year – another unique opportunity for visitors to the show.

 

Research is also another route to adding a competitive edge, say manufacturers of garden timber products, Grange Fencing, who will demonstrate its new space saving POS display.  Senior Product Manager Rob Giles said: “The Grange fence panel step display shows a comprehensive ‘good, better, best’ selection of functional through to decorative panels – all in one small area.  The selection is based on consumer research on fence panel usage from security to privacy to ‘zoning’ of different areas of activity within the garden space, and can be varied by the retailer.”

 

Launching two revolutionary solutions for home sowing and growing, as well as new additions to its established Miracle-Gro® Flower Magic range, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is well known for investment in market research.  Brand Manager Fatima Isorce provides insight. She said: “No product is considered for launch without extensive research into what gardeners want and need, what products will fill existing gaps in the market, and what problems they currently have and how we can overcome them. These products then undergo further product evaluation and extensive testing, including at our own Levington Research Station, to ensure they fulfill the brief and deliver on their promises.”

 

 

Creating a point of difference

Top garden centre buyers will always look to stock unique products that give their stores that little something extra.  Fallen Fruits is one of many Glee exhibitors that understand this need.  Managing Director Michael Hall says consumers appreciate individuality but also need to be presented with a coherent offering in order to make confident purchases. He said: “We are offering a ‘shop within a shop’ concept – supplying a complementary selection of apparently individual items which is actually subtly themed and carefully categorized, priced and supported with POS.  The consumer will feel at home, while the retailer has a well-managed and profitable concept from which to reap the benefit.”

Improving on previous innovations and best sellers

Glee visitors may be looking for innovation, but they also want low-risk and proven, something which Glee exhibitors La Hacienda are able to cater for.  “We have built a reputation on providing unique and innovative products, and through analysis of sales figures and future trends we are able to predict what will sell well”, says Managing Director Simon Goodwin. “The new additions to our established contemporary chimenea range, together with our new Indian style reclaimed steel firepits, give visitors to Glee a great chance to see how we implement our winning strategy of combining innovative products alongside bestsellers.”

 

Trend spotting

Many visitors will attend Glee this year to find out what the upcoming trends will be for 2016 and beyond.  Before the show however, innovative product development relies on months of dedicated research and feedback.  Adam Greenman from Greenman Tools firmly believes the trend for vintage inspired products will continue, tapping into what he calls a feeling of ‘confident nostalgia’. He said: “We are always looking for innovative ways to tweak and change heritage tools to make them better and work harder for our customers. We know the climate is very competitive so continually approaching things in new innovative ways is vital in staying ahead of the game and keeping your product offering fresh and novel.”

Another brand that has spotted a trend to tweak is Uuni, which initially launched via startup funding website Kickstarter – winning double the target amount in just two weeks.   Uuni founder Kristian Tapaninaho will launch the Uuni 2, the latest version of its unique compact wood fired pizza oven (which heats pizzas in under 2 minutes at temperatures of up to 450°C) to the industry for the first time at Glee 2015.

Calling in the experts

Getting external input with new product development is nothing new, with many companies using agencies and established industry experts to help successfully launch their new products.   Vegtrug is leading the field in terms of innovative collaboration, says CEO Joe Denham:  “We have invested in a UK Design and Innovation Centre by appointing Design Guru, Hayley Moisley. Hayley will be developing a selection of products which will move the range forward from our iconic V shape. We are also building a young, dynamic team at VegTrug and have also entered into a three year sponsorship deal with TV’s Skinny Jean Gardeners – all of which will help to build the brand around the world.”

Endorsements are another great way to build consumer confidence in new innovations, with Royal Horticultural Society endorsed products once again featuring in Apta‘s offering this year.  Copely Developments (having recently invested £300,000 in new facilities) is also employing RHS endorsement to add further credibility to its watering and irrigation ranges with RHS Everflow and RHS Aqualflex, among several other hugely innovative new products on show at Glee this year.  Another company that has invested heavily in improvements since last year’s show, is The Walsall Wheelbarrow Company, with a huge £1.2m invested in new machinery to improve manufacturing processes here in the UK.  Sales Director Simon Thacker said: “This is good news for the company, our customers and for British manufacture as a whole.”

Expect the unexpected

There’ll certainly be surprises in store at Glee this year – with brands such as Think Outside, creators of hand-crafted gift, home and garden products, showcasing some truly unique items, including functional sculptures and furniture.  Owner, founder and designer, Aaron Jackson gives us a taste of what to expect of its 2015/16 ranges: “After years of customer demand, we’re launching our first Christmas decoration range which will feature some fun and quirky signature pieces that exuberate Christmas and the fun of the season, whilst still encompassing the unique nature of Think Outside.”

 

Eden Greenhouses will also surprise many visitors this year by launching a revolutionary new ‘game changing’ range of greenhouses, according to Marketing Manager Pete Monahan.  He said: “Our new Eden Birdlip Greenhouse is a design breakthrough, in that it will bring high tech benefits such as a new push button locking system, a patent pending Zero Threshold™ Sliding Door System, high capacity gutters and higher eaves for greater air circulation.  These innovations are even more important when you consider that relatively few of the high quality or sophisticated greenhouse products in the market offer models that suit small gardens.”

 

Market confidence & advances in technology

Consumers tend to buy new gadgets and technology at a cheaper price point before they move onto investing in more advanced innovations.  Solar power has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, and companies such as Luxform continue to press on with consumer friendly applications.  Its new High Lumen range includes hybrid power options, and lights with standby modes that transform from dim to bright light when motion is detected.

 

The Solar Centre, has also been making strides with its product innovation, with these being welcomed as a much more of a viable option thanks to increased consumer confidence, says Managing Director, David Eaton.  “There will always be a place for cheaper disposable lighting but we are now seeing a shift with a large part of the market seeking innovation, quality, brightness and reliability and are willing to pay for it.  Many no longer wish to have low cost short lifespan products in the garden.”

 

Smart Garden will continue to release new and exciting solar lighting products to meet with consumers demanding expectations, says Marketing Manager, Paul Bailey: “Solar lighting has moved on now from a single colour LED light to colour changing LED’s; continuous lighting to motion activated PIR. Although there will no doubt be further advancements, Glee will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase these.”

 

Neutralising perceived risks

Marketing innovative products must also take into account any negative factors that might be perceived.  Solving a common problem, for example, can sometimes raise others in the cautious mind of a consumer purchasing a new product for the first time.  Successful suppliers will always take consumers’ concerns very seriously and ensure each new product released is marketed to allay any possible fears that may arise.

 

Johnsons Lawn Seed (DLF Trifolium) put its new products through rigorous trials and involve consumer feedback at each stage to ensure benefits are clear to the consumer, says Guy Jenkins: “With ‘The 1’, launched at Glee 2014, we made extra care to invest in a national advertising and PR campaign, informative packaging and POS to ensure consumers were educated before, and at the point of purchase.  We not only made them aware of what this innovative product could do in terms of its faster than ever seed establishment, but we also made sure to point out that they knew it would require the same amount of effort as any other lawn when it came to mowing.”

 

Innovation is one thing that everyone aspires to, including Glee event director, Matthew Mein who led the team responsible for the universally celebrated decision to change halls.  This year Glee has a brand new website, with a product innovation focus in the form of a live chart where visitors can track the most viewed new products.  Another first this year is the Glee Buyers Power List – where exhibitors can nominate individual buyers and buying teams for awards based on their own contribution to the garden industry.  Matthew Mein said: “The longevity and success of the garden retail market relies heavily on successful innovative products, and Glee is committed to providing a platform for these as well as rewarding the individuals and teams that provide the driving force.  For visitors, Glee 2015 will be the only place this year to witness current trends, technological advancements and never before seen new products all under one roof.”

Find out more

Glee is the UK’s leading garden retail show, focussing on building year-round profits within core product categories including garden care, landscaping and garden design, pet, food and catering, home, gift and clothing, and plants. In 2014 the show attracted thousands of buyers from top retailers, such as leading UK garden centres, builders’ merchants, multiple retailers, and DIY stores. To keep up-to-date on all the latest news log onto www.gleebirmingham.com.  For details on exhibiting at Glee, call 0203 033 2160.