It was an action packed few days for garden centres and suppliers attending the HTA Garden Retail Study Tour in Holland last week.

The tour began on Wednesday 8th February with a visit to the Elho factory where the group heard the latest trend information and ideas from this family company that was established in 1964. The offices themselves are a design masterpiece and the home from home showroom layouts are impressive, as is the factory itself which turns out over 60 million pieces a year. Fifty percent of the electricity generated by the company windmill runs the office and factory complex, with the remaining 50% being sold back to the grid! If that wasn’t enough they also have a number of bee hives onsite (and produce Elho honey) to educate visiting school groups about the role of bees as pollinators.

In the evening the group attended the Garden Retail Experience Gala Dinner returning the next day to tour the exhibition in detail. The Garden Retail Experience is not a trade show but an inspiration event using themes to bring together groups of products to inspire. The overall theme for this year’s event was ‘Growing Emotion’ highlighting that by creating the right emotion in customers can led to increased sales. Tours from Laurens Doesborgh and Romeo Summers provided great insight into the ideas behind the themes and the tangible ways in which garden centres can bring these stories to life. From an inspiring ‘back to nature’ entrance display, a mini festival with mismatched plants to a butterfly house instore and a rain garden feature there was plenty of food for thought. The day finished with a visit to a garden centre – Ranzijn Nieuw-Vennep – a family owned group which is expanding rapidly in the Netherlands. As to be expected there were impressive displays of early bulbs and house plants.

Friday saw the study tour group visit the famous ‘Clock’ plant and flower auction at Aalsmeer, hosted by Paul Moors and Brian Redman from Garden Centre Fresh. Paul, an ex-clock buyer provided an overview and the group was suitably impressed by the efficiency of the clock process watching stock moving through at a rate of knots. Flora Holland then provided a fascinating tour of the processing and distribution centre and the organised chaos of moving the trolleys to the right place prior to distribution.

The tour concluded with a trip to Hilverda De Boer, one of The Netherlands largest cut flower exporters, to see the operation in action as it gears up for Valentine’s Day and hear about the most popular flowers in different countries. Within 24 hours the flowers seen on the ground could be on sale in Japan, the Middle East or the US – no mean feat!

Feedback from the tour included one attendee from Baytree Garden Centre saying:

“Just a quickie to say a huge THANK YOU for your wonderful hospitality during the study tour in Holland. I was delighted to be a part of it and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. It was certainly very informative and I have come away brimming with ideas already being put into practice here. The Garden Retail Experience was indeed just that, it was intriguing to have the different perspective of the tours from a commercial angle with Laurens of De Haan and the design and theatre of Romeo. The tour of the Clock was amazing wasn’t it, so ordered and functional in a place the size of a small country. I hope that this was the first of many new experiences and look forward to meeting you all again soon.”

It was a fascinating couple of days with plenty of learning and ideas. Many thanks to the very generous hospitality provided by all those involved including Elho, TPK and the Garden Retail Experience, Garden Centre Fresh, Flora Holland and Hilverda De Boer.

 

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