Saturday, August 9, 2008

Trade Show

I’ve spent the past two days at the Green Industry Trade Show of the Southern Nursery Association and come away with a number of observations and questions . . .

How effective is it for small nurseries to exhibit at trade shows? Aren’t they overwhelmed by “the big boys”, who have huge corner displays, splashy attention-getters (bright orange plastic bags, an airplane [yes, really!], stacks of huge ceramic planters, etc.), and a 12-man team of sales people?

At this show, the most impressive large exhibit was that of Carolina Nurseries (although I must say that its pillars and fence created an image of exclusivity and segregation that may not have pleased all visitors), while the most effective small one was that of Snowbird Farms. It had a tree in it – one tree - a Christmas tree, a Fraser Fir. That’s what Snowbird Farms grows and sells, and I hope the Henderson family did well at the show. They certainly have the product; if they also know and understand their market well, the show will have benefited them.

The oddest booth by far belonged to the Japan Nursery Association. Three of the four staffers did not speak English and the fourth was only minimally proficient. They had no business cards or brochures and their only hand-out was a plant list that did not have contact information on it. If I wanted to order 500 Styrax japonicum, I would not know how to do it. When I asked if they had a web site, where I might find more information, I was given a URL and then told that it is in Japanese only, “but you can look at the pictures” . . . . .!

Speaking of Japan, however, it struck me that while the Japanese were at this trade show (and the Australians and the Germans!), I did not speak with any U.S. exhibitor who has export interests. What a pity; such overlooked opportunities!

Yesterday’s media luncheon, with an odd panel of experts (I had the impression there was more expertise in the audience than on the panel, or at least as much), did nothing to assure me that the industry participants truly know who their customers are, how to communicate with them, or how to profitably respond to their needs and interests. That’s another pity.

Trends talked about: (1) plant more succulents (we all went home with two tiny samples, an Agave ‘Kissho Kan’, Happy Crown and an Agave x Mangave ‘Bloodspot’, both beautiful plants but neither of which can be expected to survive a North Georgia winter outdoors), (2) pay attention to the environment, (3) use less water more effectively. I left the event unsatisfied and that has nothing to do with the more than adequate lunch provided by Novalis.

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