Everything starts the day before the main event and there I realized immediately that in Paris, like in Wien last year and in Brussels the year before, the organizational structure of the two Associations EDRA and FEDIYMA that collects the most famous names of DIY and the main suppliers of Mass Retail, has worked excellently. Although the edition was dedicated to the European market, the number of registered people (payers!) was close to 500 unities and it’s a record! Surely the abettor was the beautiful location, the amusement park Disneyland Paris, perhaps the constant increase of interest in what a serious and efficient organization is able to put together, perhaps the treated arguments, the point is, that every year, the attendees to these events continue to increase. This gives me pause for reflection, on how the spirit of aggregation in a competitive environment like that of Mass Retail, can however find so important sharing moments, where with the effort of the group, the individual can however bring home vital information and indications for the future; these moments are very important for those who, like Managers or CEOs of important companies, have the difficult task of making decisions that will determine the positive or negative performance of their companies. Thanks also to these comparison analyses and of time spent together with colleagues from other countries, we can receive important inputs and understand the market trends. On this regard, the Floriculture field, and in particular that of Garden Centres was a topic of great interest and if only until last year this argument was treated at the margins of the Conference, in Paris the Garden Centre sector has been the argument of first order and not coincidentally, just the title "DIY Home & Garden Improvement" called back the attention to a sector that, whether one likes it or not, is going through a transition phase in which all exponents must decide whether to join it and be interpreters of change, or stand firm on their beliefs with the certainty, rather than a risk, of being overwhelmed by the market that’s changing.
As I said at the beginning, the store tour that was held on 30 May was attended by about eighty people and the stops were made in the major DIYs and Garden Centres of Paris suburbs. Although many things in common, the aspects that differentiate the stores are numerous. The first stop was by BRICOMAN, a chain that has 29 stores in France, but it’s also present in Italy, Spain and Poland. The Bricoman’s philosophy is that of a discount, focused on the factor price, but without compromising the level of quality. At a glance, we can realize that they put not much attention to the logistics and decoration of the store.
The second stop was made in the Garden Centre TRUFFAUT, the French giant, which has 57 stores and a history that began in 1824. The general opinion was very positive, the impressive circular greenhouse, that house the entrance, offers a wide range of products almost common in many Garden Centres like as candles, barbecues, clothing, tablecloths, wicker baskets, paintings and much more; impressive also the area dedicated to Pet with a section of aquariums kept with great care. Although this wide displaying of various items, the Garden Centre Truffaut has not forgotten its nature of a garden centre, where the customer can find a wide assortment of plants. Starting from the parking, you realize that you enter in a world of experts of green; everything is neat, not meticulously, but neat! The mostly visible sales proposals are dedicated to plants and flowers; the layout has logic of a Garden Centre and not of a Home Centre. I think that TRUFFAUT is a perfect example of what we might call a “modern Garden Centre” and even if I don’t speak French, I’ve talked with some person in charge finding warmth and professionalism.
The tour brought us to visit the store Leroy Merlin, Castorama and Brico Depot, high-end DIY centres, I mean that regardless of the available space or their location, Castorama, for example, is located in a new residential area and is distributed on 3 levels, the level of professionalism of every single commodity area is really on the TOP, it was very difficult to find defects on which to argue after the visiting. I make a curious and significant note, in the new and immense store of Leroy Merlin I didn’t found any plants and flowers on the displayers, so I asked our guide why this choice that denaturalizes a little bit the philosophy of the Company; the answer to my question was almost expectable: "Leroy Merlin’s choice of not to include the Garden Centre in this store was wrong, so that we are evaluating a widening of the structure dedicated to the Garden Centre." I leave to you all further considerations concerning the importance that the Garden Centre is going to gain inside DIY centres.
Thursday, May 31 have officially begun the work of the conference and the first theme was the DESIGN BLOCK where Veronique Laury and Mary Wenckheim that with their double-speech towered above all, they shown, the first the negative aspects of Design inside a store seen through the eyes of the customer and the second, which are the things to do to give positivity to the store and relying on the decorative aspects recreated by the type of displaying, of layout and of demonstration areas that impact positively on purchases.
The second part of the day, dedicated to HUMAN RELATIONS was characterized by a round table masterfully directed by Thierry Coeman and that has seen the comparison between Sergio Giroldi, CEO OBI, Regis Degelcke, Vice President Groupe ADEO, Henning von Boxberg, Executive Vice President of Bosch and Christoph Zeiss. The key levers for an optimal relationship between employers and employees are contained in words/key concepts such as: involvement, trust, creativity, initiative, leadership and as most important, passion. Companies and their managers do first need to define the corporate’s DNA in order to make clear why a candidate would prefer to join a Company rather than another beyond all financial considerations. In other words: what makes a company different and unique compared to another in terms of attractiveness and values.
The fourth part dedicated to the MULTI CHANNEL BLOCK saw the intervention of experts including, the most significant in importance of the provided data was Alastair Bruce, Google Director Retail, who has provided impressive data on the effect that digitization is having on consumers. The suited example was a video created for the Company IKEA, where, with a dedicated application of Google-maps on a standard smartphone, the consumer, found the piece furniture that he was looking for in network, just on the IKEA website, besides indicating prices, sizes and colours, etc., the application indicated the path from home up to the shelf number in the store. This evolution will change very soon, much more of what we think, the consumer’s habits and the way of shopping of each product. Plants and flowers included!
The third block, dedicated to the Garden Centre sector, was much awaited, perhaps because among the four speakers was present the undersigned (I'm joking of course) or perhaps because in fact the GARDEN BLOCK was the mostly awaited among the treated topics at the Conference. The interest on this subject has delayed of one hour the day's program. I’ve structured my speech entitled "Passion for tradition" in two parts: the first dedicated to a careful analysis of how and what Valle dei Fiori, the Garden Centre part of our Group, has been doing for these 20 years for the Costumers Satisfaction and the second, through a unique story of a very special mini-aquarium, I wanted to convey to the very important audience, great confidence and optimism in investing in the Garden Centre sector.
When in January I was called by the Organizational Secretariat of the event that asked me if I was interested to participate as an expert in the world of the Garden Centre, being involved at 360° in the world of Floriculture and having a global vision, as with the products and services of Organizzazione Orlandelli we touch realities worldwide, I immediately agreed with the intent to give my contribution inside the flower sector. I’m firmly convinced that the field of Floriculture divided between the channels of production and marketing, in the last 20 years has travelled at different speeds. The first, related to the production of plants and flowers, has evolved incredibly in terms of research of new species and new varieties, techniques and systems of production, packaging and logistics improvement. All this has led to a positive result in terms of quality, freshness and life, as well as quantity, of plants and flowers offered to the consumer. Very often, the sale price of plants and flowers from manufacturer to dealer is objectively too low! On the Dutch auctions as in Italian greenhouses, the wholesale price of the plants does not even cover the fixed costs of the production and this is not good for anybody! Authoritative voices express their disappointment tracing back the causes of this phenomenon to the excessive production of this or that plant, I see this decidedly in an opposite way!
The second, referred to the traditional sales channel of plants and flowers, led by Garden Centres, has been let’s say "distracted" from the sale of products of various types, such as garden furniture, barbecues and pools, skipping and often greatly reducing the displaying space dedicated to plants and flowers. Consequently, the consumer has bought what the Garden Centre has proposed without catching that in reality, the true market trend is towards the living green and not accessorial!
Of course this analysis is to be understood as a personal reflection and you may even disagree with it; but unfortunately, often I’m supported by the facts so that frequently, the professionalism of sales staff is quite low and the areas dedicated to the displaying of garden furniture, for example, are treated much better than the displaying areas of the plants; also this affects the final result of sales in terms of quantity.
The aim of my speech suggested to the Mass Retail to invest in the Garden Centre sector and I firmly believe that the expansion of the commercial channel will bring net benefits to the whole floriculture industry.
Below a part of my speech:
“WHY DIY SHOULD INVEST IN THE GARDEN CENTRE?
The essence is: Garden Centre is Green Market and Green market is PROFIT… PROFIT AND … PROFIT
The Garden Centre, if handled with proper passion and care, will boost your profit margin
The Garden Centre will bring much more and new prospects into your store. Your stores are cold but with a Garden Centre inside the atmosphere will be much better, warmer and more familiar.
Everybody in this room knows that the outdoor business will grow in the future and you have to complete your merchandiser.
THE QUESTION NOW IS: WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO MAKE PROFIT?
If you don’t want to throw your profit in the rubbish you have to act in a very professional way!!!
You have to invest in professional structures
You need a specific layout
You need professional services with professional staff to sell the right plant in the right moment and for the right costumer’s demand.
Your investments in the Garden Centre will also expand the global passion for flowers and plants and the global passion for flowers and plants will expand your green market.
Do this business in the right way, create culture in your stores for your costumers and believe me; you will make a lot of money in this business.”
For the record and personal pride, the end result of my speech was much appreciated and has opened an interesting debate among those present. I hope that my vision is supported by the facts and I hope that more and more the Mass Retail deals with plants and flowers and invests in the Garden Centre because only in this way, our sector will change of pace and finally (maybe), we will really see cities covered with flowers, thanks to the floral choreography of each balcony or garden.