96 per cent of space at Germany’s garden and outdoor living trade show spoga+gafa sold

The spoga+gafa trade exhibition for the garden and outdoor living sector returns to Cologne on 16-18 June 2024, coincidentally at the same time as the 2024 UEFA European Championship. The German city of Cologne, one of the ten tournament hosts, will be busier than usual. Yet, Koelnmesse reassures spoga+gafa goers that there is still enough accommodation available, even if hotels are hiking up prices. The event organiser encourages attendees to book their rooms as far in advance as possible.     

It’s celebrations all around for Cologne. Not only will the country’s fourth most populous city be caught up in a football frenzy during the early summer, it also celebrates the 100th anniversary of its gargantuan exhibition grounds Koelnmesse. The latter has been spoga+gafa’s venue of choice for many years.

Spoga+gafa organisers met with press members on 12 March in Utrecht, Netherlands.

In a meeting with the press in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Tuesday, 12 March, business developer at Koelnmesse and co-organiser of spoga+gafa, Sebastian Rosito, referenced how Koelnmesse owes its existence to Konrad Adenauer. In 1917, Adenauer was chosen Oberbürgermeister, or lord mayor, of Cologne and later became Germany’s first chancellor. Adenauer’s legacy to his city includes port facilities, a greenbelt, sports grounds, and an exhibition site, which today ranks as Germany’s number 3 in trade show organising, hosting 80 events per year, and boosting 400,000 m2 of indoor and outdoor space. As such, Koelmesse is an important economic driver of Cologne, welcoming 54,000 exhibitors and 3 million trade show visitors annually.

Sampling the sentiments in the worldwide trade at Koelnmesse’s recently held hardware show Eisenware and the trade event for the equestrian sector, Spoga Horse, Rosito is confident that the 2024 spoga+gafa show will be a resounding success with 96 per cent of space booked so far.

Koelnmesse’s Sebastian Rosito highlighted the visionary work of Konrad Adenauer.

Once again, the three-day event will be truly international. An anticipated 1,850 exhibitors from 58 countries will show their latest products and services across 14 adjoining halls. Standing out is a spike in the number of exhibitors from the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Spain, and Italy.

An expected 30,000 green professionals will be treated to a state-of-the-art showcase of plants, BBQ technology, outdoor entertaining, garden furniture, well-being products, gifts, clothing and gardening equipment and tools, machinery and everything in between.

Spoga+gafa is arguably the world’s most extensive garden and outdoor living trade show, held at a time when the grass is not always lush green.

It’s been four years since the pandemic struck, and the garden retail industry is still processing the aftershocks. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, the Middle East crisis, market volatility, high energy costs, inflation and interest rates, mounting bureaucracy, and high add-on labour costs continue to leave their mark on Europe and Germany.

In January, Germany’s Minister for Economy and Climate Protection, Robert Habeck, said that the country was slashing its 2024 growth forecast to just 0.2 per cent, down from a 1.3 per cent estimate made earlier. It’s a sign that the country’s economic recovery is slower than hoped.

As consumer confidence continued to sink, German garden retail sales slowed last year as consumers tightened their purse strings.

What’s more, mixed conditions brought a wet spring and warm summer, the warmest September month on record, and a relatively overcast October for Germany. A lack of spring sunshine hammered outdoor plant sales. In March 2023, the weather wasn’t encouraging shoppers to get outside to garden just yet.

A survey by the German Garden Industry Association (IVG) found that in Germany, an average household spent €1,000 in garden centres and DIY stores, that is, across all categories such as home improvement, alfresco entertaining, and plants.

The latest figures by market analyst Klaus Peter Teipel Research & Consulting indicate that the country’s garden market closed with a nominal drop in sales of around 3 per cent, bringing sales volumes down to around €19.7bn. Sales in the organic chemical supplies category were up 6.3 per cent, while the hardware category suffered a 5.8 per cent drop in sales. The rising cost of living also battered plant sales, which went down 3.2 per cent.

Looking into 2024, Teipel strikes a more optimistic tone and expects, albeit cautiously, price hikes in garden retail to ease off. He says, “The garden retail market can hope for a small nominal increase unlike other sectors of the economy. With real incomes rising again, consumer demand is likely to pick up slightly.”

There is a change that in an uncertain world plagued by social, economic and political tensions, consumers will tend more to family, friends and the home and garden, sometimes described as the cocooning effect. With higher prices for package holidays and flights, there’s also hope that a growing number of people will cut holiday spending or stay home altogether. This scenario can be an important driver for refurbishing and upgrading the home front.

Spoga+gafa director Stefan Lohrberg (right) talking with members of the press.

Spoga+gafa director Stefan Lohrberg candidly admits the German garden industry is in rocky waters. “Badly hit by the economic turmoil in particular is the hardware category. Many retailers and suppliers face serious challenges post-pandemically. Customers hold their purse strings, warehouses are packed. So, our industry needs an injection of inspiration, business confidence and togetherness and all this can be find in Cologne this June.”

According to Lohrberg, anticipation for the 2024 spoga+gafa show is building, and he expects good visitor numbers. “Spoga+gafa spans 14 halls, and these need visitors, which is why we embarked on a one-to-one marketing approach, creating conversations with individual companies. Over the past few months, we have contacted all garden centres in Germany and abroad. Moreover, last year’s show ran parallel to two other trade shows. This time, all eyes will focus on spoga+gafa only.”

The 2024 edition of spoga+gafa will evolve around the theme of Responsible Gardens, focusing on the responsibility green professionals have regarding the role of the garden in society.

Garden centres agree that a more sustainable gardening community is something to strive for. However, they often struggle to translate their green ambitions into results.

Helping industry professionals on the path to net zero will be, as Lohrberg calls it, “tons of products that fit the sustainability theme. Our show will provide attendees added value by hosting the Green Solutions Islands feature areas in passage four and five.”

The Dutch trade body for the garden centre sector, Tuinbranche Nederland, will build their Green Climate Square, a dedicated area with displays and information showing how gardening can benefit biodiversity and climate change.

IVG will run a Power Place Akku and Power Place Smart Gardening showcasing the newest tech and smart solutions for lawn care and irrigation.

Keynote speaker and futurologist Theresa Schleicher shared her perspective on the future of garden retail.

At the spoga+gafa press call, futurologist Theresa Schleicher shared her perspective on the future of garden retail. True to the futurologist tradition, she presented some forward-thinking ideas, sure to raise eyebrows.

Twenty per cent less—fewer garden retailers, products, spaces, and packaging. Schleicher believes this rule will guide the sector’s future.

The identity of Generation Z (the cohort comprising people born between 1996 and 2010) has been influenced by the digital era, climate angst and Covid-19. So, unsurprisingly, its preoccupation with healthy, organic, good-quality products and sustainability is more important than ever.

The paradox is that the same generation misses innovation, zeitgeist, choice, and aesthetic beauty and overall feels poorly inspired when shopping in today’s garden centres and DIY stores. So, Schleicher advises the industry to focus on new and regenerative products, healthy home cooking, office and home gardening, growing it your own, and planting tropical plants for the garden. E-commerce will surely gain momentum, so wise garden retailers invest in hassle-free product ordering and delivery online. It is safe to say that the younger generation will not visit brick-and-mortar stores with the same frequency their parents did. This makes the unforgettable shopping experience an absolute necessity for future generations entering a garden centre or DIY store in 2030.

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