Ron van der Ploeg

‘Post-Covid, trade fairs will emerge stronger than before’

Iberflora, Spain’s premier horticultural trade show, is all set for its golden jubilee (50th edition this year). The trade exhibition’s newly appointed chairman Raúl Ferrer is adamant that Iberflora will go ahead on its planned dates between 5 to 7 October 2021, writes Guia Verde.

Raúl Ferrer is the commercial director of wholesale plant nursery Orvifrusa. He is the new chairman of Spain’s premier horticultural trade show Iberflora.

Raúl Ferrer is the commercial director of wholesale plant nursery Orvifrusa. He is the new chairman of Spain’s premier horticultural trade show Iberflora. His appointment coincides with the trade show’s Golden Jubilee. He is stepping into this new position after a tumultuous year caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In this interview published by Spanish media outlet Guia Verde, Ferrer says he is adamant that 2021 will host a physical Iberflora. He is optimistic because “flowers and plants are in vogue. Gardening is hot.”

What makes a good Iberflora chairman?

“Responsibility, enthusiasm and peace of mind are the nouns the come to my mind. I consider it my responsibility and primary role to ensure that after celebrating 50 years of excellence, Iberflora is the place to be for the entire ornamentals sector. I see it as an obligation to those companies and visionary entrepreneurs who, by the end of the 1970s, found that the Spanish ornamental sector not only needed but also deserved a platform to share knowledge and friendship and to generate new sales.
“I am excited because we horticultural business people should always act with an open spirit and participate in sectorial projects. By taking up the role of Iberflora’s Chairman, you automatically represent a collective, and it means that my colleagues trust in me. I am lucky to encounter the same feelings of responsibility and enthusiasm within the show’s organising committee, a group of businessmen defending the same interests and facing similar challenges. It gives me peace of mind that I have a team of professionals in the organising committee and event organiser Feria Valencia. I am just the face of a great team.”

It is no secret that your aspiration is to a face to face Iberflora under the new normal.

“Of course, we are all longing for circumstances that will allow us to pick up our work, to be able to travel, to visit customers and suppliers. Unfortunately, this plan is not in our hands. Let us hope that science, vaccines and people’s social responsibility will allow us to overcome the pandemic in the coming months. I am adamant that this year, there will be a physical Iberflora show.

Last year, despite the worldwide disruption, it was a good year for Spain’s horticulture sector, and the outlook is looking positive again for this year. I am, of course, over the moon when some of my colleagues tell me that this year there will be a shortage of plants or those garden accessories such as parasols, pergolas and swimming pools will be selling out again. The 2021 edition of Iberflora can make it in the history books as one of the biggest successes; people are looking forward to the event.”

What are the challenges for Iberflora’s future?

One of the primary challenges is maintaining our trajectory and not losing our identity; Iberflora is a promotional platform for companies. We want every segment of our industry to feel rightly represented and cared for, whether we talk about ornamental plants, production technology companies, garden equipment companies, florists, landscaping service companies and logistics companies. They are all equally important and necessary. Iberflora is the sum of them all. The word ‘service’ must be present in all our reasoning. Whether they are exhibitors or visitors, companies will continue to trust Iberflora if we add value to their products and services.
Every company goes to a trade fair with different objectives. Some are looking to export, increase their domestic market presence, build customer loyalty, access new channels or present new products, test products, or strengthen their sales network. Attending a trade fair is a way of positioning oneself in the market and facing the competition. But above all, a trade fair is a space for relationships, a meeting point, a neutral ground where supply and demand meet.”

Last year, Iberflora opted for a virtual event like many other international fairs. Are certain online elements here to stay?

“The hard months of confinement last year showed us the benefits and limitations of online solutions. When we could not move, they allowed us to keep working and maintain relationships with customers and suppliers. They showed us that there were issues that could be solved online, avoiding travel and meetings, saving time and money. Once we can get back to business as usual, we will get back to face-to-face issues. In other sectors such as banking, insurance, telephony, or IT, online tools will continue for longer. Now our industry seems to be fed up with them, and they are running away from them.

“Our sector thrives on relational and personal contact. I believe that post-Covid, trade fairs will be maintained and will even emerge stronger than before. Online tools will be one more instrument of communication, and they will be complementary. I say this because there are not known as ‘great successes’ in the different initiatives carried out, neither in our sector nor in any other. However, they were the best solution given the exceptional circumstances.”

This year Iberflora celebrates its 50th anniversary. You as an industry veteran, how did you see the trade show evolve over the past decades?

“Looking back at 50 years of Iberflora history, we would need much more time and space than is available in this interview. As I said before, a trade fair should be a promotional tool ‘at the service’ of a specific sector. For 50 years, the reality of our market, and the needs of companies have changed and Iberflora has been able to adapt at all times. Our challenge is to continue to do so. If we are helpful to them, they will continue to trust us.

“A trade fair is a reflection of a sector, and it is where you can best observe the boom or bust periods of companies. I am an optimist by nature, and I am convinced that our sector has some very positive years ahead of it. If the industry is doing well, Iberflora will do well. We are seeing how society’s consumer habits are changing. New channels and new demand groups are incorporating living green, being surrounded by plants is in style, any outdoor activity is on-trend. A city, a neighbourhood, a housing estate with green areas brings a quality of life which citizens value.”

 

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