‘Friendly by Nature’ was the motto for the 2018 Salon du Végétal which was held for the second consecutive year in Nantes, France from June 19-21. For all the business friendships, the novelty plants on display and the aftershow party pics on social media, the relocated show still needs time to acclimatize.
According to show organiser BHR (The Regional Horticultural Office) there’s ‘stabilité in attendance, with 10,197 trade visitors. However, almost all exhibitors were disappointed that there were fewer attendees than in previous years and have called on management to modify the show’s format. And yet, BHR spared no expense to making the event attractive. In keeping with the 2018 motto ‘Friendly by Nature’, more than 1,000 exhibitors and visitors at the open-air Exhibition Plaza shared a festive moment, with music, dance and a lovely buffet.
Aside from the traditional Innovert novelty showcase, the Salon showed retail trends for the second year, in partnership with trend setter Chlorosphère. A concept shop demonstrated how florists could take the best of style trends utilizing around the Bohemia Theme. A retail corner gave traders the opportunity to display their own merchandising concepts.
Garden retailers and florists also partnered for the first time for Green Boutique Award, an initiative of Garden_FabLab media. The idea was to shine a light on concept shops testing innovative ways of selling plants. There were eight nominees with the highest honour going to Botanik Concept, an exciting blend of coffee-bar and plant shop located in the city centre of Périgueux, France.
One can object to the fact that these concept stores are anecdotal in terms of plant sales, offer only a limited range (mainly foliage plants) and have no proven business model. However, the many flowery startups and their successes, in terms of attendance, and rejuvenation of customers should deserve at least some attention. Why are young people so fond of these shops that they await on delivery days to queue and buy a green plant that they could probably find cheaper in a garden centre? The answer is a mix of feel-good experience, creativity, education, trendiness and home decoration, in the city centre, without having to drive and push a cart through an anonymous garden centre.
Regarding product trends on exhibit, standouts included an assortment specifically targeting biodiversity, with several bee- or butterfly-friendly lines, as well as a focusing on the urban market, especially with a range of ‘gourmet vegetables’.
As for the trade show itself, it seems that the Salon du Végétal has no other option than to review its business model again in reaction to the significant drop in exhibitors and visitors.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it
This once again confirms the old adage ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. A new trade show format including a new venue is always a risky undertaking. Everyone will remember how Hortifair began to collapse once they started to change the fair dates. Almost all exhibitors prefer a consistency in a regular gathering, but all options should be discussed with the main stakeholders first.
As such, the meeting between BHR and the inter-professional organisation VAL’HOR on the Salon’s last day was a first attempt to bring the most important decision makers together. The establishment of a steering committee aims to take the show forward. VAL’HOR’s Chairman Mickael Mercier said that the Salon’s 2018 edition offers a good opportunity to reposition the exhibition as the core meeting place for all stakeholders within the ornamental horticulture industry, including garden retailers and landscapers. Several exhibitors are advocating to organise the Salon alternate years with landscape trade show Paysalia, held every two years near Lyon.
by Marie Françoise Petitjean