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Retail Innovations: Italian-style

Retail innovation: Italian style

October 23, 2018  By John Stanley

The “Paint Your Plant” kit includes a succulent, paint brush and paint.

Businesses need to innovate or die. The challenge is often coming up with new and innovative ideas. This is one reason I enjoy travelling. It forces you to be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Italy has always been known for its innovation in a number of different areas of retailing and manufacturing. The MyPlant trade show held in Milan was one of the most innovative garden trade shows I had seen in some time.

The Italian industry is coming up with new innovative ways of enticing the consumer in the garden sector. Many of the exhibitors are in-tune with the millennial consumer and are developing products to attract these consumers into garden centres. Not all the products on display were from Italy. Many other European countries were also exhibiting, and this made the event a truly international platform for the following:


Attracting Children
Children are the gardeners of the future and we need to connect with them through plants. At the same time, children connect with both their parents and their grandparents and I was therefore fascinated to see the Dutch development of getting children involved in Grandparents Day by FeliniFoundation. Grandparents Day is normally in October, but this changes around the world.

To engage across the generations the company has developed “Paint Your Plant” ( The package consists of a succulent plant, paint brush and paint. The child can then paint the plant based on their own design and present it on Grandparents Day. What attracted me to this concept was this excellent activity that could be developed in the garden centre to attract new and existing customers.

I can accept that horticulturalists will cringe at the idea of plants being painted, but sprayed and painted plants have proven to be popular, especially in the autumn in Europe for a number of years – and this is just one more step in this process to engage the customer and especially children.

Attract Millennials
Millennial consumers are not just looking for indoor plants. They are often looking for plants that will clean the air. I was therefore attracted to one company who had identified the needs of a target consumer. The “Air So Pure” branded plants provide an oxygen reading and advises on how many plants a consumer should have in a room. This research has been around for a number of years, but few suppliers have taken this initiative.

Impulse sells
Once a consumer is in the garden centre, clever merchandising and packaging of plants can create impulse sales. The majority of plants are sold on impulse and a number of suppliers at the show were presenting great ways of developing the impulse package. Impulse can be as simple as telling the consumer what this year’s fashion colour is, and then providing a plant that has the same colour.

Small succulent gardens were also evident and this is a trend that will continue through the year.

MyPlant is held every February in Milan and based on this year’s show, I would recommend that you put it on your show list for next year.

John Stanley is a retail business coach, consultant, speaker and author. His expertise is in customer-focused layout, merchandising, marketing and branding, and customer-focused selling and service. Visit his website at

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