|Vancouver’s Southlands Nursery is one of several boutique garden centres on the IGCA Congress 2008 program.
For only the second time in 50 International Garden Centre Association events, Canada will host the IGCA Congress. The globetrotting congress first landed in Canada in 1995 and record numbers turned out to tour Ontario’s premier garden stores.
Karl Stensson of Sheridan Nurseries calls the first Canadian event a success and expects this years will be even better. “The response to Canada’s first Congress was astounding. Our peers – and quick friends – whom we met at that and successive congresses still rave about the highlights. We truly believe that the goodwill and great memories generated in ’95 will help attract people to Canada again. The strong program this year’s committee has put together and Vancouver’s renown as a travel destination will confirm their registrations.”
Another thing that brings retailers to IGCA Congress – aside from good fun and outstanding tourism opportunities – is the unique way in which it provides professional development for the garden centre owner. Essentially the event is a giant retail show-and-tell. The five-day intensive tour is designed to highlight the host stores’ best ideas in marketing, merchandising, public outreach, and product finds. Participants come away with countless ideas they can apply to their own stores and in response to common challenges that affect the industry regardless of market or local culture.
The value of the “aha!” moment was evident at the 2007 IGCA Congress held in South Africa, where delegates intrigued over clever reuses of found items for displays, grinned at insightful and appreciative ways to communicate with customers and pointed out the small things that make a big impact on the garden centre experience. No one was without a camera (and a few extra memory cards).
Brian Minter, chair of the 2008 organizing committee, is enthusiastic about showcasing the unique experience each garden store has to offer. “Our destinations aren’t huge, but we do a lot of things very well, like maximizing dollars per square foot in small stores and coming up with outstanding solutions for urban and boutique gardening. We’re experts in container gardens, and introducing great new plants. We’re working hard to cater to a younger and less-defined brand of gardeners. These are the things we can share with our international visitors. At the same time, their visit will be an invaluable learning experience for us.”
Join industry leaders from 18 countries at this year’s Congress, from Sept. 7-12. The event will be based at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Hotel and will include excursions to Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley. Complete details of the all-inclusive tour can be found online at www.igcaCongress.com.