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The Retail Lab at Glee, post-show review

The Retail Lab @ Glee has been created to offer something that looks to the future of garden retailing, focussing on trends that are within touching distance; trends that will directly affect consumer spending habits in the near future. ©Glee.

Retail Lab creative director, Romeo Sommers, discusses the industry's reaction to the Retail Lab, as well as what the future holds for the new feature.



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28 September 2017

The Retail Lab at Glee was a new feature for the trade show in 2017 which showcased future WGSN trends in products, in-store experience and merchandising, as well as looking at how to engage consumer groups that garden centres are not currently attracting.

How did the industry react to the Retail Lab at Glee?

The initial reaction was a combination of excitement and interest. The Retail Lab was new to Glee, and as such a visual feast for the senses, many people were stopped in their tracks before coming onto the area to find out more.

Romeo's background is in horticulture, flower arranging, marketing and management. He has worked in many different roles from florist to a collector and presenter on national TV.

Romeo’s background is in horticulture, flower arranging, marketing and management. He has worked in many different roles from florist to a collector and presenter on national TV.

Once the initial surprise passed, people were keen to learn more about how they could recreate the themes and ideas within their own retail environments – which is exactly what we wanted; to inspire! The great thing with the Retail Lab was the fact it was such a tactile feature. People were able to pick up product, walk through the different areas, and really take the time to learn more on their journey through the zones. I believe visitors really enjoyed this aspect!

The other thing visitors enjoyed was the fact that recreating the Retail Lab, or aspects of, is perfectly achievable. The whole area may have been created with the input from a whole team of industry experts, but these experts understand the retail environment and the challenges that can be faced in such an environment, so they were able to create designs and concepts that fit within this. The Retail Lab is about maximum impact in even the smallest space. It’s about taking fun and inspiring design ideas, and pairing them with products that suit the space available. For instance, one visitor to the Retail Lab came from a small garden centre in central London. With a small store footprint, they were excited to see how easy it was to design high impact displays in such a reduced space. The Community theme particularly stood out to them, as it best suited their business model, enabling local residents to use the centre as a hub for communal growing when outside space is at a premium. It was brilliant feedback, that demonstrated how these different ideas can be implemented and translated in a number of exciting and differing ways.

What kind of questions did visitors to the Retail Lab at Glee have?

The biggest query was one of intrigue, and how retailers could implement the different themes within their own retail stores. TheOxygen Bubble, featuring air purifying plants, was one area that people particularly loved, as it is such a simple yet effective idea that is easy to recreate. The Greenhouse Cabinet also proved popular as it showcased how ordinary and typical garden retail displays can be reinvented for a more eye-catching retail experience.


Photo ©Glee

Have visitors been receptive to the themes identified in the Retail Lab?

Retailers have been so receptive to the trends, and it’s been great to see them want to get stuck in right away, with each taking a slightly different ‘takeaway’, meaning garden centres can maintain their individuality. The concept of ‘hotspots’ within the retail environment is something I discussed with a lot of our visitors, and I’m sure very soon many garden centre customers will shortly be pleasantly surprised to see so many new ideas being put into fruition.

The Community theme was one that retailers really loved, as it meant that retailers can create ‘fans’ not just customers. Providing a hub for the local community, and creating areas for them to work, play and grow together has been incredibly popular, and retailers are seeing not just the ease of being able to do this, but also the long-term benefits of what it means for product purchases and customer loyalty.

The role of family and pets was also something that Retail Lab visitors spoke to me about a lot. Family and pets is often at the heart of the traditional garden retail customer, so it was so important that we helped to create ideas, concepts and displays that included these two hugely important themes.


Photo ©Glee

Re-Wilding was also an incredibly busy part of the Retail Lab. This was an area of serenity so I think many enjoyed taking a few moments away from the hustle and bustle of Glee, but more than that I believe they were understanding the importance of being able to take a moment to relax, and get back to reconnect with nature. Again, garden centres are already armed with the tools they need to create a similar atmosphere within their own stores, so many were excited to start planning their own decompression areas.

Re-Wilding also threw out some interesting topics particularly relating to recycling and environmental consciousness. In the UK plastic pots have a negative image, but within the Re-Wilding area we were able to show that contemporary designs are much more environmentally friendly, with waste and associated carbon footprints reduced. It certainly formed a real talking point.

What’s next for the Retail Lab?

Photo ©Glee

Photo ©Glee

The Retail Lab @ Glee is just the beginning of the journey. The trends that the Lab will focus on do not have an expiration date. Instead they will grow and develop over time, which is why the Retail Lab has been designed to follow this journey with them.Now that Glee is over we’ll be looking to take the concept on the road to provide as many retailers as possible with access to the information, inspiration and education on offer.  We’ll also be working hard to bring it back to Glee in 2018! The response has been fantastic, and we have a million more ideas we’d like to implement.

You can learn more about Romeo on his website, here.

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