The Gnome Becomes A Giant

The tenth Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS), conducted from 6–10 April, was an eye-opener in terms of its overwhelming public support and positive trade attitude. And hardware retailers who were lucky enough to attend the show would have learned a lesson or two regarding product selections, displays and consumer passions.AHJGnome01May05

The 2005 show broke all attendance records during its five-day occupation of the Royal Exhibition Building precinct just north of Melbourne’s CBD. A total of 125,000 visitors paid up to $19 (adult ticket price) to view the indoor and outdoor displays of nearly 300 exhibitors. The tally included a 20% increase in patronage over the first four days compared to the previous year. It is also worth assessing this year’s MIFGS attendance in the context of other large-scale shows, including the 11-day 2004 Melbourne Motor Show (257,563 people); the seven-day 2004 Perth Royal Show (483,761 people); or this year’s 10-day Telstra Country Music Festival at Tamworth (approximately 50,000 people). By any measure, gardens are rating very well against cars, cows and country music!

It is interesting to note that a significant number of stalls were displaying and selling hardware-style goods, including gardening implements, seeds, outdoor furniture, irrigation equipment, hose gear, landscaping products, water tanks and garden ornaments. In other words, there was plenty to see apart from new rose varieties and innovative floral arrangements. Also, at least three large marquis were devoted to gardening book sales, and buyers were as busy as ants. Could gardening literature represent a future growth segment in hardware retail?

Exhibitors included some names that would be familiar to the hardware industry: BlueScope Water (Rain Catchers) featuring Colorbond tints, Envirogreen (Amgrow Garden King), LYSAGHT fencing, Nylex Consumer Products, Oasis Outdoor Living, and Yates.

AHJGnome02May05Major preoccupations of the event were water-efficient products and functional, new landscaping items.

According to exhibitor Peter Van Leeuwen from HG Turf, visitors were eager to examine new turf varieties that display hardy, drought-tolerant characteristics. He said consumers were knowledgeable, anxious to take on long-term projects and open-minded about experimentation.

Vince Cilauro, Account Manager/Fencing from BlueScope Lysaght, said he received great interest from consumers about colourful, bold and “different” fencing materials, particularly the recently released Smartascreen fencing which is identical on both sides (no more arguments with the neighbours about who gets the “smooth” side).

A new kind of adventurism seems to have overwhelmed the Australian gardening market. The sentiment might be summed up as follows: “We were caught out with the drought and we won’t let it happen again.” Therefore, goods and services that challenge old-fashioned gardening systems are enjoying new-found credibility.

If you missed the show, don’t fret – planning for MIFGS 2006 (5–9 April) is already under way.

By John Power