THEALE, UK: Growing opportunities through people, plants, movement and value were the topics of conversation at HTA Contact Conference 2015. Held on 14 and 15 January 2015 at JCB World Headquarters in Uttoxeter, the two-day conference saw members of the nursery stock sector come together for current industry discussions and workshops, as well as a gala dinner and a special tour of the JCB factory and facilities.
Opening Contact 2015 Carol Paris, HTA Chief Executive, spoke on behalf of Stan Green, HTA President. Only too aware of the changes taking place in the industry today, Carol pledged to work with members and grow opportunities by reacting better, quicker and smarter in order to take the industry forward.
Conference highlights included tips on writing a people plan from Guy Moreton from MorePeople, in his talk on People Planning. Guy advised delegates to make note of: your present team – where you are now, your future team – where you want to be, a list of company values, and both a SWOT and GAP analysis. A people plan can double recruitment turnover, identify gaps that need filling and future leaders, and help to pin down an agreed company vision. It should also be flexible to account for new opportunities.
Opportunities from new plant varieties were outlined by Graham Spencer, Owner of Plants for Europe. New plants can be sourced through in house development leading to exclusivity and royalty income, or through existing and new suppliers as well as breeder agents, which is generally a faster route with a supply chain and production schedule already in place. Anticipating new trends, plant novelty, and marketing techniques are all key to producing new plant varieties. Particular attention should also be paid to plant variety rights (PVR) which are legally enforceable and protect the actual plant, rather than just a trade mark.
HTA Market Information Manager, David Denny, presented the findings from an HTA/HDC study which looks into export opportunities for growers. Following on from this, Gardenex’s Amanda Sizer Barrett MBE, Director General, and Charlie Parker, Commercial Manager, spoke of devising an export strategy and finding international customers. In doing so the duo advised a business to consider: language, payment, shipping, import restrictions, IP protection, documentation and currency, exchange rates and attending international trade shows.
Tim Clapp, Lead Buyer at B&Q, gave advice on negotiating and selling to retailers. Top tips were: to be honest, to innovate, to share problems early, to never say “I’ll grow whatever you want”, to be persistent, to give good notice of critical decisions and to think of solutions. Tim also stressed to never call on a Monday, a buyers busiest day! Before approaching a retailer Tim advised delegates to know their market – size, channels, competitors, to know your customers – demographics and segmentation data, and to understand their buyers’ key metrics.
A panel discussion involving Tim Clapp (B&Q), Marcus Cousins (Aylett Nurseries), Charles Carr (Lowaters) and Adam Dunnett (Wyevale Nurseries) looked at a range of topics across the supply chain. They spoke about the importance of working together in order to come up with solutions, building relationships and trust, being open – communications and flexibility are key! They spoke about scope for more vertical communication in the production chain with young plant suppliers – such as that that happens in Europe and the US.
The day came to a close with a business dinner, raising funds for Perennial, and an enlightening presentation by Tim Briercliffe, Secretary General of AIPH, on why the cities of the future must have plants centre stage, worldwide examples of how it is done and what growers need to do to get this type of approach back on the agenda in the UK.
Highlights of day two included a behind the scenes tour of the JCB factory and JCB Story to see the making of the machines and the history behind the global ‘family’ company, as well as an afternoon of inspirational workshops looking horticultural careers, sustainable solutions, understanding the value of research and using market trends to develop plant promotions.
The event finished with a compelling motivational talk by former Royal Marine, broadcaster and ocean adventurer Monty Halls. Monty gave a dynamic talk on the extraordinary things people and teams will do when pressure is applied highlighting the importance of a team ethic and the need to work together.
Closing the event Wayne Eady, Managing Director of Delamore Young Plants and Chair of the Contact 2015 steering group spoke of the urgent need to do more to help promote horticultural careers suggesting that a way forward may be to encourage HDC/HTA to dedicate funds into the development of people for the future of the industry.