Retail Lab at Glee 2019: Let us entertain you at ‘The Greatest Showroom’  

Interview with Romeo Sommers, Glee Retail Lab Creative Director

The circus is coming to Glee 2019! This year the Retail Lab – in association with the HTA – will draw upon the inspiration of the bygone era of travelling circuses to provide a stunning backdrop to this year’s inspirational showcase of innovative products and merchandising ideas. Here the Retail Lab’s Creative Director, Romeo Sommers, tells us more about how this exciting interactive hub will shape up in 2019.

Glee Retail Lab

This year the Retail Lab is all about entertaining both the retailer and the customer, and celebrating ‘the best’ from garden retailing. Supported by a nostalgia rich backdrop, this year’s Retail Lab will be rich in theatre. However, the main aim of the area will not be lost – in that each display and the overall effect will help to create memorable and tangible takeaway content that can help retailers and merchandisers to engage and inspire customers, driving sales and creating a point of difference in an increasingly ‘cookie cutter’ retail environment.


Theatre & drama = return customers

Until now, retailers have been focussed wholly on price, however the impact of online retail is placing a new pressure on brick and mortar retailers. With prices and margins being squeezed, coupled with the immediacy of online shopping, garden centres are being forced to rethink how they merchandise products, and how they approach the customer experience in-store to ensure the longevity of their business.


Many of the ideas and themes showcased in the Retail Lab have been created to tackle these issues, whilst also responding to those current trends that are shaping consumer demand. With interactive elements, ‘look again’ merchandising ideas, all packaged within a new retail environment style, this year’s Retail Lab will bring together nostalgic design, reflective of the heritage of gardening, with new innovation and fresh thinking, to create future-facing garden retail.



Follow the Retail Lab journey

Unlike in previous years which has seen the Retail Lab made up of lots of smaller displays, this year the area will be a much more open space, reflective of a real retail environment. Topped by a pastel green ‘big top’, the area will be a key landmark throughout the show. This year, the feature will be a feast for the senses, utilising content that uses emotion, sound and activity that engages a customer and gets them in the mood to buy.


2019 themes explained

Two sub-themes have been identified that will help shape the content, both of which offer ideas and solutions that meet those trends that are impacting consumer buying habits. The first theme, “Do it yourself (and have fun)” has been created to help retailers to be inspired by the retail environment, and create a variety of creative and fun in-store concepts that engage customers and encourage them to purchase outside of their normal buying areas.


To support the “Do it yourself (and have fun)” theme the area will showcase a number of unique and different ‘sets’ that will highlight the many different ways that retailers can merchandise product in-store, whilst inspiring consumers to have fun in their garden and outdoor space.


The first concept will be ‘Garden Planning’ which offers a look at fresh retail thinking, where consumers can do more in-store such as planning their dream garden, creating a shopping list within seconds that will enable them to make all the purchases under one roof. Think ‘click and collect’ but a whole lot more inspiring!


Next up is the gorgeous ‘Do Nothing Garden’ where products and plants that require little or no attention come together to demonstrate that gardening isn’t about having an encyclopaedic knowledge of horticulture, but instead can be a stress-free and time rich activity. Look out for immediate impact plants, combined with new garden tech for the ultimate ‘cheat’ garden.


Making it easy is also the theme of the ‘Services that Serve’ retail concept store. Combining convenience and retail technology of the future, this concept area will show how retailing could look soon. Not only does this area demonstrate new tools for retailers, but also how easy shopping can be for the consumers. Hassle-free shopping is delved into deeper, whilst garden centres can grab new ideas on how to adapt and build technology into their stores whilst still putting their customers needs at the forefront of their business.


The beating heart of any garden centre – plants – are given a future-proof makeover in the new ‘Plant Gift Shop’.  In this section modular shelving units from Link Shelving are the stars! This area is designed to show you how customers can mix and match pots and plants, whilst also helping garden centres to redesign and update display areas in a matter of minutes. Think next generation cross merchandising ideas, and add-on sales opportunities.


In today’s fast paced world, it’s important to remember to take some time to sit back and relax, which is where the ‘Garden Therapy’ area comes in. With wellbeing and mental health well and truly on the political and economic agenda, this part of the Retail Lab is the perfect solution for garden centres who want to help their customers find some ‘me time’. Retailers should look out for ideas on how they can create a spa like experience in store, something their customers can recreate within their own homes and gardens. Featuring relaxation areas, air purifying plants and a rich palette of greens, this area will be quiet retreat amongst a sea of business deals, networking and the latest product innovations at Glee 2019.


The theme of sensory experiences is continued with the introduction of ‘The Scent Room’. Scent is well known as being an emotive sense; one that can evoke memories and transport us back to another time and place. This knowledge can be transferred into a retail environment, connecting customers on an emotional level with the retail environment, as well as the retail journey. From the use of scent machines, to highly scented plants and herbs selected for their ability to lift our mood and enhance wellbeing, the Scent Room highlights a new way of retailing, and improving the shopping experience.


The second theme shaping the Retail Lab content in 2019 is ‘Saving the World – Nurturing, Nature and Animals’, and is designed to answer questions such as ‘how can retailers connect with their consumers?’ by showcasing the benefits of bringing nature into consumers’ homes and lives. It’s a strongly held belief of mine, that garden centres that connect emotionally with customers on issues they really care about will win customers for life.


One huge theme that is shaping current design trends is the movement to blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors, with the boundary between the two becoming less pronounced. Gardens are becoming an extension of the home, whilst gardens are influencing much of interior décor, with tropical prints reigning supreme in fabric and wallpaper designs. We have also seen the rise of houseplant sales as greenery is added to the home, however people are thinking outside of the box with houseplants and garden plants being used in both settings. Expenditure on products for the garden is also rising, as people look to create high-end long-lasting room sets, with garden furniture and décor benefiting the most. All of this can be seen within the ‘Outdoor-Indoors’ area, where new product innovations will be dressed to showcase the future of true outdoor/indoor living in a realistic house set, that will show how outdoor/indoor can influence all the rooms in the home.


Educating and demonstrating an understanding of matters that are important to consumers is the hallmark of a good retailer, and there is no doubt that sustainability and the issue of single use plastic is one area that is shaping consumer spend more than anything else. The ‘Plastic Free Future?’ zone will explore the issues around plastics and the circular economy. It will also seek to educate on why not all plastics are bad, using Glee exhibitor product examples to demonstrate the many ways that lifetime plastic can be a viable option. Green products and sustainable solutions will also be presented, offering one of the most varied product selections anywhere in the Retail Lab.


The Retail Lab will also be tackling the issues surrounding modern day living, and how a whole generation has embraced urban living, and made it their own. The ‘Urban Green City’ zone, demonstrates how great things come in small packages, and will work to promote urban gardening to city dwellers, creating calm green oases that will transport them away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This isn’t about having masses of space to grow, this is inventive gardening that doesn’t let space limitations get in the way. From vertical growing, to container gardening, and fun, contemporary ideas that make even the smallest balcony a haven for the greenfingered.


For a long-time, garden retailers have recognised the value of encouraging nature into our gardens. Bee-friendly products are often topping the bestsellers list, but in the ‘Nurturing Nature’ section of the Retail Lab, we’ll be demonstrating how other products can be incorporated to create a retail offering that encourages all consumers to take up the ‘bee and bird friendly’ mantle. It’s all about switching up merchandising displays and new ideas that capture the eye, boost sales and give consumers that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from doing something that positively impacts upon the environment around them.


The final part of the Retail Lab will be ‘Pet Alley’, which will offer a totally new perspective on how pet products can be merchandised. Recognising that many garden retailers have only a small footprint in which to sell pet products, Pet Alley will be the perfect demonstration of how small doesn’t have to mean unengaging. Featuring core products such as food and accessories, we’ll also be dipping into the amazing luxury products that Pets at Glee exhibitors will be bringing to the show, as well as showcasing the importance of having technology and health products as part of your pet offering.


There is no doubt that the 2019 Retail Lab will be bigger and better than ever before. But more than this, it’ll be a celebration of future potential for both retailers and consumers. From fun ideas, to simple changes that will create real stand-out within both your local community, the wider garden retail sector, and amongst savvy consumers, a visit to the Retail Lab can be a true game changer. We look forward to welcoming retailers, buyers and merchandising teams to the area – in fact bring your entire team. I promise there will be something to inspire all of you!


Join the Retail Lab tours

Throughout the show Romeo will be leading dedicated Retail Lab tours, giving visitors explanations and further knowledge into the key insights and trends being showcased on the Retail Lab feature and also providing understanding about how to implement the trends being shown.


The Retail Lab tours are operated on a first come first serve basis. There is a maximum of 30 people permitted per session. Visitors need only visit the Retail Lab to join one of the dedicated tours (times TBC).


Find out more

Introduced in 2017 to showcase the latest trends within the garden industry, the Retail Lab at Glee is designed to provide retailers, buyers and merchandisers with hands-on advice and inspirational content that they can take back to their own stores to drive sales in 2020 and beyond.  Now in its third year, this inspirational feature area, in association with the Horticultural Trades Association, is bursting with ideas. In fact, 61% of Glee’s visitors say they will attend Glee 2019 as a result of seeing the Retail Lab last year.


In addition to the amazing team – such as Romeo Sommers – behind the Retail Lab, the area will also be supported by a number of sponsors. The HTA, Woodlodge, Scheurich, Key Essentials, Apta, Meadow View Stone, Verona, Laurica Plants, BPI Products, Ivyline, Willow Wand, Pure Accessories, Wildlife World and Air So Pure are confirmed as 2019 Supplier Partners, providing them a wealth of opportunity to promote their brand and latest product innovations.


Recognising the value of the Retail Lab at Glee, a dedicated point of contact has been put in place within the Glee team – Daniel McAlpin. Daniel will be working closely with the Retail Lab panel of experts to maximise exhibitor involvement, as well as finalising any sponsorship opportunities. To find out more please email Daniel via or call +44 (0)20 3033 2206.


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