IGC Show 2018: The Garden Center Retail Game is Changing

IGC Show 2018: The Garden Center Retail Game is Changing

2018 IGC Show boothThe IGC Show wrapped up at Chicago’s Navy Pier on August 16 with garden center owners, managers, and buyers on the floor until the last minute. Attitudes were positive, and from talking with exhibitors, orders were written and big-ticket items are selling again now that the economy is picking up and customer confidence is on the rise.

Garden center attendees were in high spirits for the most part and on the lookout for fun products, new innovations, and lines to refresh their store look to appeal to a new and emerging group of customers. Here’s a look at some of the trends on the show floor, as well as some awesome pieces of advice from the Wednesday morning keynote speaker, Shark Tank’s own Daymond John.


Seasonal Products. From Fall harvest décor and Halloween items to Christmas and holiday items, there were plenty of vendors with fresh takes on traditional themes. Rustic Christmas nutcrackers and Santas were all over, and bright, LED-lit yard decorations seemed popular. Large-scale ghosts and goblins also reflected the continuing trend of Halloween decorating that now starts as early as mid-September, or so they say.

Lightweight Earth-Tone Pottery. It seems like all of the pottery companies are introducing lines with muted colors and interesting textures. Where there once were bright neon colors, there are now greens, browns, and grays. Many have finishes and washes that will definitely appeal to today’s shopper. And there seemed to be more lightweight lines and fewer heavy stone and ceramic pieces. Perhaps this reflects an aging customer base that’s tired of lugging around concrete vessels, or maybe the plastic technology is just getting better.

Sustainable Soil and Plant Food. Five or ten years ago, there were a few options, now there seem to be endless suppliers for safer and natural fertilizers, soils, and amendments. Retailers see more demand, and the market is responding. With upscale packaging and clear, sustainable messaging, vendors are rising to the challenge to supply product lines that appeal to today’s shopper.

Glass Art. Garden art is getting more artistic, and it seems like as more people see glass installations at botanic gardens and public gardens, they want the same in their own yards. From small to large and in all shapes and colors, glass art was on display in many booths this year, and it looked like orders were being written.

Pond and Aquatic Supplies. It seemed like water-gardening supplies had disappeared from retail shows for a few years, but they are back. This is most likely due to the improved economy and younger homeowners adding water features to their new homes.

Lighting and Indoor Growing. A few years ago, indoor growing systems looked a lot like scaled-down commercial systems, and most people couldn’t envision them in their homes. Now, the systems seem much more well-designed and decorative. Lighting technology has drastically improved and come down in price, and more consumer product developers have moved into the space. Now, many of the systems look cool and would not seem out of place in a modern home setting.

Finally, the Wednesday morning keynote, The People’s Shark Daymond John was a huge hit with conference goers. His message was on point for garden center retailers, and his delivery was phenomenal. He set his life story and business success path to music, complete with a DJ. His message centered on his five S.H.A.R.K. points. Set goals – you can’t hit a target you don’t see. Do your Homework – know what you are doing/have a plan. Amor – love what you do. Remember – you are the brand. Keep swimming – stay on course and don’t give up. These are fantastic rules on which to run your business.

If you haven’t been to the IGC Show in a few years, make plans to attend next year. There have been plenty of changes since you last attended. It will be worth the trip.