Takeaways from the 2018 IGCA Congress

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A café covered from floor to ceiling with coffee plants, bumblebees made from hay bales, creative bonsai displays, and extensive opportunities for learning and networking… that was just the tip of the iceberg at the International Garden Center Association’s (IGCA) 2018 Congress.

The IGCA Congress is a week of touring cutting-edge garden retail centers in a destination city with garden center owners from 19 different countries and ample opportunities to network and learn. This year’s Congress was held September 16-21 in Prague, Czech Republic. AmericanHort’s own Sherry Johnson is on the IGCA board as the United States Administrator and represents the US with the goal of facilitating continuous improvement, worldwide, for garden center retailers. 

Sherry was joined in representing the United States by individuals like Renae Bobbette from Beaver Bark Gifts and Garden Center in the Tri-Cities, WA, Tom Birt from Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery in Tucson, AZ, Dr. Bridget Behe from Michigan State University, and many more. There is something for everyone involved with garden centers at the IGCA Congress.

What were the hottest topics with garden center owners?

“I met with a lot of garden center owners over the 5 days and was a part of so many hot-topic conversations.  While some of them were expected, a few were surprising!”

  • Optimizing displays and merchandising;
  • Engaging customers;
  • Should a garden center owner put money into their parking lot?;
  • Cafés. Do they help draw people in, or do they just take up space where merchandise can be placed?;
  • Should I partner with other local businesses?
  • Prague, of course!

-Sherry Johnson, IGCA United States Administrator, AmericanHort

What was your biggest takeaway from the IGCA Congress?

“There are so many networking opportunities; people make lifelong friends across the world. It’s a huge collaboration and the knowledge shared among the garden center owners is extremely valuable.”

-Sherry Johnson, IGCA United States Administrator, AmericanHort

“From an educator’s perspective, there is something to learn EVERYWHERE! I saw so many inspirational displays and yet some things that we are already doing in the states. For instance, the use of pallets in merchandising was familiar, yet creative and, while some of the plants were the same, I saw some new cultivars. Also, the bonsai displays were so well merchandised, not just with plants but with themed statues and very cool backdrops to accentuate the plants.”

-Dr. Bridget Behe, Michigan State University

What was the most innovative thing you saw?

“I think the way Plastia invited us to their warehouse and had us play some plant games was a super creative way to engage people with their products and their company. We had fun planting a planter and having container races. It showed me that the culture of a company can be exciting regardless of what the company manufactures. They were a key sponsor and I think most of the delegates will remember their time at Plastia. I know I will!”

-Dr Bridget Behe, Michigan State University

What surprised you the most on the tours?

“The Garden Centers in Prague remind me of a Macy’s! They are huge and the level of merchandise, besides plants, is expansive. Our garden centers might have a display with wine, pottery or clothes, but the Garden Centers in Prague have entire departments devoted to them.  The amount of diversity and selection in their garden centers compared to ours is shocking.”

-Sherry Johnson, IGCA United States Administrator, AmericanHort

Why should someone go to the 2019 IGCA Congress, September 1-6, 2019 in England?

“I knew I would meet some great people from many different countries and I did. I knew the days would be long but fun and they were. What surprised me the most was how fast the week went. I’m already looking forward to going to England next September and hope that some other firms will be inspired by what I saw and learned and will want to attend the Congress.”

-Dr. Bridget Behe, Michigan State University

“The IGCA does a wonderful job incorporating the country’s culture into the tours. Not only do you get to learn ways to make your garden center better, you also get a chance to experience a completely different culture.”

-Sherry Johnson, IGCA United States Administrator, AmericanHort

What were your favorite photos!?

Want to see more photos of the tours stops? Visit the AmericanHort Facebook page to see all of Sherry Johnson’s posts from Prague!

The 2019 IGCA Congress is already in the works! Join us in Windsor, England on September 1-6, 2019 to learn about and visit cutting-edge retail garden centers in the UK. Need more reasons to attend? Watch this video by GrowerTalks to hear why IGCA Congress vetrans come back year after year!

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