Attending the International Floriculture Expo (IFE) was like stepping into a fairy-tale land of ﬂowers and enchanting design. More than 60,000 square feet of fresh blooms made one almost light-headed with the scent of millions of blossoms. IFE, which is the largest B2B ﬂoriculture show in North America, was held in June, in Chicago, Ill. More than 225 vendors were on hand to showcase new products, services and trends in the ﬂoral industry and to network with nearly 1,500 ﬂoral buyers and other industry professionals.
The ﬁrst day of the show was sponsored by Super Floral magazine and burton + BURTON, and was dedicated to ﬂoral education. Multiple sessions oﬀered included exciting new ideas in merchandising; technology advances; employee hiring, training and motivating; and much more.
To kick oﬀ the education sessions, Jackie Lacey, AIFD, PFCI, led a thought-provoking session in which he shared the latest industry statistics in ﬂoral retail that included ideas on targeting your buyers, unique ways to market to them, using social media to your advantage and more.
In a lively and colorful presentation, burton + BURTON wowed attendees with “The Art + Science Behind Balloon Merchandising.” In what they call “product mixology,” they shared the perfect formula of successful in-store displays.
During lunch, keynote speaker Ken Schmidt, former communications director at Harley- Davidson gave a high-vibe presentation on how to create a loyal customer base and get your customers to become huge advocates for your business.
Four important points Ken Schmidt shared with attendees
- Be visibly passionate about what you’re doing in your business. Doing so connects you to your customers and creates lasting relationships.
- Create a great experience for people, an emotional connection. Human beings are a joy-seeking species, and we want to have fun and share our experience with others. Make sure your customers remember and repeat (tell others) how much they enjoyed your store and/or your products.
- Get people to take part in creating something with you. Have customers create a video or photo with your product in it. This gets shared widely via social media.
The rest of the afternoon was ﬁlled with sessions that included using the latest technology to build revenue, creating a culture of employee community, and an exciting unveiling of “The American Floral Trends Forecast” by Keith White, AIFD.
Toast to the Industry Reception
In the evening amid live jazz and champagne bubbles, everyone raised a glass to celebrate the 2018 Merchandising Awards of Excellence presented by Syndicate Sales and Super Floral.
Also that evening, the 9th Annual Flower Naming Ceremony took place to honor Bradley Gaines of United Supermarkets for his more than 20 years of service to the industry. In his honor, a new breed of the sunﬂower Helianthus annuus from Ball SB was awarded the name and trade designation, “Bradley.”
Iron Designer Competition
Probably the highlight of many attendees was the 2018 Iron Designer Competition, where eight designers participated in a thrilling contest to create a ﬂoral art piece in just 20 minutes. Fresh-cut ﬂoral and design elements were revealed moments before the competition started, with ﬁnished designs judged by a panel of experts on the spot.
Adam Havrilla, CFD, AIFD, of Artistic Blooms in Chicago, Ill., was chosen as the 2018 champion, a second-time win. Jose Morales, designer at Continental Flowers in Miami, Fla., received the Crowd Choice Award for his design.
IFE show attendees and exhibitors had many things to say about this year’s show, with many people offering their opinions about the benefits the show had to offer.
“I meet new companies every year here and it’s also great to touch base with vendors I already know. It’s a great place to get a lot of stuﬀ done at once. You’re able to get meetings done and see great new products.”
– John Agnew
Senior Coordinator–Floral, Whole Foods Market
“We’ve been at IFE for 20-plus years now. If you are in the supermarket industry, this is the place to be. You’re going to see everything. I can’t think of another show that’s strictly ﬂoral, that’s all about promoting ﬂoral, than the International Floriculture Expo.”
– Ed Vermolen, Aldershot Greenhouses
“Our goal is to ﬁnd new products, to get education and to bring it back to the stores so we can expand. Last year I had a blast, and this year is better, it just came out great.”
– Ellen Dekerlegand, Market Basket Foods
“Education was exceptional this year – I thought it was really topnotch.”
– Bradley Gaines
Floral Director, United Supermarkets
Innovation Battlefield Competition
Hundreds of new products were showcased this year, but only ﬁve were selected for the annual Innovation Battleﬁeld Competition. Live presentations included FreshPaq from Chrysal, Team Flag Roses from Farm Direct Corporation, ‘Mini Sasha’ Hydrangea from GROFLOWERS, Twist & Trade from Homestead Growers and the Viizzii Vase from Syndicate Sales. Each company was given two minutes to showcase its innovative new product and win over the audience.
The audience voted Syndicate Sales’ Viizzii Vase this year’s winner. The vase features an LED digital display with interchangeable and personalized messages that can be updated for every occasion, and displays can be updated via Bluetooth with the ease of a personalized app.
Next year, make plans to head south, when the International Floriculture Expo will be moving to its new home in Miami, Fla., June 18-20. With Florida being a hub for the ﬂoral industry, the show is expected to grow and be able to oﬀer additional beneﬁts and signiﬁcant savings to exhibitors and vendors.
By Christine Wright
Christine Wright is a freelance writer, traveler, blogger, yoga instructor, and grandmother. She’s a California girl raised in Idaho surrounded by ﬁve siblings, a big garden and lots of pets. She has organized events for The Dalai Lama, lived on the island of Bali, worked for many years marketing computer software, backpacked through India and Tibet, and now resides in Utah.