Cologne: 16.–18.06.2024 #spogagafa

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"Leisure and recreation are more important than ever"

12 Jun 2023

Mr Mathys, you have years of expertise in the plant and flower sector at an international level and have a sound knowledge of the market. What important developments do you see in the coming years?

In recent years, the garden has increasingly become a kind of retreat, a refuge. Here, everyone can create their own little paradise, relax and recharge their batteries. Interestingly, the garden is now seen much more as a place of pleasure than as an additional chore. No wonder that many 'rules' from the past are thrown overboard. In the past, everything had to be meticulously trimmed - I'm thinking of the precisely trimmed hedge or the English lawn - but today, wild herbs are welcome, as they contribute to the garden's radiance. Insects, birds and hedgehogs are welcome guests in the garden and nowadays a wild hedge with native shrubs often replaces the Thuja hedge of the 90s.

The development towards self-sufficiency has also become more widespread. It is nice to see how many vegetables and berries thrive in gardens, but also on terraces and city gardens. This also gives children in particular the chance to develop a stronger connection to nature again.

Another welcome change in thinking is coming from the industry: manufacturers are becoming more digital and are currently much more responsive to consumer needs. They offer simple and smart solutions. This applies, for example, to irrigation, which can now also be controlled via mobile phone, as well as to sustainable and, above all, weatherproof furniture and covers. Raised beds in a wide variety of shapes and materials are also very popular.

Especially the first trends you mentioned fit the main theme of spoga+gafa 2023 in Cologne: Social Gardens - Places of Encounter.

Yes, absolutely. Spending leisure time, relaxation and time with friends and family is more important than ever to many people nowadays. The garden offers an ideal place for this, especially after a stressful day at work. The trend of community gardens in courtyards or on rooftops in cities is also continuing; I see the first signs of this in big cities as well. Former parkland is being transformed into gardens of encounter and community for residential districts. In this context, gardens can also play an important role in the integration of different ethnic groups, as well as in the transition between generations.

What tips can you give to exhibitors, what should they emphasise in the future?

Sustainability is not only important for the products, but also for the orientation of the company. It's a matter of taking responsibility and showing it to the outside world. At the same time, the connection to the consumer must be constantly strengthened by providing specialist retailers with all the necessary information so that it reaches the floor and the end consumer. This is the only way to demonstrate the added value of a product. It is crucial that the retailer has the POS under control and performs well there in communication in order to develop further - be it in the intermediary trade or in sales to the buyer.

What else will change in society that our industry can build on?

Consumers are urgently looking for a balance to their often overloaded everyday working lives. In the last decades, everything has become faster and more hectic; a second or third job is sometimes already normal. The younger generations place much more value on a healthy work-life balance. Values are shifting. Prestige objects are taking a back seat or are being formulated differently: Holidays in the garden with family and friends, for example, are valued just as highly as a trip abroad.

Here, too, the garden can play an important role: The garden can contribute to climate protection through sustainable measures such as the use of ecological materials and growing one's own food.

You yourself will be part of spoga+gafa 2023 again this year as a speaker and guide. How great is your anticipation?

Very great, of course! After all, it's only a few weeks until we all meet on site. I'm looking forward to exchanging ideas with my international colleagues. And as the curator of the POS Green Solution Island, I'm also looking forward to the feedback, as always. After all, we have chosen an exciting theme: "My plant - best friends forever" with lots of little stories to tell.

In the run-up to spoga+gafa, I am of course also in contact with many colleagues from the international garden centre sector who have already told me that they will be coming to Cologne - that's great! For me, spoga+gafa is like a big family - and we still have a clear backlog of seeing friends and acquaintances and also giving them a hug.