Mr. Mirosław Łakomiec, the President of the Polish Garden Centers Association (PSCO)
The Polish Garden Centers Association (PSCO) promotes the development of greenery and horticultural culture. We talked to president Mirosław Łakomiec about the current situation in Poland and the upcoming spoga+gafa.
Poland has loosened its Coronavirus restrictions since the end of May. How did the garden centers in Poland get through the crisis?
The beginning of the pandemic was a very difficult period for garden centers in Poland. Work in March was paralyzed through fear of illness and numerous restrictions on selling resulting from the situation. Many centers introduced phone sales with delivery; or opened and increased the work capacity of online stores. It was a very difficult period for both owners and employees. Then, in April and May with loosened restrictions in the middle of the season, there was a real gardening boom in Poland.
Tired of the lockdown and with no prospect of traveling abroad, people in Poland visited garden centers to buy ornamental plants for their gardens and balconies. Has the lockdown recently increased market demand?
Poles are not only staying at their homes, but also in their gardens. Interest in gardening has therefore exceeded our expectations.
Garden centers were under a real siege and moreover the discipline imposed by regulations required a special effort. After a few weeks, both manufacturers and wholesalers began to run out of many products. Garden plants (especially fruit plants), garden substrates, fertilizers and also foil tunnels and greenhouses were of particular interest to people. The increase in sales was impressive.
We are looking forward to your members' statements to visit spoga+gafa again this year. How important is the exchange with the industry at spoga+gafa for you and the garden center in the current situation?
spoga+gafa is a very important event for the garden industry. Personally, I’ve been going to Cologne for several years. Whenever I am there, I find some inspiration; see something new, which I then try to apply in my garden center. It is a real mine of knowledge about news and trends. spoga+gafa is also a great social event, an opportunity to meet suppliers and services, and see stands, as well as to meet in the evening and catch up over a beer and talk about common topics.
Personally, I always take my employees with me, and I have noticed that other Polish garden centers do this too.
The demand for sustainable garden products and solutions has been increasing for several years. What trends do you expect at spoga+gafa?
Well, everyone's curious about what's going to happen next. Is the great interest in gardening a constant trend or just a temporary fascination? Maybe at this year's spoga+gafa we will find some answers, how to attract the attention of garden owners in the future. We certainly look forward to the development of the "Nature in the garden" section. Interest in bees, birds and other animals is enormous. People want to live in harmony with nature.
I am very curious to see if there will be a renaissance of ponds. I remember, years ago in Cologne, companies producing pumps, foils and other water equipment occupied huge stands. A subsidy program for ponds is being introduced in Poland, so it may also increase demand for these products.
Starting next year, the date of spoga+gafa will be postponed permanently to the first half of the year. What impact do you expect from the new date?
I think that moving spoga+gafa to the new date will positively influence the whole experience for exhibitors and visitors. The new date falls on the most beautiful period of plant growth. Perhaps thanks to this fact, the plant exhibition section of the fair will be enlarged. The new date of 30 May to 1 June 2021 could be however too early for us. If the sales season in the Polish garden centers is extended as it was this year, the owners of independent centers who need to work may have problems with the new date. For this reason we are really happy to hear that from 2022 the date will be moved to the middle or end of June.
It will be a great end to the spring season, the most important in the garden business. And moreover it will allow us to take part in other Polish gardening trade fairs that usually take place in September like „Zieleń to Życie“ in Warsaw.
spoga+gafa is one of the most important leading international trade fairs for the garden lifestyle industry. Why is spoga+gafa an important source of inspiration for your business?
spoga+gafa is a very large and important trade fair in the international garden arena. There are many novelties, trends and interesting workshops and meetings with manufacturers from all over the world. Hundreds of exhibitors can be contacted in one place so it really does represent the fastest way to get the most information and inspiration for our centers.
Will you also be at spoga+gafa in 2021?
Of course we're going, we're eager to meet with suppliers. For a few months now we have only been in touch by phone and e-mail, and face-to-face talks are crucial in business. We are also interested in new trends. We will certainly come.
Looking forward to seeing you in Cologne!