April 2010
In Columbus, Retail Takes Center Stage By Paige Worthy

This year’s OFA Short Course, which will take place July 10 to 13 in Columbus, Ohio, features a special focus on retailers that will put garden centers in the trade show spotlight more than ever before.

Years ago, “OFA” stood for the Ohio Florists’ Association, and its “Short Course” was an event for graduates of the Ohio State University to reconnect and continue learning together. Here’s a look at what attendees discussed at the 1930 Ohio Florists’ Short Course:

“How Plants Grow,” fuels, propagation, soils, fertilizers, roses, insects, disease control, carnations, bulbs, chrysanthemums, novelties, floral design, merchandising, “Experimental Work,” and “Design of a Small Place.”

But as Bob Dylan put it so succinctly almost 50 years ago: The times, they are a-changin’.

Today, “OFA” is simply OFA — an Association of Horticulture Professionals. No longer specialized to Ohio, the organization has expanded its reach to all of the United States and widened its scope to include growers, retailers, florists, interior plantscapers, distributors and more. And there’s nothing simple about Short Course now; today, it’s an intricate web that includes a trade show, educational sessions, off-site tours, networking and even after-hours events to keep the learning and networking going into the night.

Of course, the OFA Short Course has evolved over time into what it is today. It hasn’t been a sudden transformation. But this year, OFA is expanding its recent initiative to involve retailers more than ever before — and Lawn & Garden Retailer is thrilled to be part of it.

Introducing… Garden Center Live! @ OFA Short Course

The OFA Short Course’s expanded garden center segment programming consists of three new areas.

Garden Center Live! Merchandising Contest. The Garden Center Live! Merchandising Contest will feature four contestants, each sponsored by one of the garden center trade publications, who will compete in three rounds of high-speed merchandising. The first two rounds will take place Sunday, July 11. The winners from each round will advance to the finals on Monday, July 12.

The 2010 event will build on the momentum created last year. Remember that? Lawn & Garden Retailer’s 2009 contestant in the merchandising competition, Tina Bemis (pictured at left) of Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer, Mass., made it all the way to the finals in 2009 with her quick thinking and flair for high-end displays on a shoestring budget.

For this year, OFA has made changes to the contest based on participation and feedback from 2009 to simulate real conditions in garden center merchandising. Contestants will not know their display theme until two hours before their competition, nor will they be permitted to bring their own props. (No pressure!)

Garden Center Live! Merchandising Concepts. Garden Center Live! Merchandising Concepts, built by Saturday morning workshop attendees, will feature several themed displays using various types of retail fixtures. This year’s concepts include cause marketing and merchandising concepts geared toward generations X and Y, edible gardeners and newbie gardeners. The Garden Center Live! Merchandising Concepts will be located in the concourse just outside the trade show floor, adjacent the Garden Center Live! Merchandising Contest.
Garden Center Live! Interactive. If you remember the old bookstore room, get ready for an eye opener: OFA is transforming that space into Garden Center Live! Interactive, an intimate area where retailers can mingle, check out product demonstrations and ask questions. The space will feature POS systems, cause marketing campaigns, eco-friendly container gardening and a showcase of inspirational ideas. Garden Center Live! Interactive will also feature information kiosks with take-home tips and ideas and interactive mini-sessions presented by trade publication partners throughout the OFA Short Course.

Changing With the Times
Breeders, growers, retailers, distributors and other members of this industry have become increasingly linked in the recent past; teamwork is essential in putting forth the best product possible to persuade consumers to spend their limited disposable income on plants and outdoor living. It follows, then, that the OFA Short Course should be a more well-rounded event that caters to the industry at large.

The 2010 OFA Short Course will take place July 10 to 13 in Columbus, Ohio. There will be more than 1,500 exhibit spaces and 130 educational sessions, and organizers are expecting about 9,000 attendees. The show will be held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, through 2016.

The Lawn & Garden Retailer and GPN staff will be there, live and in person — plus, as always, we’ll be Facebooking, tweeting andblogging. So even if you can’t make it to Columbus, you can get all the news from us!

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