As I write this entry, I’m on a flight returning from the National Hardware Show in Orlando, Florida. Hardware show you ask? Well, it just so happens that it’s also the venue for the largest lawn and garden expo in America.
Each year, any and every vendor that has anything to do with a lawn or gardening product is here. Everything from the mom-and-pop inventor, introducing a brand new product, to mega companies like Scott’s Miracle-Gro.
My observation at this show was that the theme this year was clearly ‘green.’ As expected, there were more organic or eco-friendly products than ever before. That’s a great thing to see, and it clearly reflects a response to consumer demands.
Although my eyes are always watchful, this show is the first place I come each year to seek out the next and newest candidates for the “joe gardener Best of the Must-Haves (BOMH)” list. Some years are more productive than others. Two years ago for example, the show proved to be a goldmine for great new products. I left that show feeling like I had discovered many great prospects.
The problem with having a really great year is that the following year will usually not be as good. I’ve learned that creating great new gardening products – truly unique and worthy of further scrutiny – don’t come along every day. In fact, they don’t come along very often at all.
That was the case last year. I went to the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas and was so disappointed with the lack of new, interesting products that I cut my trip short and returned home the same day! Discouraged, I found myself questioning how long I could keep up high standards for a great new lineup each year. Thankfully, 2007 turned out to be a great year, in spite of a slow start.
This year, I did see a few potential candidates. Of course, it will take some deeper digging, but at least I didn’t feel shut out. I’d give you a hint as to what they are, but I just can make any revelations yet.
You might wonder what I look for when I attend this event. First, I’m looking for products I’ve never seen before. This show even has a new product section featuring the newest introductions. I always get a sick feeling when I explore this area and don’t see anything impressive – especially since I always go here first.
My next step is to walk the floor, row by row. This can be an intimidating, because it’s a massive endeavor. In fact, it’s difficult to see every booth in just one day, which is what I try to do.
I’m also looking for the products I’ve become aware of through trade journals, etc. but have yet to see first hand. The show is a chance for me meet the inventor or product rep, plus see and test drive the product. It’s also the time I ask lots of questions. Sometimes, my interests are piqued, and escalate the product as a possible BOMH candidate, but more often than not, I eliminate the product for good.
After having attended these shows for a number of years, my conclusion is that there are lots of companies selling basically the same stuff. The only difference is the packaging.
Wading through the sea of undesirables is still a necessary step in the search for the next great product to tell you about. I equate it to turning over a lot of stones to find that diamond. It’s just what the team and I do to bring you the best. No shortcuts. It’s a long process, but we’ll keep looking. I think we’re off to a good start for 2008.