Last month I thought we had a cool summer. It seems that we actually had an above average summer but for the first time in 20+ years we didn't have a day over 40. This is good for our industry as it kept the garden centres busy. It also meant lots of growth in the bush which means a big fire season soon. It seems that most other states have had a fairly mild and disaster free summer. I hope you all did well this year.
We have just finished our fourth Herb and Chilli Festival. It was a great success with a 10% increase in numbers form 2014. One of my personal goals was to have no Face Book complaints on the Monday morning. We were pleased to achieve this goal especially since there were several food festivals in recent months that were caned. They made some simple and basic mistakes but the caning kept people away and may make it hard for them to run in 2016.
We are always being told that the Social Media is the new world and that we have to be a part of it. For our Tubestock business it is of little use as we generally communicate with our customers directly. With the Festival it is what has enabled us to grow from nothing to 5000 plus attendees in four years. Appropriate advertising in the media is still important but our surveys showed Facebook and 'friends' were the two major reasons people came.
Social Media for anything dealing with the public is important and it enables a cost effective way of communicating with the end consumer. New products, different packaging and promotions and retail changes can quickly and easily be marketed. There is always a minus with a plus and in Social Media it is the speed with which a complaint can be made and spread.
I remember the old ways of dealing with complaints was to speak directly with the customer and offer a restitution and keep it all quiet. Now it is a must to respond quickly and openly to complaints. One of the events I referred to earlier closed down its face book page when the complaints got too large. Dumb as someone simply opened a new Facebook page. We have responded to all the complaints we have had over the four years - no matter how small or how silly. One was that we hadn't left enough room for the person to spread out a picnic rug. The other interesting thing is that if a complaint is justified there will soon be others also making negative comments. If it is frivolous others are quick to put in a contrary view. It was pleasing to watch all those who had enjoyed our festival to jump to our defense when some negative comments were posted.
The next question is how do you measure success? Is it numbers through the gate, dollars in the bank, complaint levels or the overall feel of the event? We feel we did well in all these areas but it takes a lot of time so the next question is, 'is it all worth it?'. As we get older sometimes we look to lessening our workload. To create more time to relax and do non-work things. It is a great feeling to create something that is a success and sometimes that is the best thing in life.
Now we are setting up for MIFGS. This is our tenth year there and it takes so much less time and effort to set up. It seems a lot easier and thus we can do it better and enjoy the festival more. It is one of the best garden shows in the world and the work that goes into creating all the displays is immense. Many of these have no financial benefit just the pleasure of creating a great garden display. We also enjoy the chance to talk to other stall holders and the many gardening enthusiast that come through. To see what they are doing in their gardens and what plants are becoming popular.
Edibles are still important in the Australian Garden. So is the ability to eat and cook in the garden. We are lucky in this country as there are more days in the year where we can open the house and bring in the garden than there are days we can't. It certainly makes for a better life style. It is also what keeps our industry alive and growing. Have a busy autumn and a great Easter - go easy on the chocolate.