This month, our Landscaping Focus Page is privileged to publish an exclusive interview with Richard Kay, Chairman of Green-tech and now National Chairman of B.A.L.I.

We spoke with Richard on a number of current topics within the Landscape industry.

Planteria: 'Coupled with the 'Green City Movement', the Landscape Industry has seen a significant rise in both its stature and level of importance over the past decade.  As Chairman of Green-tech Ltd, what changes have you seen personally during this period?'

Richard: 'Without question, the rise in the demand to 'green-up' our environment and increase both well-being and our mental health has been meteoric, particularly this year. Developers are seeing the value in landscaping as it has a recognised positive impact on the built environment – people, places, health and wellbeing, and development prices.' 

'Sustained tree planting and the movement to 'Green the City', has created both a tremendous challenge and opportunity for the landscape and nursery supply sector. The increase in house values has been enhanced by the boom in garden renovation, which is set to continue, given the 'new normal'. 

Planteria: 'The range of products that you supply into both U.K. and overseas customers has also increased during this time. Do you see this as an on-going trend?'

Richard: 'To an extent, yes. There is an clear need to reduce ongoing maintenance costs and we are seeing an increase in the use of wildflowers in many landscape schemes such as roadside verges which look beautiful and negates the need for mowing and weeding. We are also seeing a surge in innovative ideas, especially within green roofs and green infrastructure to enhance the build environment.'

The use of recycled verge material such as Tree Tubes and shelters is another growth area where the longevity of these products is key as well as reducing plastic waste. We are working in partnership with Tubex on a Tree Shelter Recycling Programme which offers a second-life for the plastics used in the manufacture of tree shelters and tubes. It is a recycling-scheme that is uncomplicated, simple to execute and a serious offering to the landscape market. It will tick the boxes with plastic-conscious clients.”

Planteria: 'Of these products, which have given you the most satisfaction to see used in the Landscape and Horticultural sectors, for example?'

Richard: '26 years ago we set out to create Green-tech as the ultimate one-stop-shop supplier of landscaping products. We wanted to deliver everything the customer needed in one delivery, on time and coupled with excellent customer service. Today, it stills gives me a buzz of great satisfaction to see this happen on a daily basis.'

Planteria: ' You currently export to 14 countries. How might Brexit affect the supply of your products to Europe and are there any plans in place to overcome these potential issues?'

Richard: 'Our export division has recently supplied both irrigation and drainage products to global outposts such as Nigeria, Zambia and Dubai! All checks and balances are in place as far as we can prepare, ahead of 2021. It remains to be seen what develops in this regard.'

Planteria: 'In terms of your current marketing programme, which elements now provide the 'best returns?'

Richard: 'A combination of direct phone calls, digital meetings, our trade media PR campaign and social networking such as LinkedIn all combine to maintain a constant awareness of our significant product profile. We still use as many pieces of the marketing jigsaw as we feel as it’s even more important to cover as much ground as possible.' 

'Our 2021 Catalogue will be available shortly and is still mailed as hard copy to our client database. Direct Mail also remains beneficial as an extension to the new media!'

Planteria: 'How do you view the lack of physical trade fairs at this time and will this have an direct effect on bottom line sales figures?'

Richard: 'We sorely miss the face-to-face element of these. Our business has been built on ‘pressing the flesh’ and meeting with customers and suppliers. Industry events are a great vehicle for us to meet a lot of contacts at once. This remains the best way to network but we have to adapt to the current situation and so we are utilising other areas of our marketing mix and digital technologies to keep in touch with our customers.’

Planteria: ' Congratulations on your new role as National Chairman of B.A.L.I.'

The world is in a time of global turbulence with Covid-19. Given the situation, what do you see as the most important aspects of this position and how can the association play its part in the new normal?

Richard: ' I am delighted to accept this new role. The challenge at this time is to maintain the stature and profile of an association which is very strong. With 900 plus members to support, we have issued many guidance documents such as ‘Covid-19 Restart and Rebuild Strategy’ and engaged members with a series of webinars. In 2022, B.A.L.I. will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. We are already looking ahead to what will be a very historical time.'