MANTS: 48 years and still going strong

"US (MD): "People still see value in meeting face to face"

The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade show (MANTS) will be held for the 48th time from January 10-12, 2018. This annual horticulture show draws exhibiting companies and attendees from throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It has grown significantly since its establishment, and for several years now there is a waiting list of exhibitors because the space cannot accommodate all of the many companies that want to attend. This makes them think out of the box, and for the fourth time they are organizing a special breakfast where exhibitors can show their new products to the press. FloralDaily had a talk with Executive Vice President of MANTS Vanessa Finney about the show, the developments in the industry and the challenges they encounter.

MANTS was established 48 years ago to stimulate commerce in the ornamental horticulture industry. It is rooted as a nursery show which started with 64 exhibitors. Over the years, the exhibitor profile has become more diversified and it has grown to a show with over 960 exhibitors. "Currently, our exhibitors represent a diverse range of green industry businesses, including but not limited to, nursery and greenhouse growers, allied suppliers to the growing industry, retail garden center markets, landscape contractors and more,” says Finney. Also, the visitor base is quite broad. "Primarily, the attendance base are landscape contractors, buyers for retail garden centers, wholesale producers and everyone in between."

Too little space
The show covers over 300,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore (MD) and draws exhibiting companies and attendees from throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The show has the potential to grow even further, but MANTS has maxed out the exhibit space at the Convention Center. "The Baltimore Convention Center is the largest exhibition center in the region, and we want to stay in this region as the show is sponsored by the State Nursery and Landscape Associations of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. For about a dozen years now, we've had a waiting list for the exhibitors; currently, there are around 200 companies on this list."

Press breakfast
As the show floor is fully packed with exhibitors' booths, there is no space to host a separate new-products showcase. So, in order to offer exhibitors an opportunity to showcase their new products to the press, MANTS is organizing a special press breakfast for select exhibitors and industry press. "Trade shows often have a special area where new products are being showcased, but we simply do not have enough space. So, for the fourth time, we are organizing this breakfast on the second day of the show. It gives the press, who write for B2B and B2C journals, a sort of lead to look out for at the show and it offers select exhibitors the opportunity to get the message directly out to their target group", says Finney.

Any companies who are debuting new products at MANTS 2018 and would like to be considered as a presenter for the press breakfast should reach out to the MANTS team to submit information about your new products.

Following housing trends
According to Finney, the nursery industry is very strong on the East Coast. "The industry tends to follow the housing market, so when this is strong, the nursery and greenhouse industry is strong." Attendance numbers at MANTS are also often a reflection of the economy: “During the Great Recession from 2008 to 2011, for example, we saw a decline in attendance. The decrease was not significant, however, because people still see the value in meeting face to face; it is key for building a solid relationship." And the relationships MANTS attendees have developed over the years are quite strong. “We have folks that have come to the show for 20, 30, almost 50 years, and see MANTS as a sort of reunion."

It is also promising to see that the younger generation of green industry professionals find value in this opportunity to create and build their own relationships with clients face-to-face. Emergent, a group of young nursery professionals, meet at MANTS each year to reconnect and continue to develop their professional relationships, as generations before them did, and still do. Last year, MANTS welcomed over 11,300 total registrants to the show, this year, they expect similar attendance numbers.

Looking to the future
An important goal, and a challenge at the same time, is the exhibition area. "In the future, I would like to figure out how everybody fits in. We want to offer everyone the opportunity to engage in the commerce", says Vanessa. Besides that, they are continuously working on maintaining a diverse and strong exhibitor base and attendance base with qualified buyers. "Even though we are organizing the show for the 48th time, we do not take anything for granted."

For more information
Vanessa Finney

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