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Interview with Nara Horticultural Co., Ltd.

Nara Horticultural Co. Ltd has been Anthura’s distributor in South Korea for more than 20 years. They are the market leader in the ornamental plants segment, covering a nationwide distribution channel. Furthermore, they have embarked on retail business (both online and offline) combined with a bakery café that promotes an atmosphere that enhances the overall customer experience.

We talked with Steven Kwak, General Manager: “We are a proud member of the horticultural industry of South Korea and we love what we do!”

Can you tell us something about the company’s history?
Our history began in 1976, with the establishment of the Dae-ah Nursery founded by Wansik Chae. In 1999 Nara Horticultural became a private company and the founder Wansik Chae was appointed as CEO. Three years later the company reached a major milestone by converting into an agricultural company and appointed Michael Chae as the new CEO. A few years later we launched our first wholesale garden centre connecting growers with retailers. Last year we opened a new retail and online business along with our very own brand ‘Green Platform’: Nara Horticultural Mega Retail Centre opened on August 5th, 2022.

Can you tell us something about what you do?
We have many years of experience in ornamental plants and work closely with global breeding companies. We deliver new varieties to domestic growers based on partnerships with our suppliers and breeders from overseas.

We have been a market leader in introducing advanced breeding technologies and supplying plants to domestic wholesalers and retailers, as well as our growers, for the past 15 years. We also have a large distribution centre which allows us to work with big franchise stores. Our trade connects growers, wholesalers and, ultimately, consumers.

You are not a grower, but an agent. Can you explain what you do, especially in relation to Anthura and its Korean customers?
Nara: Our biggest strength is having a long-term partnership with expert growers of Anthurium varieties who are responsible for putting a smile on the face of Korean consumers. In addition, we specialize in working closely with our overseas partners to secure the highest quality young plants and deliver them to our partners. When the finished plants are ready, they arrive at our Cash & Carry centre for nationwide distribution. Finally, the beautiful Anthurium varieties reach the shelves of retailers, including our new retail store. Creating this valuable business synergy is what we do and it keeps us motivated to push ourselves to the next level.

You recently started a garden centre. Can you explain the motivation behind this?
Nara: The biggest factor in starting our retail business is to utilize the fast-paced changes in technology to enable our business to go online and reach the new demographic. In addition, the post-pandemic era has brought changes in consumer behaviour and spending habits. Hence, our goal is to lead the lifestyle trend by creating a new ‘Cool Green’ attitude with a social setting that delivers unique experience to our customers. Nowhere else in South Korea offers the combined services of a full garden centre along with a café.

What are the biggest differences with the Netherlands in terms of sales, production, sustainability, etc.? 
Nara: The horticultural industry and production facilities in the Netherlands are far more advanced compared to South Korea. There are so many valuable things to learn from the Netherlands’ advanced industry. This is why we take great pride in working with Anthura. One of our long-term goals is to get involved in the development of the horticultural industry and make a meaningful contribution for the next generation.

What could Dutch companies learn from you? 
Nara: Keeping traditions alive and growing together as a partner are key components to success. As mentioned earlier, we always take great pleasure in working and learning from the Dutch people. One thing we should consider for the future is being able to read and identify trends and make the required changes swiftly for the optimum results.

What can you learn from the Netherlands? 
Nara: Dutch people truly appreciate the tradition of peaceful and pleasant living spaces. They are reflected in their own homes as well as their offices. Dutch people are in love with sunshine, but also with luminosity. That’s why they like big windows, fresh flowers, and stylish yet practical furniture. These essential values are deeply embedded in Dutch culture. As a lifestyle trend setter, we will disseminate these key values in the market.

To what extent does the energy crisis in Europe affect you, and did you make any changes in your operations because of it?
Nara: The war in Ukraine and global inflation have brought challenges to all of us, and we are seeing price increases in every item from Europe. Even the price of plastic containers has risen dramatically. We are observing the current developments carefully so we can make the appropriate action plans for long-term effects.

How do you see the future of your company? 
Nara: We expect our new retail business to grow 40% (including the online store) in the next five years. In addition, we have a plan to open three more retail stores in Seoul by 2026. We are going to be fully engaged in expanding our business.

What role does Anthura play in this?
Nara: Anthura is one of our primary partners with whom we have been working closely for the past two decades. We count on Anthura to continuously introduce more exciting and beautiful Anthurium varieties, so that we can fill the homes of South Korean consumers with the exquisite taste of ornamental plants. At the end of the day, we will raise our glasses with Anthura and celebrate our great achievements together.

How do you experience this collaboration with Anthura? 
Nara: We would like to take this opportunity to thank Anthura for bringing so much success to Nara Horticultural Co., Ltd. We couldn’t have done it without your extended support and help! We look forward to growing with Anthura throughout the century!