Strong edition of UK’s leading retail exhibition reveals green shoots of economic growth; Largest new product offering in the country with over 300,000 launches; More than 66,500 buyers from 130 countries visited the show over six days; Expert consumer trend presentations helped define retail buying for the year ahead; UKTI report that Spring Fair was their most successful exhibition partnership to date;Gift of the Year 2014 Award winners announced by Sebastian Conran
Spring Fair International 2014, an i2i Events Group exhibition, opened its doors on February 2 2014 at The NEC, Birmingham, welcoming over 66,500* retail buyers, including more than 5,250 from overseas, a 2 per cent increase on last year’s show. They came to view over 300,000 new product launches from 3,000 exhibitors across 13 different market sectors.*
As the largest and most important retail trade event in the country, Spring Fair serves as a crucial barometer for the economic health of the sector. What has been widely billed as the most successful show in years revealed a clear upswing in the home and gift trade, and billions of pounds worth of transactions will be carried out as a direct result of participation in the show.
The upswing is being driven by a number of key factors, including an impressive commitment to new product development by Spring Fair exhibitors, teamed with a sharpened focus on consumer-driven trends and a clearer understanding of changing buying patterns from our nation of shopkeepers. The positive atmosphere on site at Spring Fair is supported by major industry research carried out by the Local Data Company on behalf of the show at the end of 2013 that shows a dramatic uplift in retail optimism.**
Particularly strong product categories at this year’s show included design-led home interiors and furnishings, outdoor living items, contemporary gifts, seasonal decorations, general giftware and British-made product. Expert trend presentations from WGSN and Tom Mirabile, contributing editor for Pantone View and SVP, Global Trend & Design for Lifetime Brands, provided Spring Fair visitors with an overview of key emerging trends, as well as insights into what drives consumer spending habits and earns consumer loyalty.
Along with tens of thousands of independent retailers, senior buyers from the biggest multiples, supermarkets and department stores, including Fenwicks, Debenhams, Bentalls, John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason and Tesco turned out in force for the UK’s largest retail trade exhibition.
Visitors were impressed by the quality and variety of product on display, with the bar being raised year-on-year as Spring Fair exhibitors pulled out all the stops to inspire and define retail buying for the year ahead. Gregory Olley, director of independent contemporary furniture store Beadle & Crome, commented.
“We come here every year and really enjoy it, there is a very nice mix of products and suppliers, it is our favourite UK show, I can’t actually fault it. The quality has definitely gone up and up since we started coming eight years ago. We noticed from the pre-show literature that there are some really fantastic contemporary products here and we’re looking forward to seeing them on the stands. At Spring Fair you can find great suppliers who are keen to work with independent stores, there is a fantastic selection here to choose from, with a lot of cross-over buying opportunities. We find it very inspirational”.
Social media networks went into overdrive as visitors shared their experiences of the show throughout the week. The Alresford Linen Company tweeted that they’d: “Had a great day buying yesterday at Spring Fair, loads of gorgeous Spring colours to make our shop look fab”.
Exhibitors were also happy, with Paul Hooker, commercial director of Joe Davies saying: “It’s been a fantastic show, we’ve been extremely busy every day. We have 7,500 products in our range and we launch 2,500 at Spring Fair, it’s a very important show for us. We’ve had everyone from small independent retailers to good department stores buying from us here.”
Steve Webb, sales director Straits Trading Company, commented: “I’m delighted, we’ve had a really good start to the show, it’s gone back to how it was 3 or 4 years ago, it’s a long time since it’s been this busy. In terms of the types of retailers we’ve had on, there have been a number of blue chips – all our major accounts have come – and export has been really good, especially from Middle Eastern customers”.
Paula Leggett, marketing manager for first time exhibitor, international kitchen and tableware brand Berghoff, said: “Berghoff is a well-known brand that’s already sold throughout 61 countries and we’re using the Spring Fair to launch it to the UK market for the first time. We’ve had a really positive reception to the products and I’m impressed by how good it’s been. There has been a good mix of independent and major retailers coming onto the stand showing interest.”
A new development for i2i Events Group that positively impacted Spring Fair is a strengthened partnership agreement with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), designed to inspire and support UK-based SMEs in their efforts to succeed in overseas markets. UKTI helped Spring Fair achieve a 2 per cent increase in overseas visitors attending the show compared with the 2013 event.
The partnership boosted international representation at Spring Fair, helping to provide British suppliers with an entry point to international markets and featuring prominent ‘Best of British’ showcases and ‘Exporter’ trails throughout the exhibition. Five UKTI Villages were located around The NEC with a total of 50 hand-chosen exhibitors, all entrepreneurial British companies with a particular strength in export business that are new to the show.
Also taking place once again at Spring Fair was the Gift of the Year Awards ceremony, with winners being revealed on Sunday February 2 by special guest Sebastian Conran. The internationally renowned product designer gave an entertaining speech that stressed the importance of giving gifts – and the thought that went into this – rather than the buying of vouchers and top-up cards. The prestigious Judge’s Choice award was won by Thabto for its Subbuteo Bottle Opener, which also won the Commemorative and Collectable Gifts and Gifts for Men categories.
Speaking at the close of another successful edition of Spring Fair, managing director Louise Young commented: “There was an incredibly positive and upbeat vibe at the show this year, reflecting both the fantastic quality of product being launched and a welcome return to buoyancy in the retail trade. We saw a strong upswing in particular of Home Interiors & Furniture and Greetings & Stationery companies choosing Spring Fair as their UK showcase, and it’s great to see those market sectors performing so well after a few challenging years. The overwhelming majority of exhibitors are very happy with how the show went.
“I would like to thank everyone who participated for supporting Spring Fair, which continues to be the most important retail exhibition in the UK and a crucial barometer for the wider economy. I hope all involved have an excellent year of trading ahead and we’re now looking forward to a strong edition of Autumn Fair International in September.”
The next edition of Spring Fair International will take place from February 1 – 5 at The NEC, Birmingham. Volume halls open one day early on January 31
Images from top to bottom: Claire Giles makes a lovely display of her new greetings cards, a scene from the fashion catwalk, an on-trend product presentation from Claremont & May, Juicy Lucy entertains her fans; Sabivo Designs is the centre of attention, G&G Review publisher Charlotte Cowell helps to launch the Cardgains 25th anniversary competition, Gift of the Year Award and a new giftwrapping concept from The Great British Card Company.