The UK’s most important retail buyers turned out in force for a buzzing edition of Spring Fair, which took place from February 7 – 11 2016 and this year coincided with the 40th anniversary of The NEC, Birmingham.
The show brought together thousands of exhibitors across 13 sectors from around the UK and wider global community, with hundreds joining Spring Fair for the first time and many of them choosing the show as their exclusive UK or international launchpad.
New brands for 2016 included: On Interiors, Wow! Stuff, Boska, IB Laursen, SIA, Riviera Maison and Au Maison.
Bjarne Lund Jepson, Marketing Manager of new Summerhouse exhibitor, IB Laursen said: “Spring Fair has been very good for us. It’s the right place, all the big brands are here, it is a very professional trade event.”
This year’s exhibition incorporated a new layout which saw Greetings & Stationery relocated to Hall 3, adjacent to The Party Show, some of the country’s leading gift and toy suppliers took up new positions in Halls 4 and 5, with Children’s Gifts, Toys & Gadgets alongside in 5.
Also new for 2016 was a Trend showcase between Hall 9 (Kitchen, Dining & Housewares) and Hall 8 (The Summerhouse), featuring some of the hottest and most searched for products on the huge online database used by retailers to plan their buying trips to Spring Fair.
More hot products were brought to the fore at the Gift of the Year 2016 Awards, presented by new Giftware Association ambassador Cath Kidston during a ceremony held at the Fashion Catwalk on Sunday February 7.
As well as presenting the biggest and best selection of new products available to the trade this year, Spring Fair also offered visitors a wealth of free business content across a number of seminar theatres and feature areas.
The E-commerce seminar theatre was located in the extended Retail Solutions sector in Hall 6 running a packed schedule of invaluable content for retailers looking to hone their competitive edge in a rapidly evolving technological and economic environment.
In Hall 2, Spring Fair partner UKTI hosted a series of export-focused seminars, while the Fashion Accessories Catwalk in Hall 20 set the scene for a range of inspiring trend presentations in between catwalk shows that ran three times a day for the duration of the exhibition.
Expert speakers included Anna Rigby, head of buying, home accessories, gifts and seasonal, John Lewis; Brett Kritzler, eBay Business Seller Growth, eBay; Catherine Bennett, lead retail account manager, Twitter; Charlie Ruigrok, digital trade adviser, UKTI and Dave Morrisey, client solutions manager, retail & e-Commerce, Facebook.
The look and feel of the show was enhanced by wide, boulevard-style aisles, providing a seamless and stress-free visitor experience as the exhibition halls became easier to navigate. Feedback from buyers was very positive, with the onsite guides and new show map deemed invaluable for orientation around an exhibition space the size of 27 football pitches.
As well as attracting tens of thousands of retailers, contract buyers, interior designers, specifiers and other trade visitors, the country’s premier buying event was also well-attended by celebrity designers and TV stars including The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and Paul Hollywood, who both launched licensed product ranges at Spring Fair.
The Bake Off stars joined other celebrities in the Kitchen, Dining & Housewares sector in Hall 9. Historic cutlery manufacturer Arthur Price hosted design collaborators Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen and Sophie Conran, with the latter also presenting a new range for T&G Woodware, while Ulster Weavers launched a licensed range with British designer Kelly Hall.
Arthur Price owner Simon Price commented: “Spring Fair 2016 was a great event for us. We had a strong multiple product launch, met lots of important buyers and reached our business and brand objectives.”
Giants of the gift trade were also there in force, with major supplier Widdop & Co kicking off the show with a drinks reception to celebrate their new company name and identity, and Carte Blanche Group holding a party to celebrate the 21st anniversary of iconic brand Me to You.
Another regular exhibitor, Xystos, reported record-breaking sales results at Spring Fair, with director Tom Sykes saying: “By the Monday night we had written the same amount of business as we had for the whole of the 2015 show – and on Thursday morning we had more than doubled it. Footfall on our new stand has been terrific. We have opened around 50 new accounts and have more than 200 prospects to follow up. It’s been an extremely positive show and most lines in our portfolio have seen a doubling of sales.”
Retailers gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience of Spring Fair. Martin de la Fuente, senior buying manager for non-food at Ocado, commented: “Spring Fair still remains one of the most important dates in the buying calendar. It continues to provide buyers with the best opportunity to see new products and pick up on the latest trends. My team found Spring Fair 2016 invaluable for meeting new manufacturers, catching up with existing suppliers and viewing the latest developments. As a retail buyer, I can’t afford to miss Spring Fair.”
Independent retailers were also enthusiastic, with the owner of White Mint, Berkhamsted, Christopher Dell confirming: “Spring fair as always was hall after hall of ideas, helped me find some new brands to work with as well as giving me a chance to catch up with some familiar faces. We came out buzzing with ideas of what to do next. From a commercial sense the people we find at spring fair have new ideas that keep our shop relevant and fresh which hopefully gives us the edge we need to keep getting people through our doors”.
Commenting as the show closed its doors on Thursday February 11, portfolio director Nick Davison said: “I want to thank all our loyal customers, and those new to the exhibition, for supporting Spring Fair and helping to make it such a fantastic show.
“There have been some exceptional results and wonderful special events taking place and there was a great atmosphere of camaraderie throughout the show, which is the best place to do business and for members of the industry to network with their peers.
“We are now looking forward to both Autumn Fair 2016, which takes place from September 4 – 7 at The NEC, and the next edition of Spring Fair, which for 2017 will run from February 5 – 9”.
Register for your free tickets: www.autumnfair.com / www.springfair.com
Images top to bottom: Senior staff from i2i Events Group and The NEC celebrate 40 years in business together, IB Laursen, Portfolio, Cath Kidston, Fashion Accessories Catwalk, Heaven Sends, Paul Hollywood, Sophie Conran, Stephen Haines (Carte Blanche), Zeal, Nick Davison, Celebrating at Spring Fair