As the daddy of British retail exhibitions, Spring Fair (February 4 – 9) is a veritable gifting feast with multifarious new product treats in store for visiting retailers.
This beautiful tableware by Danish exhibitor, By Room, stopped us in our tracks. By Room imports unique home accessories inspired by culture and traditional craftsmanship from India. The business is strongly focused on sustainability very seriously, creating jobs in rural India and often manufacturing from recycled materials. Products are handmade in India using Danish design principles.
This year’s Spring Fair was busy and buzzing, with a particularly strong continent of greetings and stationery suppliers and a truly fabulous presentation of contemporary gift and homeware, demonstrating the UK’s market-leading status in these categories at retail. Pictured here is the Henna Adel licensed range by Putinki Oy Ltd
We were also delighted to see exceptional product showcases from proudly British designers, makers and other companies, who were keen to put the Brexit whinge behind us and focus on making the most of our exceptional artisan design talent.
Risdon & Risdon were part of the Shropshire collective exhibiting with the Giftware Association. This is a family business creating a new breed of workwear from their workshop in Shrewsbury from finest quality canvas, high grade denim or full-grain leather, all with removable leather straps and metalware fastenings cast in a British foundry. Lifetime Guarantee.
The Great British Exchange had a fabulous stand at the show, offering British supplier members a global network of retailers and affordable route to a broader market. This great company is now providing a sort of brokerage service to retailers of the stature of John Lewis, and countless independents who want to stock small British suppliers with the minimum of hassle.
The inclusion of a Glee concession at Spring Fair for the first time reinforced the monumental importance of garden centres to the gifting trade, with some exhibitors, including At Home in the Country, stating that one in every two visitors to their stand was a garden centre.
Other parts of the show we found inspiring included the truly spectacular showcase from seasonal decorations specialist, Gisela Graham, who excelled herself again with her fabulous stand within Spring Fair’s exclusive Summerhouse sector.
More seasonal inspiration was evident on the colourful Winter in Venice stand, where the hot trend for luxury, gift-filled Advent calendars caught our beady eyes. For the first time this year I treated myself to a Liberty luxury beauty Advent calendar and I can see myself doing this year-in-year-out. There are plenty of fabulous alternatives out there to help independent retailers build on this great gifting trend.
Nearby in Hall 9 we loved the colourful and vibrant table and home accessories brought to market by My Gifts Trade, which recently acquired ECP and was full of good vibes for the year ahead. They also featured a beautiful display of Sara Miller’s multi-award winning licensed collections, which lit up several corners of the show for its duration. The I Like Birds licensed collection (below) was also beautifully displayed and is a very popular choice for garden centre buyers in particular.
Also in Hall 9 was the exceptional Ulster Weavers, whose renowned home textiles ranges go from strength to strength and include some exceptional licensed product. We really liked the new Eden Project range pictured here.
In Hall 6 we discovered a gorgeous collection of Jessica Russell Flint licensed luxury stationery from industry favourite Soul. Jessica’s colourful, wild and exotic designs already appear on a number of product categories (below) and the stationery will be stocked by Soul from March onwards.
Hall 20, meanwhile, offered a wonderful new British beauty and wellbeing brand from Cornwall, Living Sea Therapy, packed full of native seaweed extracts and other nutrient-rich, organic goodies. Billed as ‘a voyage from sea to skin’, Living Sea Therapy is a window on Cornwall’s unique geological past. It works works with sister companies the Cornish Sea Salt Co. and Cornish Seaweed Co. plus a team of marine biologists, environmentalists and leading therapists, to develop the range using sustainable hand harvesting and exclusive processes.
Holding court in Hall 4 was giftware and collectables giant, Enesco, which had an impressive stand to match its stature as one of the leading suppliers to the gift British and international gift trade. There were too many great brands to mention but we could not pass by without mentioning the adorable Beatrix Potter collection, which just keeps getting better.
For publisher Charlotte Cowell it’s always a good day to see Beatrix Potter! She is pictured here on the Enesco stand, which included a large feature area placing Beatrix Potter’s wonderful characters in rustic setting.
As always Spring Fair offered a fantastic selection of home fragrance products and this remains one of the most important categories for gifting. Iconic supplier in this field, Ashleigh & Burwood, displayed a number of ranges but the show was once again stolen by their gorgeous, eye-popping Wild Things collection, which rocks the tropical trend in luxury style.
We were also spoilt for choice in the world’s biggest greeting card showcase in Hall 3, where one of our favourite companies, The Little Dog Laughed, celebrated 20 years in business with a wonderful new RSPCA licensed collection.
The Giftware Association, always a vital component of Spring Fair, hosted a super stand which highlighted the wonderful British collective, Buy-From Shropshire, whose team offer extensive support for independent businesses in Shropshire and seek to connect consumers with the those who are making quality products in the county.
There are more than 70 dynamic and entrepreneurial businesses in the network, which can be seen as a collective group at numerous trade and retail events. The products range from original art work and educational children’s books, to beautiful artisan chocolate and handmade leather aprons.
The Giftware Association also hosted the Gift of the Year awards on the evening of Sunday February 4, headline sponsored by Spring Fair organiser Ascential. GGR publisher, Charlotte Cowell, was delighted to help judge the awards and to present category winner Talking Tables with the award for Hot Novelty. The prestigious Judges Choice award was given to Ginko Electronics for their innovative Octagon Desk Lamp, which had already scooped the Contemporary Gift category award. Other winners included:
Home: Limited Edition Brighton Pavilion Print, I Drew This
Kitchen & Dining: Recycled Denim Apron, Ian Snow
Festive & Occasional: Christmas Roast Dinner Box, Ross & Ross Food
General Gift: Hand Painted Gin Glass, Sunny by Sue
Gift Food: Indian Spice Tin and Handmade, Silk Sari Wrap, Spice Kitchen UK
Greetings & Stationery Collection: Mono and Pastel Greetings Cards, Peace & Blessing
Children’s Gift: Fantastic Dragon 3D Colourable, Ooly
Fashion Accessory: Sara Miller Silk Accessories, My Gifts Trade
Body, Bath & Home Fragrance: Great British Bee Co Handcare Range
Under £10: Gin & Tonic Handbag, Bath House
Garden & Outdoor: Green Picnic collection, Fallen Fruits
Licensed Product: Natural History Museum Gift in a Tin, Apples to Pears
Shirley Frost Award (for designer-makers): Handmade Artisan Gift Wrap, Paper Mirchi (Pictured bottom)
We predict that sustainable products of very sound, traceable provenance with strong organic, eco-friendly and/or fairtrade credentials will become increasingly important in the year ahead as consumers slowly wake up to environmental issues. Ian Snow’s stand at the show was exceptional, moving him out of the alternative fringes and right into the leading edge of home and giftware. With so many great suppliers championing eco and fairtrade causes the onus must now be on retailers to ensure these products are brought to market. We must get consumers to start thinking more green.