Starter’s Orders! Charlie Cracknell gets us in the mood for Spring Fair 2020

As we get ready for the main event of the UK retail trade calendar, GGR talks to Spring Fair Portfolio Director, Charlie Cracknell, about what’s in store for 2020.

There have been a lot of big changes for Spring Fair as we start the new decade, can you run through the main developments with us?

“As soon as Spring Fair 2019 wrapped up, we were already thinking ahead to 2020 and the exciting re-edit that would be taking place. We were acutely aware that the 2020 show would exist in a retail environment that may look very different to how it did back at the beginning of 2019. We set about pre-empting what we thought visitors would need and want to see from a retail show in the new decade. We reacted to feedback, research and buying habits to create a show where everything complemented each other much more.

“In the spirit of newness we’ve launched our ‘Hello New!’ show theme, and totally revamped the Spring Fair offering for 2020. We’ve completely overhauled the show floor layout to create two dedicated buying locations – Gifts and Home & Living – to create a more seamless show experience. Across both destinations there will be 16 carefully curated show sectors filled with new exhibitors, product ranges and business opportunities.

“We’ve designed the re-edit specifically to help visitors gain insight into the kinds of products that are likely to captivate attention-poor consumers throughout 2020 and well into 2021. We’re also focused on helping retailers to better realise the cross-buying opportunities that can enable them to diversify their offering to customers.”

What about this year’s show are you most looking forward to?

“More than anything, it’s the new look and feel of the show, the new ways of shopping we’re bringing in for 2020 and the new buying destinations we’ve created with the re-edit. I am really looking forward to getting into the ‘show experience’; from the trends onsite, to the design of the stages, all the new features, the products and the new exhibitors. I can’t wait to see everything come together into a destination of creativity, inspiration, experience.

“This year I’m also really excited to be able to work with our show trend partners Colour Hive again. Having your finger on the pulse of upcoming product trends can be the difference between a year that breaks sales records and a year that your sales take a downturn. Keeping on top of what’s coming up is vital. That’s why working with Colour Hive again is key. They’ll be helping exhibitors to explore what shades and tones will be catching the eye of consumers throughout the year, and provide vital advice and guidance for exhibitors.”

“I’m also looking forward to seeing our revamped VIP programme, The Club, which will recognise and reward loyal visitors, as well as make their show experiences more memorable.”

What do you think will define the retail environment in 2020?

“Consumer culture is changing in ways we couldn’t have foreseen even a few years ago. Consumers are demanding products that reflect their core values and beliefs. Increasingly marketing in the sector is becoming much less about selling consumers the products that they think they need and far more about more conscious and conscientious consumerism. This isn’t just about sustainable or ethical products. We can expect to see more products that help consumers live fulfilling lives and improve their personal wellbeing, as well as more brands that are keen to showcase their authenticity.”

How important is the sustainability factor to Spring Fair and your exhibitors?

“At Spring Fair I’m pleased to say that most of our attendees and exhibitors are very clear that sustainability has to be a priority for them in 2020, not least those who are participating in our Sustainability Trail. We are excited that so many exhibitors and visitors are putting sustainability and ethical considerations on their agenda, and we want to help however we can.

“The Sustainability Trail is one way in which we’re supporting brands making a real difference. This new initiative highlights some of the most ethically and environmentally conscious exhibitors at the show. We want to make it easier than ever before for visitors to connect with ethically and environmentally-friendly suppliers. By marking the exhibitors that are making significant changes to become increasingly sustainable, we can really draw attention to those who want to help futureproof the retail sector. We have also launched the ‘Power of One Transparency Award’ which will reward an exhibitor who has truly committed to making a difference in the industry, through their supply chain transparency and rigorous ethical standards.”

Do you think more needs to be done by exhibitors and retailers to help educate consumers and embrace sustainability?

“To ask the reverse would actually be more appropriate – it’s how exhibitors and visitors can learn from consumers. It’s consumers who are calling for greater sustainability and showing the big sector players that it really does pay to be keenly focused on their impact on the planet. Business, and the retail sector in particular, can be a force for change – more dynamic, more open to evolving and more keen to lead by example. But we mustn’t forget that it’s consumers that are driving this response from retail.”

Spring Fair has a great, dedicated team working on the delivering the UK’s leading retail trade event, and they talk to thousands exhibitors and see hundreds of thousands of products between them – are there any big favourites?

“That’s really the joy of our job – we get such a unique insight into product trends across all areas of the retail space. It’s difficult to say who’s really creating a buzz at the Spring Fair office because, frankly, we’re excited to see what’s on offer across the show from thousands of our exhibitors. We’re excited to see new lines from our most recognizable exhibitors and welcome thousands of products from across all the sectors. There’s going to be a buzz around the whole show, from Gift to Play & Tech and from Fashion to Everyday.

“Personally, I am also looking forward to seeing the growth in our Everyday sector. We have some really interesting products coming out of Airpure, with their ranges of fully vegan and cruelty-free air-care products. It’s always fun to see what Design Group bring to Spring Fair each year – their UK manufactured Christmas crackers, gift wrap and stationery always brings a little bit of the festive season to the show, as well as a real sense of occasion. We also have new ranges of household refuse sacks, food bags, caddy liners from the Economy Bag Company – they’re also bringing products from their biodegradable and recycled materials ranges too, which is a bonus.”

Do you have any trend tips?

“Giving has become more personalised in recent years, with gifting becoming more openly about kindness. Coming to Europe’s largest gifting collection is the perfect way for visitors to come to learn more about these changes in consumers’ gifting attitudes, as well as specific product trends such as the rise of self-care, homemade and artisan products. In particular, I’ll be keeping my eye on the homemade artisan product market in the year ahead.”

What is your favourite place in the world (you’re not allowed to say The NEC!)?

“Is it too cheeky for me to say Birmingham?! It has everything; more miles of canals than Venice, lots of great food places and great shopping at the Bullring – there’s more than enough for you to make a day of it!”

Spring Fair will run from February 2 – 6 at The NEC, Birmingham. Click here to register for your free ticket

Images from top to bottom: Spring Fair show shot; Ecostardust sustainable glitter; Emma’s Soap; Feiz and Grace copper goblet, Silver Pasta greeting card; Squelch children’s wellies with socks; Airpure eco freshner, Economy Bag Company biodegradable bin bags; Hogwart’s Express model by Hornby Hobbies brand, Corgi