Buyers from top UK and international stores turn out in force
Exhibitors enthuse about record sales and a positive outlook for 2015
The first Buyers Power List Award winners are revealed
Gift of the Year Award winners announced by Sebastian Conran
Celebrity speakers inspired packed audiences at content theatres
Spring Fair 2015, an i2i Events Group exhibition, welcomed the UK’s leading retailers to this year’s show, which took place from February 1 – 5 at The NEC, Birmingham.
Senior buyers from Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, Fenwicks, John Lewis, Heals, Oliver Bonas, Ocado, Steamer Trading Cookshop, Toys R Us, Temptation Gifts – and thousands more beside them – brought a buying power that runs into billions to 3,000 Spring Fair exhibitors across 14 different market sectors*.
One of the key developments for 2015 was the unveiling of a transformed Home sector in Hall 1, which proved hugely successful for the hundreds of supplies who showcased their latest home interiors, furniture, lighting and wall-art lines within this part of Spring Fair.
Speaking at the close of the show on Thursday February 5, the event organiser for Coach House, David Willan commented: “Spring Fair is always fabulous but this year it has been exceptional, both for our main stand and the Christmas stand. We’ve seen all our regular customers, lots and lots of new customers, international visitors, you name it – we couldn’t want for more, we’ve seen everyone! The organisation has been brilliant and we couldn’t be more happy. I think the move to Hall 1 has worked really well for this sector and the general consensus among exhibitors is very positive, it’s been one hell of a show!”
The strategic move of Home to the front of the exhibition and the inclusion of both leading British and forward thinking international brands was instrumental in helping to attract a very high quality of buyer to this rapidly growing sector of Spring Fair. Companies such as Chic Antique, Authentic Models BV, Light & Living, Du Bout Du Monde, Baroque International, Coach House, Voyage Decoration and Kerry Darlington all helped reorient Spring Fair towards the upper end of the Home market.
The main Gift Hall of the show was also buzzing, with companies such as Root Candles experiencing a very high influx of visitors to their stand. The president of Root Candles, Brad Root said: “I love Spring Fair. We were well accepted when we launched to the UK market last year and this year we did a promotion in the hall entrance that drove a lot of traffic to our stand so we’re very happy. We’ve taken on a lot of regional garden centres and independent gift stores and our expectations for this show have definitely been met.”
Tom Sykes, general manager of Xystos, echoed the positive sentiment, saying: “Sunday and Monday were fantastic and on both days we doubled the business we did at Spring Fair last year. By the close of the show on Monday we had already achieved the order figures of last year’s Spring Fair. I am very pleased. Everyone at the show seemed to be extremely upbeat about 2015.”
More closely aligned with gifts than ever before was the rebranded Table & Kitchen sector, which for 2015 undertook a strategic move to Hall 9 that saw this crucial part of the show flanked by The Summerhouse in Hall 8, Gifts in Hall 5 and volume housewares in Halls 10, 11 and 12. The move enabled Table & Kitchen suppliers to reach a larger proportion of Spring Fair’s huge contingent of gift retailers, alongside the thousands of specialist kitchen shops, department stores and garden centre buyers who regularly attend the show.
Another new development for the 2015 event was the launch of the Retail Shop brand in Hall 4, where exhibitors represented a multitude of products and services that are crucial to multi-channel retailing, including in-store and online solutions, logistics and fulfillment experts, marketing platforms, payment providers and specialists in packaging.
Central to Retail Shop was the e-Commerce seminar theatre, which ran throughout the show with a fantastic content schedule that featured Mind Candy and Firebox founder Michael Acton Smith OBE as the keynote speaker.
This highly inspiring individual first attended Spring Fair in 1999, where like so many other successful entrepreneurs he brought his first products to market. Describing his meteoric career trajectory since then as “an amazing, rollercoaster journey, one big crazy adventure”, Acton Smith said he was “inspired by being [at the show again] and seeing all the stands and new ideas.”
Encouraging his packed audience to “Think big, have a huge vision and mission,” he also reminded them that two billion people now have access to the internet and this figure will double in the near future. There are more smartphones on the market than toothbrushes, he pointed out, and this is “one of the best times in history to be an entrepreneur.”
Acton Smith was a guest of UK Trade & Investment, which is partnering with Spring Fair and other i2i Events Group exhibitions to help UK companies develop successful export strategies, with advice, market knowledge and financial support.
Another exciting new development for Spring Fair 2015 was the launch of the Spring Fair Buyers Power List Awards, sponsored by major Dutch lifestyle brand Light & Living. The Awards were held on Monday February 2nd from the stunning location of the Fashion Accessories Catwalk in Hall 20.
The Group Portfolio Director for Retail at i2i Events Group, Louise Young, commented: “I am thrilled to be launching this event in conjunction with Light & Living. The Buyers Power List Awards are dedicated to celebrating the people at the pinnacle of British Retail, and Spring Fair is proud to be driving this exciting and relevant industry initiative”.
Light & Living International Sales Director Paul Biermann said: “I am extremely proud to be part of this year’s Buyers Power List Awards, which shine a spotlight on outstanding men and women who are all true inspiration to their buying colleagues.”
• Best Independent Retail Buyer or Team: Temptation Gifts
• Best Multiple Retailer or Department Store: John Lewis
• Power 30 winner: Gillian Leahy, Buying Manager, Ocado
Commenting on her win, Gillian said: “I am very humbled to have been nominated, and was even more blown away that I won! I couldn’t have done it without all the great suppliers who have the same passion for product that we do [at Ocado].”
The managing director of Temptation Gifts, Mike Adams said: “For over 30 years, Spring Fair has been the single most important date in our buying calendar, and I am sure it will remain so. This year we allocated 17 “man-days” to this event, and we estimate it will take until the end of March to complete all our follow-up. An independent endorsement of our buying skills is an extremely valuable award, and we intend to make sure that all our customers get to hear about it!”
The Buyers Power List shortlist was compiled and reviewed in the run-up to Spring Fair by an advisory panel of key industry influencers that included The Giftware Association, Bira, Bira direct and BHETA.
Also held during Spring Fair was The Gift of the Year Awards presented by GA ambassador and international product designer Sebastian Conran, who described the competition as: “A barometer of trends in the gift and home market – reflecting the ever-changing landscape of the economy”.
There were 20 separate categories to the Awards and the overall Judges Choice prize was given to British ceramics manufacturer, My Gifts Trade for their Hinchcliffe & Barber licensed Songbird Grey Ceramics range.
The next edition of Spring Fair will take place from Sunday January 31 – Thursday February 4 2016, with the Volume Halls opening one day early on Saturday January 30. For more information visit the website: www.springfair.com
* Show sectors include: Gift; Contemporary Gift; Greetings & Gift; Children’s Gift, Toys & Gadgets; Christmas Gift, Floral & Seasonal Decoration; Gift, Home & Volume; Home; Table & Kitchen; Fashion Jewellery, Accessories & Luggage; Body & Bath; The Summerhouse; The Party Show; Retail Shop and Jewellery & Watch Birmingham.