Spring Fair 2015 attracts leading buyers

Spring Fair 2015 welcomed some of the UK’s leading retailers to this year’s show, which took place from February 1 to February 5 at the NEC in Birmingham.

Spring Fair 2015 attracts leading buyers

Senior buyers from Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, Fenwick, John Lewis, Heal’s, Oliver Bonas, Ocado, Steamer Trading Cookshop, Toys R Us, Temptation Gifts – and thousands more, as well as visitors from 124 countries – brought a buying power that runs into billions to 3,000 exhibitors across 14 different market sectors, according to show organiser i2i Events Group.

The sectors included: Table & Kitchen; The Summerhouse; Gift; Contemporary Gift; Greetings & Gift; Children’s Gift, Toys & Gadgets; Christmas Gift, Floral & Seasonal Decoration; Gift, Home & Volume; Home; Fashion Jewellery, Accessories & Luggage; Body & Bath; The Party Show; Retail Shop and Jewellery & Watch Birmingham.

One of the key developments for 2015 was the unveiling of a transformed Home sector in Hall 1 which, i2i Events Group said, proved successful for the hundreds of supplies who showcased their latest home interiors, furniture, lighting and wall-art lines. 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’.

Also new for his year was the rebranded Table & Kitchen sector moving to Hall 9, to be flanked by The Summerhouse in Hall 8, Gifts in Hall 5 and volume housewares in Halls 10, 11 and 12. i2i Events Group said the relocation enabled Table & Kitchen suppliers to reach a larger proportion of Spring Fair’s huge contingent of gift retailers, alongside the thousands of specialist housewares shops, department stores and garden centre buyers who regularly attend the show.

Another development was the launch of the Retail Shop brand in Hall 4, where exhibitors represented products and services for multi-channel retailing, including in-store and online solutions, logistics and fulfilment 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 content schedule that featured Mind Candy and Firebox founder Michael Acton Smith OBE as keynote speaker.

He first attended Spring Fair in 1999, where he brought his first products to market. Describing his career 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 new initiative for 2015 was the launch of the Spring Fair Buyers Power List Awards, sponsored by Dutch lifestyle brand Light & Living. Group portfolio director for retail at i2i Events Group Louise Young commented: “I’m 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 added: “I’m 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.”

The awards are designed to recognise influential buying teams and individuals across all of the sectors represented at Spring Fair. The 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 (British Independent Retailers Association), bira direct and BHETA (British Home Enhancement Trade Association).

The winners were: Best Independent Retail Buyer or Team: Temptation Gifts; Best Multiple Retailer or Department Store: John Lewis; and Power 30 winner: Gillian Leahy, buying manager of Ocado. Commenting on her win, Gillian said: “I’m 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].”

Also held during Spring Fair was The Gift of the Year Awards presented by Giftware Association 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 in the Awards. T&G Woodware was the winner of the Kitchen & Dining category with its CrushGrind Optic Mills and the overall judges’ choice prize was given to British ceramics manufacturer My Gifts Trade for its Hinchcliffe & Barber licensed Songbird Grey Ceramics range.

The next edition of Spring Fair will take place at the NEC in Birmingham from Sunday January 31 to Thursday February 4 2016, with the volume halls opening one day early on Saturday January 30.

·Sebastian Conran will be speaking at The Housewares Conference 2015. Organised by Housewares Magazine and www.HousewaresLive.net, the event will be held on April 22 at Wokefield Park in Berkshire. For more details, click on www.housewaresconference.co.uk or email event manager Laurie Marrington at lmarrington@datateam.co.uk.

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