Short days, long nights; cold and wet … Oh yes it’s time for the International Trade Show at Birmingham NEC. Entitled “Spring Fair” to no doubt engender a feel good factor amongst traders on the basis that the next calendar season of Spring is just around the corner; with the promise of new life and hopefully new business. I travelled up to the NEC early Sunday morning under a blue sky and I was based predominantly in the re-branded Jewellery & Watch Birmingham section of the Spring Fair, offering advice and assistance to members of the British Jeweller’s Association.
This year saw a greater use of the vast space available to exhibitors within the 20 halls of the NEC; with wider corridors and walkways between the rows of exhibitors. It certainly made it easier for visitors to get around and move between halls. The one downside perhaps being that the show appeared less busy. To my mind, a price worth paying in return for the greater freedom and ease of access.
As ever, the centrepiece within the jewellery & watch show was the Café Catwalk. As well as the regular modelling shows on the catwalk, there were also seminars and talk forums which provided advice to retailers and those in the jewellery business. A number of Royds clients featured on the runway; Balagan, Hockley Mint and Tresor Paris.
There was no discernible central or main concern being expressed by jewellery and luxury goods exhibitors this year. The feeling was that the show was a good one and the expectation was of increased business, and without any doubt, better than the International Jewellery London Trade Show had been last September. A light lunch with Michael Northcott, new Editor of Jewellery Focus Magazine, didn’t elicit any insider information. Business could not be said to be booming, but business was being done.
Away from jewellery, the designer led gift halls appeared to be busy. Crowded stands, busy walkways and the usual scramble for a seat and table in the food bars at lunchtime suggested things were indeed busy. Going on the number of trade visitors to halls 4, 5, 6 and 20, I conclude that UK retailers are fighting back in the economy recession war, whether on-line or in the shops. I should add however that by the afternoon of day 3, most halls were beginning to look much quieter.
If its growth we are looking for at Spring Fair 2014, then it is within the greetings and stationery industry. This sector has grown exponentially since I first started to visit the Spring Fair in about 1996. This year it is the strongest growth area at the show. The vast hall 4 is completely given over to greetings and stationery, art and framing. The variety of greeting cards showcased is astounding.
Another growth area is dress up and party-wear products, which have their own significant area in volume hall 3. Three times a day, there is a lively dress-up show at the sponsored stage.
There are an estimated 300,000 new products launched at Spring Fair, by 3,000 suppliers across 13 different markets. The old exhibition venue is in full use. If the wider walkways and corridors should create an illusion of space, then the blisters on my feet are evidence that the scale of this show is very real indeed.
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