Spring Fair Revisited – New show, new business or same old?
Last week (5-7 Feb 2023) my colleagues and I attended the Spring Fair at Birmingham NEC as part of the NAJ Team and independently visiting those clients exhibiting at the International Trade Fair.
Now promoted by Hive Group the show spread over 8 halls isn’t the trade monster it was in the 90’s and 00’s (all 20 halls at the immense NEC, think 26 x football pitches) but it is still a considerable event and trading platform for designers, manufacturers, distributors and the like to showcase and flog products to retailers in diverse sectors including home, housewares, gifts, stationery, toys, fashion to jewellery and watches. So, is anything new, or is it the same as before just smaller?
Talking to exhibitors and walking around the halls, my impression is that Hyve has done a good job in creating a new feeling to an old show. Clever use of partitions can obscure the fact that so many halls aren’t being used and the use of colour coding and helpful and engaging staff add to a sense of optimism that was perhaps lacking pre-pandemic. Without doubt the ability to meet customers face to face and do business in the “old way” felt novel and therefore “new”. We saw a return to more personalised trading last year as the pandemic restrictions were lifted and that has continued.
But what business is being conducted? Are companies buying and selling? What about the energy crisis, the cost of living crisis, rampant inflation etc? Well, my anecdotal observation is that business is most certainly being done. Speaking to RWK Goodman clients at the Spring Fair the doom and gloom promulgated by BBC News and other media is overstated. Matthew Guise of Minster Giftware (https://www.minstersylishliving.com) said that business was up and down, which was echoed by many exhibitors but East of India (https://eastofindia.co.uk) and Hockley Mint (https://www.hockleymint.co.uk) both declared that business was good. If indeed Britain is technically in an economic depression (as reported by Bloomberg on 4th February ‘Bank of England signals worst years for growth since the great depression’) there are businesses out there determined to trade through it.
From our base on the NAJ stand in the Jewellery & Watch Moda Halls 2 and 3 was the Moda stage with a series of seminars, lectures and fashion/jewellery catwalk shows. The NAJ and Moda presented the New Jewels inaugural competition sponsored by Curteis and I was delighted to be among the panel of Judges and I wish, once again, to congratulate the winner, Liz Crow. The New Jewels bursary helps up and coming designers supercharge their jewellery business with mentoring support, PR exposure, and exhibition space. I was pleased to provide intellectual property advice to these talented young British designers.
Elsewhere at the Spring Fair were a series of seminars and presentations providing valuable advice and expertise to the visiting retailers on the Inspiring Retail Stage. The trade show is the opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their new products of course.
I have postulated the future of trade shows in the electronic age in previous blogs. A return to the mega shows of previous decades may never happen, but there remains a place for trade shows and, in my opinion, a need for these face-to-face business transactions. Undoubtedly a business has to develop in order to grow, but sometimes the “old ways” are “the best ways”.