New products and future trends in the spotlight at Autumn Fair

Showcasing the very best in gifting and homeware, this year more than 1,300 UK and international suppliers were present at Autumn Fair, as independent retailers and buyers from UK and overseas – including Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain – looked for inspiration ahead of the next big gifting and home occasions.

With orders for Christmas a priority and retailers planning what ranges to stock in spring 2018, the season’s largest trade event presented a vast array of products from toys and gadgets through to lighting and soft furnishings. Not only that, it provided invaluable sessions designed to help retailers grow their businesses.

Brigit Quinlan, who runs Quinlan’s of Macroom, said: “We’ve been coming to the show for over 20 years now. For us it’s an opportunity to source general giftware and new products. And it’s a chance to meet with existing suppliers where everything can be found under one roof.”

Elizabeth Sullivan from B&Q commented: “We’ve come to Autumn Fair to see the new trends appearing for SS18. It’s been really interesting to see the rising popularity of botanical prints, green shades and nature. It’s a great show to find new and innovative products that we’ve not come across before.”

Deirdre McMahon, a buyer for Bandon Co-op, added: “Autumn Fair ties in with the right buying cycles of the year. It’s important for us to come along and see new products in the homeware, gift and lighting sectors and to visit existing brands that we work with as well as new ones.”

Highlighting the importance that the retail industry puts on Autumn Fair, over four days, buyers from Tesco, Fenwick, Wayfair, Debenhams and John Lewis paid a visit to the event, along with independents retailers like Steamer Trading, Follie Ltd, House of Cards, Inside Out and Everything Rosy Interiors.

Exhibitors reported strong visitor interaction with Ged Mace, Managing Director of The Art File, commenting: “We had our best performance at an Autumn Fair in our 20-year history. We opened new accounts including a number from overseas and spoke to a host of important buyers, which will support our next phase of business with these customers.”

Staying on trend

The new Inside Retail Hub proved to be a popular destination throughout Autumn Fair. A series of workshops took place, with retailers able to learn about creating professional in-store displays, utilising social media channels and improving engagement with customers.

Helen Turner, who manages South Wales-based gift shop Not Socks Again, said: “My Meet The Experts session was really helpful, with advice on equipment and techniques for improving our product photography. It’s a great feature and gives us even more reasons to come to the show.”

At the Trends & Inspiration Catwalk, daily fashion shows took place, presenting the latest colours, accessories and clothing lines from Autumn Fair exhibitors. Global trends forecaster WGSN also gave its first ever live presentation at the event, highlighting the trends it believes will come to the fore in spring and summer 2018.

After attending WGSN’s session, Helen Voak, an Illustrator for Rafale Design, which designs greeting cards, giftware, stationery and homeware products, commented: “The trends briefing is the reason why I came to the show. It was really informative and insightful – I just wish that I had more time to see other sessions. It’s a great added feature of the show.”

Helping retailers succeed

With the inexorable rise of online shopping, bricks and mortar stores need to evolve in order to prosper. The Master The High Street Theatre – run in association with Brands of China – provided advice from some leading experts, including Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun who spoke about how to future-proof your business against the digital high street.

Catherine Esbester, who owns Taunton-based gift shop Ginger Fig, added: “The talks were really interesting to listen to and it’s great to come away from the show with insight into upcoming trends and tips from the experts.”

New products and trends

Spotted around the various sectors in different guises were llamas, flamingos, unicorns and mermaids – suggesting a playful and youthful direction for the latest consumer trends. One exhibitor leading the way with these trends was contemporary gift brand Sass & Belle.

Liza Davies commented: “For us, Autumn Fair is a good sounding board for new collections so that we can give feedback to our designers. It’s important for us to see the reactions on people’s faces and to showcase the products to our ‘onliners’ face to face.”

Contemporary gift manufacturer Orange Tree Toys launched its new Disney collection ahead of Christmas. Also aimed at children, toy manufacturer Keycraft introduced its new Goobrands collective, with Marketing Manager Murray Smith flagging ‘goo and gunge’ as a growing trend in children’s toys: “We’ve been getting positive feedback on the new range from customers old and new, in fact we find the show generates lots of new business for us – we got around 100 leads a day.”

Planning for 2018

Looking ahead to next year, Louise Young, Divisional Director – Retail at Ascential, which runs Autumn Fair, commented: “This year’s Autumn Fair has seen exhibitors step up again in how they present their latest ranges. In particular, Home, Lighting and Contemporary Gift provided retailers with a feast of visual theatre in terms of styling and the many room sets now incorporated on stands.

“The show also offers retailers an imaginative range of gifts for Christmas across all price points. Taking advantage of the weak pound, retailers from the USA, Europe and more travelled to the event to view the many product ranges that are exclusive to Autumn Fair.”

Spring Fair, the sister event to Autumn Fair, will run from 4-8 February 2018, with Volume opening one day earlier. To register for the event visit www.springfair.com

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