Vibrant Autumn Fair 2018 challenges retail doom and gloom

  • Upbeat and positive vibe at Autumn Fair suggests optimistic retail outlook
  • Visitor flow improved and buying opportunities enhanced in 2019 plans, as Autumn Fair becomes ‘sourcing destination for all of retail’
  • Investment following ITE Plc acquisition will see 2019 benefit from a major re-edit

Autumn Fair 2018 saw 1,200 exhibitors take over Birmingham’s NEC for five days of negotiation and inspiration. Over 200,000 new products were showcased, with buyers attending stocking up for the festive period and the Spring season, including Mother’s Day and Easter.

The retail community came together ahead of the Golden Quarter with buyers, visual merchandisers and owners from independent, multis, e-tailers, tourist and leisure destinations all in attendance. These included visitors from Amazon, Asos, Boots, Celebrations, Dufry, Groupon, John Lewis, Joy, Kilkenny Group, Marks and Spencer, Merlin Entertainments, Natural History Museum, Next, Ocado, Tesco, The Hut Group, TK Maxx, Wayfair, Wyevale Garden Centres, ZSL and many more.

Su Gill, Group Buyer at Morleys Stores Group, said: “I was able to see sensational product presented in the way that the brand would want it to be seen. I placed a large Christmas order with Ty at the show. If I hadn’t come to the show, I wouldn’t have been able to buy this product.”

At the Fair’s four live theatres, buyers could gain valuable market insights and updates on current trends that are driving consumer spending throughout the Golden Quarter and beyond.

Visitors to the main stage had the unique opportunity to hear from two leading lights in the retail sector in Dragons Den’s own Theo Paphitis, whose retail empire covers 350 stores and employs over 4,000 people, and’s Holly Tucker. They both shared insights from their personal journeys, as well as their advice and predictions for the upcoming year.

Autumn Fair 2018 also saw the introduction of a dedicated section for the best of Theo Paphitis’ #SBS (Small Business Sunday) community. Designed specifically to celebrate the endeavours of independent start-ups, the showcase got off to an impressive start with many exhibitors reporting orders even before arriving at Autumn Fair.

Theo Paphitis tweeted straight after his visit to the show to say: “Autumn Fair’s been brilliant for this year’s #SBS winners. They’ve had a great time in there, met loads of new contacts and made some money!”

Julie Shields, the Founder of Dimpled Heart said “The Fair’s been amazing, we’ve got loads of great feedback and lots of orders to follow up on. We’re excited to be part of the show because of Theo Paphitis and the #SBS pavilion, but also because we had been approached by stores before we even arrived because of the marketing which was a real bonus.”

Helping bring buyers and sellers together was further enhanced this year with the investment and introduction of the Autumn Fair Product Match – 63,955 products and people recommendations and 17,410 matches. There was a real buzz onsite as visitors were also given the opportunity to pick up a free glass of Prosecco if they found a match at Autumn Fair – posting their selfies from a Product Match wall using the hashtag #fairmatch.

For the first time, buyers were also able to sample the offering of new Global Handicraft and DesignFirst showcases. At Global Handicraft, international artisanal manufacturers were given access to the UK’s £358bn retail sector. Visitors to the showcase were able to get hands-on with everything from soft furnishings to textiles; jewellery to home décor; and ceramics to lighting.

Offering an insight into some of the UK’s most quirky and unique manufacturers, DesignFirst saw innovative manufacturers from three show sectors display everything from artisanal soaps to handmade jewellery. Sharing little more than a penchant for alternative ideas, the DesignFirst exhibitors introduced buyers to a new world of new-to-market, original products.

Tracey, Co-owner at DesignFirst exhibitor, The Sugar Shed said: “It’s been fantastic to see how many independent retailers have come to see us. Autumn Fair’s been a great place to trial our gift vouchers, which we’ve been hearing some good feedback on. We’ll be coming back next year.”

Across key 2018 sectors, Children’s Toys & Gifts and Home, feedback was positive, with exhibitors reporting exciting sales figures and increased interest.

Michelle Probert, Sales and Marketing Manager at Juratoy said: “Autumn Fair has been fantastic – our best show so far this year! We’ve seen our order values soar by over 100%, which is better than we could ever have expected. Both the quality and quantity of customers has been very good. It’s also meant a lot to us to have received plenty of positive feedback on our stand.”

James Ellis, Managing Director of Ancient Mariner Furniture said: “It’s been a well-attended show – we’ve been really busy. We’ve seen a good mix of smaller and larger buyers, existing and new customers. Particularly when it comes to finding new customers, Autumn Fair just offers something that the dedicated furniture shows just don’t. Over the year’s Autumn Fair’s been great for lifting our profile.”

Louise Young, Managing Director, Spring & Autumn Fair said: “Off the back of what was a flat summer of trading for retailers, buyers came ready to be inspired by ranges for the up and coming major sell though periods for retail. It’s simply good news for all of retail that suppliers and retailers have come together to make this year’s Autumn Fair a commercial success for those that visited and exhibited – it’s a good barometer for the Christmas trading period and into Spring.”

Exhibitors may have also been inspired to secure their space for next year in response to the announcement of a major investment programme in Autumn Fair, by new owners ITE Plc.

The newly organised halls will improve visitor flow and facilitate greater crossover buying opportunities, delivering an Autumn Fair that will be the ‘sourcing destination for all of retail’, with content that will encourage multiples to source more private label/own brand with exhibitors at the show.  In addition, a new investment programme will focus on increasing attendance from online and international retailers.

“Looking forward, market leader Autumn Fair is evolving as we embrace the structural changes in the market. Consumers have not stopped buying goods but how they buy has changed.” Young continues.

“In 2019, both Spring and Autumn Fair are well positioned to continue providing a unique proposition for retailers. With the new re-edit plans we’re looking to really optimise the fair experience for both visitors and exhibitors, including updating show sectors to present real opportunities for crossover buying and better enabled networking. As the hub for ‘all of retail’, 2019 will offer buyers tangible profitable insight that will help them stay ahead of the curve.”

Potential exhibitors can also apply for a stand through Autumn Fair’s website.

Retailers are encouraged to register now for Spring Fair, scheduled for 3-7 February 2019.

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