Finding new products in a season with no trade fairs has its challenges, Henri Davis looks at how retailers and suppliers are dealing with the strange situation everyone is facing this year.

There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the value of trade fairs to exhibitors and retailers alike and we know that many retailers only go to one or two fairs a year, if any at all. But for the thousands of retailers who use trade fairs regularly, sourcing products for Christmas 2020 is proving to be another significant challenge. How have retailers and exhibitors been coping?

Most retailers were closed for three months or so and when stores did re-open many had a lot of stock that everyone had hoped to sell in the spring and with reduced customer footfall much of the summer has been about clearing space and generating cash to buy new products for Christmas.

Talking to Aga Gabrysiak from Highworth Emporium she placed here Christmas orders in January and the stock has now started arriving but the later trend led buys of novelty lines and fashion accessories are proving more difficult. She is now relying on pro-active suppliers to get stock to her on time.

Sarah Laker from Marple Stationery Supplies is also relying on direct interaction with suppliers to source her Christmas range which she has been working on since the beginning of August. But she says “it is the most challenging ever with the rule book having been thrown out of the window.” Her shop is really busy, so online trade fairs haven’t really worked for her, instead she has dug out all the catalogues she picked up at previous fairs as well as reading industry magazines which can be reviewed in quiet moments while she is at the till.

No trade fairs is a problem for many suppliers too. Poet and Painter exhibit at five shows a year and Lucy Creed is certain that their rapid growth is due to their trade show exhibitions. Lucy believes shows are vital if they are to find new customers and keep in touch with existing ones too. At the moment they’re switching their investment into advertising and offers to keep their name out in the market and encouraging new retailers to try their cards.

James Ellis

James Ellis have used trade fairs as part of their marketing strategy too so not having them has meant the reaching their target audience has been challenging this year and very time intensive.

Janna from Deckled Edged has been using social media to keep everyone up-to-date with her new designs and she has launched a new website too to take advantage of the increasing desire to shop online.

Janna from Deckled Edged

The one thing that everyone comments on is how much they miss the social aspect of shows. Even though we often work with teams on our businesses, meeting up with customers, prospective customers and fellow exhibitors is part of the joy of shows. As the government is encouraging us all to work from home again there are comments about how sterile this can become and how it limits idea generation and I suspect the same can be said for not being at trade fairs. Conversations let you spark off one another sowing the seeds of ideas that will become pivotal to your next strategy and it is this that we are all missing. Funny how we often don’t perceive the value of something until it has gone, let’s hope we get them back again soon.