Housewares retailers share their Spring Fair insights

Billed as the number one sourcing destination for the UK’s home & gift industry, Spring Fair takes place from February 3 to February 7 at the NEC in Birmingham.

The 2019 event is expected to attract 56,000 retail professionals, who will view the wares of 2,500 exhibitors spread across 15 show sectors: Beauty & Wellbeing; Contemporary Gift; Children’s Gifts & Toys; Christmas Gifts, Floral & Seasonal Decoration; Fashion, Jewellery & Luggage; Gift; Glee At Spring Fair; Greetings & Gift; Home; Kitchen, Dining & Housewares; Retail Solutions; Party; The Summerhouse; Volume Gift & Home; and Jewellery & Watch.

We asked a selection of the UK’s leading housewares retailers who regularly attend Spring Fair: how do you – and your business – benefit from visiting the show?

Samm Swain is buying & merchandising director of Lakeland: a chain of 67 housewares stores, headquartered in Windermere in the Lake District.

She said: I’ve been attending Spring Fair for over 20 years – and I’ll be at the 2019 show. It’s a great way to start the year with product front of mind.

“Between us (the team of Lakeland buyers and I) we will visit most of the halls, with an interest in kitchenware, utility and cleaning, and gift.

“We head to Spring Fair not only to catch up with many of our suppliers but also because you just never know what you’re going to find! I’m also really looking forward to hearing some of this year’s seminars.

“Visiting the show enables us to see what’s going on in the world of product and retail, from new products to new themes and colours, and from current suppliers to new.”

Liz Lawson is managing director of south-west housewares chain Lawsons. The family-owned independent business operates four stores in Devon – at IvyBridge, Tavistock, Plymouth and Totnes – that offer ‘essentials for home living’.

She said: “I can’t quite believe it, but 2019 will be my 25th year at Spring Fair. It is definitely a must on my calendar as it gives our business the best opportunity to find new trends, new products and new suppliers.

“I visit most of the halls because my business is quite varied, not only selling cookshop but also hardware, tools, gardening, linens, luggage, Christmas lights & decorations and, more recently, gifts and gift food.

“Why do I go to the show? Well, I always tell my colleagues: ‘You don’t know, what you don’t know!’ So whilst it’s great to catch up with familiar faces, it’s just as important to go out there and find someone new.

“Trends and themes for the year ahead are key to our buying. For example, we continue to look for plastic replacements, recycle and reuse products. I really liked Le Creuset’s Love Food, Hate Waste Campaign last autumn, and we feel we can use this message going forward, so we will be looking for products to chime with this.

“If you can find a product or supplier that will increase your turnover, then that’s the true benefit of attending a show. However catching up with suppliers and fellow retailers is always insightful.”

David Conduit is retail and internet purchase manager of Harts of Stur in the Dorset market town of Sturminster Newton. The housewares business describes itself as ‘one of the UK’s largest in-store and online retailers of cookware, kitchenware and kitchen electrics, stocking a comprehensive range at competitive prices’.

He said: “We have attended the show for 25 years. We will be there again in 2019 and, as it stands, it is a ‘must’ for us. Spring Fair gives us a strong start, with fresh ideas, for each new year. Which halls do we tend to visit? All of them – although focusing on the kitchen halls. We go to find new suppliers, meet existing suppliers and look at new ranging.”

Sarah Wood is managing director of independent cookshop Trevor Mottram in the Kent town of Tunbridge Wells.

She said: “I’ve visited Spring Fair for the past 20 years. I go partly [to source products] for Christmas and new launches, and to find small companies. I often go to the cookery demonstrations too, to see the products in action.

“I walk every aisle of the Kitchen & Dining sector, plus The Summerhouse [a collection of on-trend gifts, interiors, lighting and lifestyle brands] and Gift halls. For example, exhibitors Gisela Graham (in Hall 8) and Coach House (in Hall 1) have big Christmas offerings and I will pop by the Le Creuset stand (in Hall 9).

“For us, the Spring Fair is a must on our ‘to do’ list. We need to go because it’s not only an opportunity to say hello to regular suppliers, but also a chance to play with products, and look out for new brands that we might have seen, heard or read about.”

Tom Carter is the director of Potters Cookshop in the Essex town of Hockley.

He said: “We have been attending Spring Fair for about nine years now and will be attending again this year. For us, it is the show we look most forward to every year and would never miss it now.

“Hall 9 is the area we spend the most time in, as all the cookshop side is in there and that’s the main attraction to us. We also go to halls 4,5,6,7,8,10 as there tends to be really good giftware selections in these halls. I visit Hall 2 [to source products] for Christmas, to get orders ready for late summer.

“To be honest, we find inspiration and new products by walking around the halls. Sometimes a display or new product idea will jump out on you when you least expect it!

“We benefit from the show by seeing the new products first hand, sourcing exciting new stock or even to be inspired by displays on some of the stands. A lot of the time there are show discounts that are not available anywhere else. That’s why Spring Fair is vastly important to us, as you would not have the scale of a show brought to you in-store by a rep.”

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