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March 16, 2009
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Spring Fair shows fighting spirit of retail sector despite adverse weather




Although heavy snow may nearly have brought parts of the country to a standstill for three days during this year’s Spring Fair International 2009 at the NEC, Birmingham, serious retail buyers from across the globe persevered with their intention to trade at the biggest retail event and trade exhibition in the UK.

“There has been a great deal of media hype and speculation about the challenges in the retail market over recent months,” said Alison Jackson, managing director at EMAP Connect, which runs the show. “Spring Fair International has proven that people who are involved in retail are responding with a fighting spirit.”

Blizzard conditions

While the extreme weather conditions surpressed visitor numbers, Jackson reports that the quality remained undiminished. Key buyers fought their way through blizzards to get to the event, with representation from virtually every high-street name, plus independents.

“Given the challenges of the market, everyone needed a successful show, and while the snow didn’t help, it proved Spring Fair International still leads the way with millions of pounds worth of transactions that took place over the three days,” said Jackson.

Buyers travelled from every corner of the world. including Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Greece, Brazil, Russia and the USA.

Quality over quantity
Veronica Powell from Powell Craft experienced first hand the quality of international buyers who attended the show.

“I came to the very first Spring Fair, opened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and I’ve been coming ever since,” she said. “Attendance was down this year, but we still had a very good show and took some excellent orders, several of them European. It was a case of quality rather than quantity.”

Meanwhile, David Willan of Coach House, was equally impressed.

“Considering all the elements that were working against us, we actually did very well,” he said. “We saw our usual customers and also attracted new people, including some department store buyers. We will definitely be coming back as all our key buyers come to the show and it is good PR. If we weren’t here, people would start wondering what had happened to us!”

Weather effect
While visitor numbers were lower than in previous years at 52,000 (subject to ABC audit), this has been attributed to weather conditions. This was borne out by the fact on the Sunday and Wednesday, the best day in terms of weather, visitor numbers were up on 2008. 

Plans are in place for Spring Fair International 2010, which will be taking place at the NEC from 7-11 February.

Jackson concluded: “It is going to be a very challenging year for the home and gift industry and we will work closely with the trade to help them get the most out of their investment in our fairs, but my expectations have been buoyed by the attitudes and determination of people at Spring Fair International 2009.”


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