Craft Focus - Page number 28 - August/September 2021 (Issue 86)

FUN, FRIENDLY FESTIVITIES Simon Anslow, show organiser of Harrogate Christmas & Gift talks about the successful trade show from its beginnings as Harrogate International Toy Fair to the friendly show it’s famed for today Tell us a little bit about HITF Ltd. Where are you based? Who started the company and when? The organising team for Harrogate Christmas & Gift is actually based in the West Midlands, but the event has always been staged in Harrogate – originally in various hotels in the town before moving to its current location at the Harrogate Convention Centre. How many trade fairs have you organised over the years? How has the company evolved? Harrogate Christmas & Gift (which began in 1949 as Harrogate International Toy Fair serving the toy trade) has evolved and adapted to demand over the decades. When Toy Fair moved to London, the show continued but catering for the festive goods and gifts sectors. As Christmas in the UK has grown in consumerism over the years, so has the show and we’ve seen a significant increase in both exhibitor and visitor numbers. I personally took over management for the show in 2010 having already been heavily involved in the organisation of our sister event Harrogate International Nursery Fair. What changes have you seen to trade shows over the years? There have been huge changes over the years and it’s interesting to see how evolving lifestyles and the way that people shop for products impacts events. For example, many people purchase Christmas trees and decorations from their local garden centre − outlets which also stock diverse ranges of other products from toys and gifts to craft products and artificial flowers, to even books, pet products food and drink. Consequently, companies hoping to reach buyers from this sector have been booking exhibition space with an array of items from garden products and furniture to children’s and pet products. We’ve also seen a significant increase in tourist attraction buyers attending seeking gifts and decorations for theme parks, heritage centres and even churches and cathedrals, and this in turn has attracted products for Halloween, weddings, parties and celebrations and numerous other events. What main quality does a buyer/ exhibitor want from a trade fair and how do you make that happen? Harrogate has always been renowned for being the ‘friendly’ trade show, as our event team goes out of its way to accommodate both exhibitor and visitor requirements. We always ensure that people are on hand to deal with any minor issues they may experience and are happy to muddle in and make what seems impossible possible. Likewise, for visitors we will try to help where we can to make their attendance as enjoyable and seamless as possible. What trends never go out of fashion and why do you think that is. Sparkle and glitter! Every year there are lots of new products in line with latest fashion and trends, but at the end of the day Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some glamour and glitz. At the opening of the show every year, I love to walk through the halls and see products twinkling and sparkling with colourful lights – and of course Father Christmas – we always see new additions from elves to llamas, but I don’t think that good old Santa will ever go out of fashion. How did business cope during the Covid-19 pandemic and how is the planning going for the 2022 event? Like every trade event (and of course businesses in the industry too) the last 18 months have been incredibly difficult. Harrogate Christmas & Gift was one of the more fortunate events in that we managed to host the show in January 2020 right before lockdown, and only missed 2021. Also, Christmas was massively impacted for everyone last year as family gatherings and get togethers were banned so people were naturally buying less. We hope that everyone will be making up for the lost year and will be pushing the boat out for a bumper festive celebration in 2021 and 2022. Can you reveal any surprises for Harrogate Christmas & Gift 2022? Hopefully there will be no surprises this year! We just want to get a successful show off the ground and look forward to welcoming both exhibitors and visitors back to the event in January 2022. Harrogate Christmas & Gift +44 (0)1902 882 280 28