Posted by Danielle Harvey on 20 September 2023
The warm weather couldn't deter eager crowds of buyers from visiting Top Drawer at Olympia London last week, with the season's biggest trend-led retail event closing its doors on a high, having delivered a 10% increase in attendee numbers vs. the same edition last year.
Strong pre-registration was reflected in the breadth of visitors across the past 3 days, with a veritable who's who of retailers present, including from the likes of Anthropologie, Argos Asia, ASDA, Avoca, Blue Diamond Garden Centres, Burford Garden Company, Capital Gardens, Card Factory, Cardzone, Clintons, DFS, Dunelm, FatFace, Fenwick, Fortnum & Mason, Frasers Group, Fron Goch Garden Centre, Garsons, Graham and Green, Habitat, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Heal's, Hobbs, Hoopers, Hotel Chocolat, Imperial War Museums, Jarrold & Sons, John Lewis & Partners, JoJo Maman Bebe, Kew Gardens, Lakeland, La Redoute UK, Lark London, Laura Ashley, Le Bon Marché, Liberty, Longleat Enterprises, Moonpig, National Trust, Natural History Museum, New Look, Next, Oliver Bonas, Papersmiths, Paul Smith, Petersham Nurseries, Planet Organic, Ransoms Garden Centre, RHS, River Island, Rossiters Of Bath, Saatchi Gallery, Sainsburys, Science Museum Group, SCP, Scribbler, Selfridges, Southbank Centre, Squires Garden Centres, Tate Enterprise, Tesco, The Body Shop, The British Museum, The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The V&A Museum, TJX, UEFA, Urban Outfitters, Waitrose, Waterstones and WHSmith.
In addition to an overall visitor increase of 10%, there was also a 38% increase in international visitors which included a 24% increase in the number of countries who attended compared to the 2022 show.
This year's edition also saw significant gains in various key retailer categories, including 63% more Garden Centre buyers, a 20% increase in Multiple buyers, 18% more Gallery/Museum buyers, and a 10% increase in Department Store buyers, all of which were key areas of focus this season. Top Drawer's new dedicated VIP campaign also paid dividends, delivering a 72% increase in attendees with buying budgets of +£1m, resulting in the highest ever level of collective spending power at the event. Buyers were effusive in their feedback, with many highlighting the quality and hand-picked nature of the exhibitor offering.
Carla Ringer from Blue Diamond declared that 'Top Drawer is always my favourite show [and is] the place to find exciting new products', echoing Molly Price of Molly Meg, who divulged that it's 'My favourite show for gifts and finding treasures.' Louise Rynehart from Sainsburys was equally positive, stating that 'Top Drawer has been incredible... extremely cool and innovative' and Claudia Johnson Sabine from Dunelm was similarly lavish in her praise: 'Wonderful being back at Top Drawer and connecting with old and new suppliers... I came away with tons of inspiration and feel so excited for future seasons!'
Visitors were treated to nine distinct sectors containing over 400 handpicked brands for this A/W edition, including over 150 exhibitors that were brand new to Top Drawer; the sheer amount of high-quality new suppliers present was something remarked upon by many.
'[We] set an all time record for placing 14 orders in one day, 10 of which were with new brands!' enthused Donna Nichol of Chloe James Lifestyle. Myre Inchausti and Maya Doyle from Mimo Brighton explained that 'we had to extend our stay to three days as we had so many things to see and so many lovely people to meet!' Fran Harkness from BAM Store saluted the show as 'a great opportunity to hunt for new things', while fellow independent retailer Vickie Huxley from Simply Rye summed up the experience of many: 'Lots of chatting, lots of beautiful things, lots of buying, lots of catching up with our suppliers, lots of steps, lots of laughter... we call that a successful buying trip!'
Long-standing exhibitors reaped the benefit of the huge increase in footfall this season, with Designworks' Sales Director James Mountfield celebrating a 'tremendous show' and revealing 'we were really busy' throughout - a sentiment echoed by Katie Holman of The Colour Emporium, who reported a 'Busy and bustling show where visitors are up for something new, quirky and different.'
Dave Heffernan from Aery was just as enthusiastic, commenting: Top Drawer is the only UK trade show we do - it's perfect for our brand.' Victoria Sabazan of Estella Bartlett also applauded the 'high quality' of buyers and hailed Top Drawer as 'a great opportunity to showcase our brand and the new collection.' Melissa Western of Western Sketch agreed, reflecting that 'It's been such a positive experience again for me and was a real pleasure to meet lots of happy faces and welcome some lovely new stockists... the show had a lovely buzz about it'.
The established brands were not alone in their experience, with similar success stories heard from the 150 suppliers making their show debut; Sarah Holmes from Pencil Me revealed that that show had been 'an amazing few days' where she met '100's of new customers.' Dapple & Dot's Angela Tong was also full of praise: 'the show was amazing and I was surprised by the amount of orders I took'. This was reiterated by other newcomers including Julie Sarah Lown from Mystical Sky Studio, who noted: 'It's been a wonderful experience... I've met so many wonderful people, gathered some amazing stockists and gained a wealth of advice.'
Away from the hustle and bustle of orders being placed, the RetailFest stage was busy with visitors hearing from industry figureheads including Amanda Wakely OBE, PR Consultant Priscilla Pollara, Retail Experience Consultant Mary Wallace, Independent Thinker Podcast Host Alexandra Forrest, and social media stop motion expert Alice Loveday.
These hotly anticipated sessions gave visitors a host of actionable tips and tricks to implement for their own businesses as Top Drawer continues to champion small and independent shops. The show's brand new Business Hub also proved a resounding success, allowing people to meet with industry experts such as Karolina Barnes from ESTILA, Ami Rabheru from Retail Huddle, and Nicola Snell from Press Loft, and seek advice on everything from their product branding through to the best buying strategies for their store.
Top Drawer's show partners The Better Trends Company returned once again with fresh predictions for the future which they then brought to life on the show's impressive trends feature, that saw product from exhibitors across the event utilised to showcase three emerging trends for buyers to discover: Understated Luxe, No-ccasion and Dreamwave.
Visitors were able to take this insight and shape their new collection as the industry steps into the new season and beyond. Reflecting on a highly successful three days, Show Manager David Westbrooke had this to say about the event: 'Top Drawer has always been and will continue to be the home of trend-focussed retail in the UK. With over 150 amazing new brands exhibiting, buyers were spoilt for choice this September, discovering the latest and greatest products the industry has to offer ahead of the all-important golden quarter. With the quality of our hand-picked exhibitors, combined with our amazing trends feature and seminar programme, it's no wonder we've had such sensational feedback. I can't wait for next season!'
Top Drawer will return in 2024 for its Spring/Summer edition at Olympia London from the 14-16th January, register your interest now.