Posted by Danielle Harvey on 24 January 2024
Top Drawer S/S24, the first sourcing event of the year for the UK's retail industry, closed its doors last week following three days of successful, vibrant trade at Olympia London; having delivered a show that was 10% larger than 2023, it also benefited from a second successive year of visitor growth following a hugely successful acquisition strategy that resulted in thousands of new faces on the show floor, with 35% of them never having attended previously. The international flavour of recent editions also continued, with over 40 countries represented across the three days including the likes of Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Greece, Iceland, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.
In addition to the uplift in overall attendee numbers, a focus on attracting high-budget retailers also saw a 23% increase in the amount of VIP buyers with budgets of over £250k. As a result, Top Drawer witnessed a veritable who's who of Retail on the show floor, including buyers from Accessorize, Anthropologie, Art Print Japan Co., ASDA, Asos, Avoca, Barbican Centre, Barkers, Barnes & Noble, Blue Diamond, Brand Alley, CARDZONE, Cass Art, Charles Tyrwhitt, Debenhams, Disney, Dunelm, English Heritage, Established & Sons, Fat Face, Fenwick, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, Fortnum & Mason, Frasers Group, Fron Goch Garden Centre, Gatwick Airport, Graham & Green, Habitat, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Heal's, Historic Royal Palaces, Homesense, Hoopers, Imperial War Museum, Jarrold Department Store, Jigsaw, John Lewis, JoJo Maman Bebe, Joules, L'Oreal, Lakeland, Lark London, Laura Ashley, Le Bon Marche, LIBERTY, Lords At Home, Moleskine, Moonpig, Morleys Department Stores, Museum Rijswijk, National Trust, NEXT, Notcutts, Ocado Retail, Oliver Bonas, Paul Smith, Petersham Nurseries, Ransoms Garden Centre, Rockett St George, Rossiters Of Bath, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, Ryman, Sainsburys,Science Museum Group, SCP, Scribbler, Selfridges, Sofology, Southbank Centre, Squires, Tate Enterprises, Tesco, The British Museum Company, The Conran Shop Japan, The Design Museum, The Dulwich Trader, The Hambledon, The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The V&A Museum, The White Company, TJX Europe, Transport for London, twentytwentyone, Urban Outfitters, Vinegar Hill, Waterstones, Whole Foods, WHSmith, World Duty Free, and ZSL.
Buyers relished the increased choice on offer - with 10% more exhibitors taking part than last January - and took every opportunity to connect with over 550 suppliers - 30% of whom were brand new to the event! Given the hand-picked nature of the fair, the quality on offer was also evident, with Fran and Vickie Huxley from Simply Rye effusive in their praise: 'It's just SO hard to choose when there's so many beautiful products in one place!' Lauren Jarvis from Mlkwood store echoed these sentiments, explaining that 'It is always a fun and inspirational trip! It was so lovely to speak to new people and some familiar faces!' Christina Easton from LillianDaph agreed, explaining that 'So many wonderful creatives together in one place made for a super inspirational visit, and of course a touch of shopping!'
Exhibitors reaped the benefit of high visitors numbers, and were especially excited about the quality of those coming through the doors. Ailis Topley, founder of show newcomers Pott Candles, had a phenomenal time: 'It's been a fantastic show and great to meet loads of buyers who were ready to buy and wanting to get their sourcing done.' Another newcomer, Laura Burbery from Little Belle Nightlight agreed, explaining 'I travelled three days from Australia to exhibit and it was more than worth it! I now have an amazing network of stockists in the UK and the connections I made have been invaluable. I'm equally impressed by the amount of continuous foot traffic. Excellent, excellent, experience!' Katie Wagstaff of Oh Squirrel agreed: 'Top Drawer was simply amazing and beyond exhausting. Such a great return after 4 years away, opening more new accounts than was on my wish list, and taking orders from stockists I'm proud to have worked with for years.'
The positive vibes continued for show veterans, with Ohh Deer's, Founder Mark Callaby exclaiming 'Best trade show ever!... in one day alone we took more orders than in the entirety of any other fair we've ever been at!' Abbie Franks of We Are Proper Good was similarly enthused: 'This is the best year I've had so far. I've met both returning and new clients and this is the most orders I've ever done at a trade show. I've already rebooked!!' Sophie Parker, Owner of The Flora Lab summed up the feelings of many: 'A wonderful experience from start to finish'.
Beyond sourcing, visitors enjoyed the opportunities to learn from industry figureheads, with crowds gathering for the packed RetailFest schedule and hearing from the likes of Develop Digital's Charlotte Courtney, Platform Retail's Stacy Chan, and Rebuildagram's Kirsty Raper, as well as a panel presented by The Giftware Association. Opposite the RetailFest stage, the Business Hub was open, giving visitors the opportunity to meet with experts and receive 1:1 business advice covering PR, Finances, Retail Strategy, Branding, and Visual Merchandising. Those taking part had the chance to speak with Retail Huddle Founder Ami Radheru, Dueto Agency Founder Claire Charlton, Retail and Wholesale Expert Therese Oertenblad, Top Tricks Founder Priscilla Pollara, and ESTILA Magazine Editor Karolina Barnes, along with many more.
There was also inspiration around every corner with experts The Better Trends Co. curating the show's Trends Feature. This season Co-Founders Louise Healy and Natalie Alexander focussed on 3 key themes for the year ahead: Summer Solstice, Have your cake and eat it, and Summer Haze. The Trends Feature ignited visitors' inspiration, gave them a chance to discover a variety of brands from across all sectors, and helped buyers to visualise and shape their new collections and ensure they are not only current, but commercial as well.
This season also saw the introduction of the Spotlight Awards, celebrating standout brands from across the whole show. The winners were announced on Sunday evening at the Show Party and their innovative and beautifully crafted products were then put on display, maximising the brands' visibility.
The Spotlight Awards winners were: