Spring Fair the launch pad for new products

Posted by Danielle Harvey on 8 February 2024

row of judges on a stage During the second day of the UK's largest and longest serving retail show Spring Fair, buyers from retailers including TK Maxx, Mint Velvet, Macmillan, Cath Kidston, Plumo, Barkers, TJX Europe, Jago Jewellers, Gymshark, Primrose Hill Boutique, WHSmith, Tesco, RSPCA, Barnado's, Fenwick, Laura Ashley, John Lewis, Merlin Entertainment, National Trust, Blue Diamond and many more, were wowed by the sheer volume and breadth of exciting, innovative, inspirational and unexpected new products.

Thousands of suppliers are showcasing their newest products during the four-day show, all vying to be retail's next bestsellers. With more than one million products under one roof across 13 product sectors including Home, Living & Décor, Christmas, Festive & Floral, Housewares, The Summerhouse, Gift, Beauty & Wellbeing, Greeting Cards, Stationery & Wrapping, Kids, Toys & Play, Party & Celebration, and in Moda; Clothing & Footwear, Fashion Accessories, Jewellery & Watch; as well as the all-encompassing Everyday sector, Spring Fair offers the ultimate launchpad for new products.

The New Product Showcase continued to inspire buyers, and the newly launched Pitch Live Gift drew an excited audience for the Dragon's Den-style pitching session dedicated to new products. The judging panel, comprising Jade Newman, Key Account Director at Spring & Autumn Fair; Louise Prance, Editor of Gift Focus and Attire Accessories; and Prita Aurora Crowe Co-Founder of Lark London, watched on as brave exhibitors Willsow, Ducky Zebra and Go On Make Me presented new and innovate products. Willsow showcased their plantable seed card books; "we embed our books with roughly 500 seeds from carrots, lettuce, dill and parsley. Our aim is to educate children that everything grows in different shapes and sizes." Ducky Zebra, launched just over 2 years ago following frustration in gender stereotypes in children's clothing, and their children's clothing celebrates confidence, kindess and joy. Finally, Go On Make Me debuted their Oyster Catcher, a build-able paper bird that's designed to get kids off screen; "we want to promote playfulness, it's a trophy product." The winner was Ducky Zebra.

buyers at spring fair walking the aisles Buyers highlighted their delight at their new discoveries and the feedback throughout the day was buoyant and energised.

Hillary Fuller, from Attico in Bournemouth said, "We've had such a great show, and seen loads of new and innovative products. We're actually running behind schedule as we discovered two new companies that we've not bought from before and they are perfect for us, and now we're off to meet more of our regular suppliers."

Stephanie Taylor Howl from Just-Tickety Boo Events, Burton-on-Trent added, "The show is amazing, it's not just an average show, it's much bigger and better! The stands really draw you in, it has been a really immersive experience. We have found it easy to navigate around the show, signage has been excellent. It's been good to meet the brands in person and make relationships directly with the sellers. I found some lovely high-end ribbon, some amazing frosted trees and some enormous wreaths which will be great for my Christmas events. We have seen some lovely new products, the quality is excellent and the prices have been competitive. We stumbled across some new suppliers, they are local to us and we never would have found them without visiting Spring Fair, which is great!"

Julia Lowe from Farm Toys Online, Somerset said, "We have been coming here for 15 years, and we're looking for some specialist products. We often find some new gems and loved Hippy Chick. We're always looking for sustainable items and we like the recycled Snugglies we have seen today."

Sue Waterhouse from Mia James Interiors said, "The show is beautiful. I've seen some fabulous new products and have opened some new accounts. I particularly liked FiftyFiveSouth, they have a fantastic range." Busy aisles were packed with quality buyers throughout the day and exhibitors reported a diverse selection of retail from big name retailers to garden centres, leisure and heritage sites.

Stephen Hobin, Director, The Seasonal Group, exhibiting in Christmas, Festive & Floral said, "We have been attending Spring Fair for the last 5 - 6 years and it has always been an excellent show for us, we do shows all over the world, but Birmingham is the only show we do in the UK. It has always been one of our best shows, it is such a well organised and attended event everyone in the industry is here. In terms of products, we have a VR Ride, a new enchanted elevator, and animatronic animals, but this is just a snippet of what we do as a business. These products have taken off for the UK market with the Garden Centres, shopping centres and anyone who has a Christmas experience buys from us. "We have also met with tourist attractions such as wildlife parks and piers today. Amusement companies from seaside resorts, adventure experiences, amusement arcades, cinemas, bowling, and anywhere with a leisure spend fits in well with what we do. Traditionally it's always been garden and shopping centres and our repeat customers are coming back to us for the new product we are launching, but we have noticed a lot more leisure-related businesses attending Spring Fair than in the past, there have been a lot here today. We had a short gap in attending since COVID 19, prior to that we were here every year and as a business we missed it. You have to invest to see your way to the top."

Fergus Corrigan, from first time exhibitor Northern Lavender said, "This is our first Spring Fair, it's the only place you can come really, it's the biggest event where all buyers visit. It gives us massive reach for our new organic certified lavender products."

Mae Tracey, Design & Marketing Manager, Phoenox said, "Hug Rug and Herdy launched their new fab-ewe-lous product range at Spring Fair! It is going great, we've re-designed our stand this year and are getting a great response! We have also launched a new British Made, eco-friendly Washable Rug range which is going down brilliantly!"

Laura Coyle from Hillfoot & Paws said, "We are so excited as we've had an incredible 2 days at the show so far. We launched our brand new eco range of dog beds at Spring Fair - each metre made from 52 recycled plastic bottles – and it has been our highlight. We've had loads of buyers stop by our stand where we have approximately 100 plastic bottles on display, making up one dog bed."

Anushka Mahanti from Trampoline said, "We're excited about all the positive feedback from interior designers and independents for our selection at Spring Fair. They're loving the easy access to sustainable, handmade accent furniture and rugs. The soft pastel jute rugs and agate top tables have been absolute winners!"

lawrence llewellyn-bowen at spring fair TV and interior design personality Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen attended to launch his new Casa Nova homeware collection with Febland. He enthused about the show experience, the return of the high street, and the joy of being surprised.

"My first Spring Fair was in about 1995, I do believe that when you have a world of opportunities on the internet, it is very easy to be seduced with this idea that you can just order it, but Spring Fair means that you get to meet it, to feel it, to touch it and talk to a human and not a bot. If you are buying something for you to then sell on to your customer base you have to know it properly before you can do that.

"Spring Fair is all about the ability not just to see stuff that you want to see and need to see, but also to see the stuff that you wouldn't have thought of. People want unexpected, unusual, quality and things you can fall in love with. And the only way to do that is to go somewhere where you see it for real. The big thing about Spring Fair is that it gives you the opportunity to be taken slightly by surprise. It springs into all sorts of types of businesses, it's very much about meeting other retailers. The retail landscape has changed so much, and it is now all about independents, which is an incredibly important moment. We are going back to the high street, back to people starting their own shops and making their own buying decisions, because people want to see something special and buy from a human being not a bot."

Inspirational content continued across the three stages. Highlights on the Trend Talks stage included Understanding B Corp: A Social and Environmental Impact with Louisa Mordaunt, Founder, I Love My Job, Daniel Fagan, Director of Supply Chain at Talking Tables Ltd, and Hana Kidy, Product Coordinator at B Lab UK. B Corp is a stamp of approval which truly resonates with consumers, and Louisa Mordant explained why it was so important for her business strategy, "To get that seal of approval...by being B Corp certified people know that you are using your business as a force for good. It offers a community that's dedicated to making positive environmental and social change." Kate Shepherd and Matt Parry, Co-Founders of The Future Collective hosted 'The Future of Luxury Retail'. As traditional definitions of luxury are being reframed, their briefing explored the newly emerging trends that are reshaping the sector from New Mindsets, New Markets, New Codes of Luxury, and New Rules of Engagement.

When looking at New Mindsets, the duo asked audiences to consider "are they trends or traditions. Luxury today is fuelled by dramatic shifts in socio-economic behavioural and consumption patterns. Since the end of the pandemic sales of luxury items have surged as 'revenge spending' has help drive the luxury recovery." New Audiences are key in defining Luxury's future; "younger generation millennials will hold 5 times as much wealth by 2030, making them the driving force of luxury; under 45's will account for 70% of global luxury sales by 2025." Younger audiences bring new values, stories over product, knowledge over possession and quality over quantity; consciousness, purpose driven values and circulatory behaviours hold more value in the luxury market than ever."

buyer looking at hair accessories at Spring Fair Catrina O'Brien, UK Licensing Director at Hasbro Inc invited visitors to step into the world of strategic brand enhancement with an exclusive retail Licensing Masterclass on the Masterclass Studio stage.

Catrina shared best practices, dos and don'ts, and the transformative impact of licensing on your business, including licensing essentials, from understanding the lifecycle of new hits and evergreen brands to mastering collaboration and product development. Talking about their Cleaner Seas Project she said, "This wasn't about the rate of sale or return on investment, the primary message was educating young families about the small steps they could take to have a big impact on the environment. In its simplest terms was all about getting preschoolers picking litter up from the beaches. Peppa and George call litter "treasure", they go on a treasure hunt across their beaches, so we had content that really worked back into the narrative to get young families involved."

Kris Hamer, Director of Insight from the British Retail Association presented comprehensive overview of the UK retail market with valuable insights into economic health, growth indicators, emerging opportunities, and evolving consumer spending habits. Despite recent challenges and Red Sea instability, he predicted an increase in consumer confidence to spend but advised that "while consumers are still feeling the pinch, demonstrating value is key."

Buyers also enjoyed the all-star Tik Tok Shop Seller Panel with Aidyn Guilbert, Content Creator - TikTok Shop; James McGuigan, Senior Sales Executive: International, BPerfect Cosmetics; Dominique Akila Bogle, Founder & CEO, Hair Anatomy, and James Leinhardt, CEO, Levitex, offering insights on how they excel in the world of shoppertainment on TikTok Shop.

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