After the forced confines of Covid it was with excitement that we set off early one February morning on a road trip to the Spring Fair at the NEC.
I had always loved the Spring Fair. Meeting contacts at suppliers face to face and finally putting a face to the voice at the end of the phone, finding new contacts and suppliers for products I knew our customers would love and most of all stumbling across other small businesses all working had to make a living in the gift industry with new innovations and ideas. Spring Fair was like a tonic; I always left feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I'd return to the studio bursting with new ideas and energy!
This year was somewhat different and sadly, I can only think that our experience was just indicative of the state of the world at this strange time.
Put is this way, Amy and I had to put our own spring into the Spring Fair this year!
I should say this is by no means down to the exhibitors, organisers or attendees. In fact I pretty much felt sorry for all who attended, especially those who had paid for the privilege.
It was, in short, sadly lacking. Fewer exhibitors, smaller stands, zero giveaways, new ideas in short supply and I could go on. We were really keen on meeting contacts representing manufacture and supply from overseas but that hall was empty this year. Probably due to the pandemic still hitting the Far East hard.
We have long enjoyed meeting our dropship suppliers each year, but this year, there was only one of our personalised gift suppliers there and their stand was tiny compared with their usual expansive stand. And across the board there were far fewer new innovations and products than usual, a lot less exciting ideas and in fact, by 2pm we'd pretty much finished and were ready for home.
On the plus side, the pizza from the concourse was out of this world!
So, my summary?
Well, I'll go back and I still say Spring Fair is a super focus for all gift businesses. I'm guessing the experience was pretty indicative of the times. Few businesses are able to fund an exhibition and those who do have seen marketing budgets slashed since the pandemic. People are still wary about going out and mixing in great numbers so the visitor numbers seeming low should not be unexpected perhaps. Companies have been fighting to stay afloat and sell the stock they have, so there has been limited cash flow to invest in R&D and new product development and those that have produced new designs are no doubt waiting for them to land in ports, as many are still stuck in containers across the other side of the world. That would explain the limited number of new product lines this year.
All in all, had it not been for our excitement at a day trip out of the studio and away from the kids, and of course the epic pizza for lunch, there would have been little joy found in our visit to the NEC. Sadly there was little fun found at the Spring Fair for us this year and I can only hope that as the world slowly recovers, this will kick start the show again in 2023 and beyond!
@springautumnfair #springfair #springautumnfair