The Spring Fair 2008 is billed as “where the world of retail loves to shop”. The feeling I got from some suppliers was that this is only the case, if you are not an online retailer and even more not if you sell on, dare we mention it? eBay! But I’ll discuss that later.
First of all the show is huge, I have to admit that this was our firtt foray into the world of trade fairs, so we have no previous experience to draw from, but it seemed vast to us. There were over 20 halls of exhibitors filled with categories such as Contemporary Gifts & Collections, Gifts, Fashion Accessories, Wellbeing, Festive & Floral, Volume Retail, International, Kitchen & Dining, Home Gifts & Interiors, Garden Living, Gallery (the list goes on).
The NEC itself is phenomenally well organised, parking was a cinch on both days, shuttle buses running regularly from the car parks to the halls to save the walk (we chose the exercise). Traffic in and out of the area was good too, apart from tonight (Tues) the M42 was slow because of the heavy rain (but thats an act of God right?) If you are considering attending a show at the NEC and are unsure about it’s accessibility I would whole heartedly recommend giving it a go, I’m sure you would find it a stress free visit.
When we arrived we were rather overawed by the sheer number of halls and the size of the show itself, so we spent most of the 1st day aimlessly wandering around doing a lot of “ooing”!
On our way back to the car at the end of the first day, we noticed a show guide for sale at Â£15, ouch! But as we felt we had barely scratched the surface in terms of potential stalls to see and found that it was difficult to orientate ourselves when in the halls, we decided that we would invest in a guide and use it that evening to plan our attack for the following day. We did this and found that the categorising of products and maps of each hall helped pinpoint people to see and the best route round the halls.
On the second day we had our list of exhibitors we wanted to see and locations for their stalls and found that this worked MUCH better and we were able to get round almost all on the stalls our list. As we are “newbies” we wanted to practice our approach to the exhibitors, as we were a little nervous about our credibility due to how long (or short as is the case) we had been trading and our status as ebay sellers. We did not plan to thrust ebay on them immediately and gauge the reaction to our being an “online retailer”, with multiple routes to market, which is actually true in a way, as we sell on ebay, amazon, play and are developing our own website.
With this in mind we chose the International Hall where this year there has been a large increase in the number of exhibitors from China. For some reason it was much easier approaching people whose first language was not English! I have to admit to using this hall as a bit of a warm up, but left feeling that had we been serious about buying some of the items on display, language would have been a huge hurdle as most of the exhibitors seemed to get by with a big grin and the thrusting of a brochure.
We moved into a hall called Volume Retail and this is where some of the more interesting discussions took place. Most of the exhibitors were polite asking for a card and promising contact within a week after the show etc, but a couple point blank refused to engage with us because we were “online retailers”.
One who did not know that we sold on ebay confessed, “Some people are not online retailers, they just wanna sell the stuff on ebay and no one wants to see their stuff being sold on ebay!” I was actually quite stunned at this, as I was not talking to Gucci Homewares, but a company that made simple but funky picture frames and plaques with poems on, that retailed between Â£2.00 and Â£8.00!
The majority of the people we spoke to were ok with the idea of us being “online” but assumed we had a warehouse, which we did little to correct, as it was they, who had made the assumptions. I have to admit to still feeling a little deflated by the negative comments made by the couple of exhibitors who we wanted to get a relationship with and also could not help but question why they seemed to have their heads in the sand in terms of the potential for supplying internet only companies and the incredible growth of on line retail.
On the whole the experience was positive and we think we may get some “leads” to follow up.