The Spring Fair at Birmingham’s NEC is an annual event in the buying calendar of most retail businesses. The massive fair takes over 20 halls and hosts wholesale companies from all over the world who gather for 5 days in order to try to kick start their trading year. You can buy everything from tinsel to topiary, a miniature dinosaur garden (!) to giant moving stuffed toys 8′ tall, tourist gifts for a few pennies to diamond rings and all the top gift brands.
I usually go to trade fairs on my own. It’s lovely to have company but with so much ground to cover at the NEC I can hit the ground running and just keep going. The average day will be one of about 7 or 8 hours walking about 10,000 steps. You need comfortable shoes, layers and a lightweight bag to carry all the catalogues and price lists that you gather.
Now we get down to tactics. I try to arrive earlyish but without being too bleary eyed as you need a good night’s sleep the day before: it’s going to be a long day! Securing a parking spot near to the halls is great as it’s so much nicer to have a quick 10 minute walk in the fresh air than to queue for the shuttle bus. I will have been though the ‘little black book’ before to pinpoint all the suppliers that I want to see and will have annotated the halls map with all the stand numbers so that at a glance I can tell which halls I can miss out and which I have to cover. It doesn’t really matter where I start, better not to do all your favourites on day 1 otherwise the second day can feel a bit of a slog.
Although I don’t move quite as fast as I did 10 or 20 years ago my improved focus from over 30 years in retail more than makes up for that and I’m afraid I push myself quite hard in order to get the most out of the show. This means that I try to take advantage of any refreshments offered on the bigger stands – my favourite makes a great cup of coffee with a fabulous mini danish so I can place an order and refuel at the same time! The Summerhouse hall exhibitors hand out coffee vouchers to their customers so this is where I have my 10 minute break and a quick sandwich. There are of course plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants at the NEC but queuing and sitting down for lunch eats into my day. The water stations are great as it’s all to easy to get dehydrated in the over heated atmosphere.
In my opinion one of the great delights of a shop like Casa Fina is that you can be so diverse with your buying. It would be easy to get carried away but our brand stands for quality, fabulous design and good value so these are the linking attributes with everything that we buy.