January and February 2015 saw the beginning of the Trade Fair season. I would imagine that every gift retailer views the Trade Fairs with a mixture of joy, hope, anticipation and utter exhaustion, coming so soon after the very busy Christmas season.
David and I began our year with a visit to a Wiltshire wholesaler to preview the Christmas 2015 Collection .... on 6th January! Whilst it was good to have the opportunity to see some very pretty and unusual Christmas decorations and tableware, and begin planning our purchases and budgeting in advance, we still had some of our existing Christmas stock on the shop shelves - so we probably didn't really pay it the attention we should have.
But there's always another day. And an online catalogue.
Next came the Giving & Living Trade Fair at Exeter's Westpoint Arena, which was much more enjoyable. For one thing, there wasn't a single Christmas item on sale. Holly and I made an early start, leaving home whilst it was still very dark, to ensure we were one of the first through the doors. Mission accomplished, so it was worth the effort.
Many local makers and wholesalers were featured at the Fair, as well as newcomers to the industry. We met many new contacts, and enjoyed joyful reunions with existing suppliers, such as the lovely Jo of Sapooni Natural Soaps and Skincare, and Rob from Suki. Just wait until you see what we bought from Suki! What's that, you want a clue? Hmmmm, OK: Jurassic Park.
Holly and I had a wonderful day's shopping, exploring exciting and new gift ideas, chatting to some lovely artists and makers, and commissioning some very special items exclusively for sale in Brocante of Devon. By the end of the day we were footsore and weary, but excited about our purchases. We were also full of sugar. Well, we had to try the free samples of fudge and cookies; it would have been rude not to.
The huge Spring Fair at the NEC was to be next on our list. David and I had planned to spend three days attending this mammoth event featuring exhibitors from not only all over the UK, but all over the world. In the end, we decided not to go. For one thing, we had sourced all the things we'd wanted whilst at the Giving & Living Trade Fair; for another thing, we'd already spent an awful lot of money on the stock we'd ordered there, and finally, we were terrified how much more money we could potentially spend when confronted with so many exhibitors. We have to remember we are buying for just one, small, independent Gift Shop, not buying for a UK-wide chain of stores. Besides ...... there's always the Autumn Fair.
The wonderful thing about the Trade Fairs is being able to sail past many of the stands because they exhibit products we do not/would not sell in our shop, enabling us to spend more time talking to the people who really interest us: fascinating people who bring their own designs, their own inspiration, their own hard work, and their own creativity to the Fairs. It's a real joy and privilege to meet them, and to be able to support them in some small way by purchasing from them.