EN Awards Winner: Penny Horner

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At the recent Naidex National show at The NEC, you would have seen Penny Horner’s kitchen table on one of the stands. Yes really. Following discussions with client UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), Horner was looking for the ideal accompaniment to round off the stand. Eventually the answer was plucked from her own home, with Horner having her own piece of furniture brought to the stand. It’s the not the first time that a personal piece of furniture has been used for a client. Horner has also used the family sofa. “That time we were without the sofa for about two weeks. My husband isn’t always very pleased,” she said. It’s that level and dedication of service which makes it no surprise that Horner won the Exhibition News Best Client Support award held at Excel London in April. ‘The EN award was a huge honour. It takes pride of place at home,” said Horner. To trace the history of the firm, you need to go back nearly half a century. In 1966 Penny’s father, Peter Banks, a furniture designer and manufacturer, pioneered one of the first ranges of ‘Perspex’ furniture ever designed and produced in the UK. The range was quickly picked up by major retailers such as Harrods and Liberty - its name was Penny Banks. Peter Banks became a highly successful award-winning furniture designer. His first commission into exhibition design came in the late 1970s, when he was approached to design an exhibition stand system and complimentary furniture for the London Designer Collections. This later became London Fashion Week. Peter Banks played a key part in the launch of the show – designing, producing and installing bespoke elements for the event. Horner joined her father in the early 1990s. Her training in graphic design brought a new element to the business by combining two and three dimensional design approaches to develop promotional ideas and to bring brands to life. Since Peter’s retirement in 2000, Penny has been the figurehead of the company, based in Cambridgeshire. Horner saw off competition in her category from GES, Showplans, Aztec, N200 and JMT Indisplay. Horner was thrilled with her award and had this to say about her win: “The Exhibition News Awards have become the pinnacle of excellence in our industry. I feel hugely honoured to have received this prestigious award. At Penny Banks, great customer service and attention to detail are the hallmark of our offer, so it makes me particularly proud to have collected an award in recognition of this.” She is looking to increase business for her company, both in the UK and internationally, which includes work on Reed Gift Australia which has four shows annually. “We have invested heavily in a purpose-built factory and storage property in St Ives. “With a staff of 30 we have managed to weather the worst of the UK’s downturn and emerge in very good shape, not only growing in the UK but at the same time opening up new business opportunities in Australia.”  The Penny Banks team was also named as finalists in the Best Feature Area for their Trend Bar design at i2i’s Autumn Fair 2013. In the UK, the firm has a contract with i2i to produce and design feature areas. The firm does between 60 and 90 per cent of all feature areas at i2i shows. “This summer is shaping up to be the biggest summer we have ever had,” said Horner. Main clients include River Street Events for its Good Food Shows, work with Clarion and IMG’s Taste of London. Last year the firm designed the VIP area at the high-end food show in Regent’s Park and corporate hospitality chalets, which had an Alice in Wonderland theme. On the events side, the firm works extensively across major golf tournaments. It has been at the Scottish Open for 10 years, and will make its third appearance at The Open, which this year is at the Royal Liverpool course in July. “We will be working on the corporate hospitality facility, and bar features,” said Horner.The firm will be supplying the Graduate Fashion Week which runs until 3 June at the Truman Brewery in London, and also work on the pop-up shops at this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships. Penny Banks will provide the main entrance, registration area, bar, press office and seminar space. “Initially we were seen very much as a furniture hire contractor. We are now known as a stylist,” Horner said. Whether it’s the sense of style or lengths gone to help a client, the firm is clearly a worthy winner for its work in the exhibition industry.  This was first published in the June issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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