Spring Fair's facelift
31-Jan-11by Annie Byrne
Every show needs a facelift to remain appealing to its target audience. So it’s not surprising Emap Connect has embarked on an ambitious £1m investment strategy overhaul its flagship Spring Fair International show. The organiser has brought on several third-party and celebrity design consultants to introduce a series of new features. Emap Connect Home and Gift MD Louise Young said its aim is to improve customer experience to attract more exhibitors and buyers. Among 2011 innovations is the appointment of well-respected interior designer and Grand Designs and Ideal Home Show consultant, Justin Southgate to assist with new content. These include The Trend House, where buyers can take away trend packs courtesy of forecasting service, WGSN. “Over the last two shows we have been working with a number of consultants, including Rah Productions and Cleere Koritsas-Scamell, to help deliver exciting content which includes Cook Live, where celebrity chefs such as James Martin and Raymond Blanc have appeared,” Young said. “Using the talents of our team with ideas from our consultants means we are continually innovating in order to heighten the presentation values and the experience our visitors and exhibitors enjoy.”Spring Fair is one of a handful of home and gift-oriented shows which bases its success on a wide variety of products in multiple industries.“It is the scale and unparalleled offer of 300,000 new products from 3,000 exhibitors that excites and attracts a retailer audience with such great buying power to Spring Fair,” Young claimed. Market dynamicsSimilarly to Emap, Springboard has been running the broad-based Trade Fair Spring and Autumn shows in Scotland since 2009. Its MD, Mark Saunders, said the key to broad-based trade fairs is tuning into market dynamics. “We have large numbers of suppliers from large companies through to small ones,” he said. “It is in these types of industries where exhibitions thrive best. Ours is a more dispersed market where there’s far stronger need for a platform to bring buyers and sellers together to conduct business.” Although the Scottish Trade Fair Spring show has run continually, the Autumn equivalent was shelved in recent years due to lack of interest and the beginning of the recession. It was taken over and relaunched by Springboard at the Scotland Exhibition and Convention Centre in Glasgow in 2009. The move saw visitor numbers double in 2010.Saunders said Springboard’s next step was to work out how to retain an industry role online, outside of the five-day exhibition. In addition, the exhibitor mix is changing every year to reflect popular market trends. “Ultimately, an exhibition has to reflect what is going on in the market it services, so the product areas in our show increase and decrease all the time,” Saunders added. Size mattersAccording to Vivid Interface MD and industry veteran, Geoffrey Dixon, the only reason why a broad-based event would decline is because it loses relevance to the market it services. “This can be because the markets have moved on or because the organisers have lost touch with market needs and fails to communicate relevance and deliver a show floor and digital product that makes sense,” he said. Big tradeshows like the Spring Fair remained critical to buyers because they delivered new products to serve existing markets, as well as identified new markets.“There is no more excited show visitor than the one who has found a new business opportunity at an event and the Spring Fair delivers this in bucket loads,” Dixon claimed. While organisers certainly can’t expect all content to be relevant to all visitors, Dixon believed having a wide variety of offerings was what made home and gift fairs such a success. “As long as there is enough to make the visit worthwhile then it works really well,” he claimed. “Taking time away from a retail business is tough but if they know they will find new and innovative products, possibly new suppliers, and can evaluate opportunities, then it makes that drive worthwhile.”Way forwardEmap’s next Spring Fair takes place at The NEC on 6-10 February and extends across 13 halls. New features range from a Toy Demo area and Tasting Table, to a Life Style Zone for kitchen and houseware products and dedicated London 2012 Olympic group stand. A major investment has been made to improve traffic flow around the exhibition. “New content and features are integral to growing the volume and value of transactions placed at Spring Fair as they help inspire and guide retailers buying, as well as increase their comfort and overall enjoyment,” Young added.