Trade shows like the Reed Gift Fairs are a great way to get up close and personal with products and find that Christmas blockbuster. Here’s what’s trending for Christmas 2016, and how you can get the most out of the gift fairs next year.
Did you love (and hate) the Rubik’s Cube – the best-selling gift for Christmas 1980? Over 100 million of them were sold between 1980 and 1982. Or perhaps you were one of millions who received or gifted a Nintendo Wii for Christmas 2009, making it that festive season’s breakout hit?
No matter what you sell, Christmas stock that’s right on trend can make or break your Christmas sales. While online marketplaces like Alibaba are a great procurement resource, trade shows and gift fairs should be on your radar, too – for sourcing products, spotting trends and building supplier relationships.
“We’re in competition with the internet now, but gift fairs are still officially a retailer’s most important procurement channel,” says Louisa Theobald, Exhibition Director with Reed Gift Fairs. “Nothing beats meeting exhibitors in person to build relationships, and nothing compares with being able to see, touch and experience a product in situ.”
There have been Australian gift fairs for over 40 years. Reed acquired the trade shows in 2002. “There are now four Reed Gift Fairs each year, two in Sydney and two in Melbourne. The fairs are held in February and in August/September,” says Theobald.
The August Gift Fair in Melbourne is Reed’s flagship event. It runs for five days with more than 750 exhibitors and attracts over 17,000 local, international and interstate visitors. The 2016 February Gift Fair in Sydney attracted around 12,000 visitors. Louisa says the 2017 event is tipped to attract even more people in its new Darling Harbour venue. The other two annual fairs are geared towards smaller, local retailers and are each attended by around 6,000 people.
“There’s a mix of exhibitors, including the big importers and manufacturers,” says Theobald. “We are also keen to nurture the new generation of wholesalers, so we provide a platform for new designers and manufacturers, mumpreneurs and mom-and-pop shops who are really passionate about their products.”
As to visitors, “We get retailers who sell gifts, fashion, homewares, jewellery and toys, buyers from the big department stores, interior designers and even office and shopfitters coming through.
“When retailers come to Reed Gift Fairs, they’re looking for something new. In some cases, they’ve done business in pre-show meetings and showrooms. They’re here to find that one key thing that stands out,” Theobald says.
What’s hot for Christmas 2016
Colours: “We do trend reports and this year we called out midnight blue as a popular colour. We’ve seen lots of products that reflect this colour trend,” says Theobald. Pantone’s 2016 colours of the year Rose Quartz (pale pink) and Serenity (a lilac blue) have also featured strongly.
Australian made: “We’ve seen that Australian-made and Australian-designed products have been popular; people are looking for the story behind the product,” says Theobald.
Quality children’s fashion: “For children’s gifts, licensed products related to big movies are popular, but we also have lots of classics,” says Theobald. “Children’s fashion is big – especially quality items. Parents are much more fashion conscious and it’s also a response to the less-is-more trend.”
When to shop for Christmas stock
The February Gift Fairs are very important for Christmas buying, says Theobald. “Retailers and buyers can see what’s new, consider the trends and get an idea of what might be their Christmas bestseller.”
While the early birds will be securing key items early in the year, some retailers will wait for the August flagship event to do their Christmas buying, as exhibitors often release new ranges for this fair. Others use the August Fair to top up their Christmas offering and find products that will complement what they already have planned or have in stock.
A good Christmas for retail
Theobald acknowledges that times have been tough in retail recently. While Reed has yet to receive all the exhibitor feedback, she says she really felt an uplift in the mood at the recent August Fair. “Visitors who were just looking in 2015 were placing orders in 2016. We’re excited to be driving this,” she says.
Tips for trade show/Reed Gift Fair exhibitors
- Have stock of the products you exhibit ready to ship.
- If you can’t have stock ready or you receive orders for more stock than you have, make sure you have clear timelines for how long delivery will take.
- Display and style your products in a way that allows retailers to imagine how they’ll look online, in a shop and in someone’s home or in use.
Tips for retailers
- The number of exhibitors and products at a trade show can be utterly overwhelming! Use the trend reports, exhibitor and product directories and apps to plan who and what you want to see. You can even set up some supplier meetings in advance.
- Set aside time to just walk around, soak up the atmosphere and spot the trends.
- If you order stock from a new supplier, make sure you do your usual due diligence and agree on delivery times. “The larger wholesalers may take an order and be able to ship within 24 hours,” says Theobald. “Others may first take the retailer’s order before manufacturing the product, which could mean a six to eight-week wait.”