Autumn Fair is the season’s most important marketplace for home and retail. Offering an experience which can’t be found anywhere else, the annual event is the biggest in the retail calendar.
Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Autumn Fair’s Kieva McLaughlin about the upcoming event which runs from September 1st – 4th at the NEC, Birmingham.
Re-edited and refreshed, an all-new Autumn Fair is coming.
MR: Give us an overview of Autumn Fair
KM: Autumn Fair is the season’s most important marketplace for home and retail. Coming up to the busy Christmas period, this is where retailers go to source their Christmas stock and see what’s in trend coming into 2020. It’s full of suppliers and there will be showcases of exclusive new products. We have three theatres which all have fantastic seminar speakers, with industry experts and influencers includingTheo Paphitis and Mary Portas. It’s an unrivalled opportunity for those in retail.
MR: What’s new for 2019?
KM: For the first year, we’re launching the Sourcing Sector. Private labels are becoming more and more important and we thought we’d take the step to bring international manufacturers to Autumn fair. It’s a place where retailers can go and find their own branded products. There are key manufacturers from markets around the world, so people are able to meet these suppliers without having to travel.
We also have a main focus on sustainability, so we’re launching an initiative called ‘The Power of One,’ meaning one person has the power to change the world and make a difference to the environment. We have a wall where everyone can make a pledge, get a reusable water bottle and join the initiative for suppliers and retailers to be conscious of how they are creating their products. This is something which will continue to grow ahead of Spring Fair.
This Autumn Fair is also a lot more trend-led than usual. We’ve partnered with Colour Hive to predict colour, design and material trends for Autumn Winter 2021. There will be a trend feature at the show that can help retailers to understand how to use trends alongside products. They will also be hosting daily trend seminars in the Sourcing theatre.
MR: What can exhibitors expect to get out of the show?
KM: The main reason exhibitors attend is to catch up with old customers, and to source new ones. It’s the biggest event of the season so many see Autumn Fair as something which must be in their calendar as they have to be there, making the most of networking opportunities.
MR: What can visitors gain from attending Autumn Fair?
KM: For visitors, Autumn Fair brings three main benefits; the chance to meet new people to refresh their stock, get retail insights from the seminar stages and to look for upcoming trends. In most cases, visitors attend to benefit from all three elements.
MR: What type of retailers typically attend?
KM: We have a large mix of retailers including department stores as well as a lot of independents. There’s such a mix and this year, we’re expecting a lot more people from the interior sector to visit the new sourcing sector, seeing what will be on trend years in advance.
MR: Tell us more about the retail solutions sector
KM: The Retail Solutions sector is where retailers can go to find solutions for their business, whichever sector they are in. You’ll find anything from accountants to people who can help you run your business as effectively as possible, which is where Modern Retail sits. It’s essentially anything which is needed for a successful business to run.
MR: How can Autumn Fair help independent retailers to maximise their online and offline opportunities?
KM: The main way is to source on-trend in advance. While big retailers may already know what will be on trend 18 months in advance, this is an opportunity which independent retailers don’t usually have. They can then source their products at the show with this in mind. The seminars give retailers the opportunity to learn new things about the industry, online and offline, as well as Autumn Fair being an unrivalled networking opportunity.
MR: What would you say are the emerging trends in retail?
KM: From our point of view, sustainability is absolutely huge at the moment. People are understanding that we need to take action on plastic waste and introduce more sustainable practices. All retailers and suppliers are now coming together and a recent survey we conducted showed that 73% have been making sustainable changes to their business, and so many of these look to become fully sustainable in the coming years.
Another is experiential retail. A lot of retailers are brick-and-mortar stores and the ones which are most successful are creating experiences instore for their customers. From offering free water and coffee to having an in-house nail salon, this is another trend we are seeing coming through.
The third would be quirky personalisation. In jewellery, we have seen this for a while with people getting engraving done on items. But it’s now going outside those boundaries and letting the customer create their own product with the retailer. A lot of stores are letting customers create unique products and make or request specific changes, meaning they can have a finished product which is personalised to them.
MR: What should retailers be aware of when sourcing new stock or suppliers?
KM: More retailers want to make sure they can track back the supply chain so they can make sure it is transparent. It’s important to make sure they know who their suppliers are, meet them in person and know where each product is coming from. People aren’t happy to turn a blind eye to their supply chain any more, so it’s important to know the facts.
Visit Autumn Fair this September to source new products for your retail store and take part in the free retail workshops and seminars. Register for your free ticket here.