Gift and home bonanza Spring Fair is just around the corner. Encompassing 14 sectors, plus Jewellery & Watch and a Glee concession show, the exhibition will present new products from over 2500 exhibitors. Furniture News asked Rob Sapwell, head of sales for Home, Gifts & The Summerhouse at Spring Fair, for a glimpse of what visitors should expect to encounter this year …

What are you most looking forward to seeing?

There is so much to be looking forward to, but above all else I’m excited to see the collections our new exhibitors will bring to the show. 

Fifty Five South, for example, is a completely new brand that will launch exclusively in the Home sector at Spring Fair. It will showcase its diverse portfolio of furniture, soft furnishings and home accessories within a room setting so that buyers and independent retailers can shop a complete look. 

This is a common theme at Spring Fair, and we have a number of exhibitors that bring their ranges to life by creating a showroom setting – for visitors this is a great way to visualise how their own shop or concession space could look.

Another brand that I’m excited to see at the show is Koopman International, which is new to the Home sector, having previously presented its wares in the Volume Gifts & Home sector. The Dutch company is now manufacturing original, high-quality home decor and accessories that come at an affordable price point. 

This type of move isn’t uncommon, and we’re seeing more brands shifting towards the home decor market as part of a wider consumer trend for ‘cocooning’ at home. This means consumers are investing in a wide variety of items including affordable furnishings, home fragrances and decorative accessories.

As always, I’m eager to see the finished and complete Home and The Summerhouse sectors at the show. Every year it is great to see all the amazing brands we work with bring together months of planning to set out their wares in such engaging and striking showcases.

What’s new this year?

We’re really excited to be launching a brand new interactive feature area at the 2018 show. It will enable visitors to fully immerse themselves in visually-merchandised rooms that showcase current consumer trends and predict what will be hot all the way through to 2020.

We’re using content from industry-leading trend forecasters and platforms WGSN, Pinterest, One Click Retail and Coloro, to pinpoint colours, patterns and shapes that will be in demand over the coming years. The gallery-inspired feature will provide retailers, buyers, interior designers, specifiers and contractors an invaluable glimpse into the future.

The rationale behind this new addition is that we wanted to make it easier for time-poor buyers to get a snapshot of trends that will come to the fore over the next two years, as well as helping them quickly identify the next hot products.

There will also be a new Summerhouse Café, which means even more opportunities to network, hold meetings and connect with new suppliers.

How large is the Home sector this year?

Spring Fair’s Home sector in Hall 1 of the NEC covers 14,000 sqm, bringing together 135 global suppliers who will present a plethora of inspiring, deco fashion, on-trend homeware items including textiles, furniture, interior and outdoor accessories, as well as soft furnishings. 

There is something for every type of store, and we’re delighted to be bringing some exciting new names to Spring Fair 2018, including Ashley Wilde Group, Roomset, Devon Duvets, Milano Rugs, The Foundryman and Blanc Mariclo.

Retailers will also find the UK’s largest selection of Scandinavian brands at Spring Fair, as well as a wide variety of Dutch-inspired designs. Nordic Style and Spira of Sweden are both new to the show and will present hygge-inspired wares – with plenty more brands in the show’s The Summerhouse sector, which is a hand-picked collective offering visitors the latest in on-trend designs, with a highly-edited selection of the most original UK and international suppliers.

Any other home exhibitors visitors should take notice of?

Visitors should definitely visit Coach House, which will have its beautiful new range of Christmas 2018 products spread out across its always-impressive stand. Voyage Maison, famed for its amazing artistry and textiles, is another must-visit.

For those after something a little bit different, check out Edge Sculpture, which creates breathtaking animal sculptures, and Bentley & Bo, which produces quirky, on-trend interior and decor products.

Visitors who are on the hunt for lighting solutions should head to Pacific Lifestyle, which has 200 years’ experience importing globally-sourced decorative lighting, and Light & Living –  hailing from The Netherlands – which is bringing its wholesale customised lampshades and limited-edition pieces.

Other big-name companies exhibiting in The Summerhouse include The Libra Company, Jellycat, Parlane, India Jane, Dartington Crystal, Gisela Graham, Abigail Ahern, Stone Glow Candles and Bronte By Moon.

How is Spring Fair evolving to meet the needs of the modern retailer/e-tailer?

The show is an inspirational hub of trends and insights, which is invaluable to modern retailers and e-tailers. Particularly for the latter, where competition is rife, Spring Fair has a number of features that will show those starting their business how they can scale up and stand out from the crowd.

While our new interactive feature will help retailers identify future trends, the Spring Fair Inside Retail Hub will include a raft of seminars, including advice on driving online sales and using social media to its fullest advantage – another crucial aspect for all retailers. There will also be our hugely popular Meet the Expert sessions, with industry experts offering invaluable, practical advice to help stores get ahead.

Our Retail Solutions area is another USP for Spring Fair, and gives retailers solutions on everything from shopfitting, in-store design and ecommerce to payment, logistics and fulfilment, to drive businesses forward in-store and online.

What makes Spring Fair relevant to furniture retailers, given the number of furniture-specific exhibitions taking place around the same time?

Spring Fair’s USP is its scale. Whereas furniture-specific shows tend to focus on big-ticket items, our Home and The Summerhouse sectors present a fantastic selection of newly-launched home accessories, textiles, art and lighting from global brands. 

Across the show, exhibitors showcase luxury goods as well as smaller, affordable items. It all makes us a unique destination for independent retailers, lifestyle shops, garden centres, furniture and department stores to stock next season’s must-have furniture products.

The scale of the show is hugely beneficial to retailers that are looking to diversify their offering. In the UK, for instance, we’re seeing stores expanding their ranges into non-traditional sectors in an effort to increase footfall and spend. 

With everything from homewares, kitchen utensils and DIY hardware to ecommerce solutions, greetings cards, fashion accessories, jewellery and beauty gifts on display, alongside impressive product demonstration areas like Housewares Live, there is no better place to shop for your store in 2018.

Finally, do you have any personal tips for buyers looking to get the most out of their visit?

My main tip is for buyers to make sure they cover both the Home and The Summerhouse sectors, as this will give them the best overview on the very latest trends and product launches across homewares.

Ahead of the show, I’d recommend that store owners keep an eye on our website to find out more about our invaluable Meet the Expert sessions once the final schedule is released. Once announced, these sessions book up extremely quickly, so we recommend they be booked online in advance. 

Additionally, to enhance the show experience, we have developed our Appointment Planner tool to enable visitors to pre-arrange meetings with specific suppliers at the show. Ultimately this means they can have a schedule planned on arrival and can hit the ground running. It is available on the Spring Fair website and can be used by all visitors and exhibitors.

Spring Fair 2018 will take place at Birmingham’s NEC from 4-8th February, with the Volume exhibit opening a day earlier.