As the retail space continues to change in ways that few people may have foreseen a decade ago, Gareth Watkins, head of living, accents and decor at Autumn Fair (taking place at the Birmingham NEC from 1st-4th September), explains how the 2019 event is adapting to meet the latest market challenges head-on …

“Autumn Fair has sat as the centrepiece of the retail market for nearly three decades,” says Gareth. “In that time, it has helped drive countless deals and forged long-lasting buying relationships between retail’s boldest buyers and suppliers. 

“However, the retail market, across all categories, has undeniably changed since its inception. All retailers now must get to grips with what is an increasingly disrupted trading environment, and the furnishings sector is no different in this regard. 

“Therefore, Autumn Fair, the season’s most important marketplace for home retail, will be changing for 2019. In our 24/7 economy, trying to keep up with fabric, colour and design trends can be exhausting. The 2019 show will see a completely revamped content programme to help ensure homeware suppliers stay ahead of the curve and continue to drive orders into late 2019 and beyond. 

“A completely re-edited Living, Accents and Décor sector, and a new location, situated alongside the Summerhouse across halls 18, 19 and 20 in the NEC, will mean exhibitors can expect more streamlined thoroughfare and greater exposure to more high-profile and receptive retailers than ever before. 

“Joining the show for the re-edit will be new exhibitors such as Distinction Contracts, who visitors won’t be able to see at any other trade shows this year. Visitor-favourite bellwethers such as Cozy Living, Kaemingk and Coach House will also be part of the new re-edit. With over 22,000 visitors expected, the show offers unrivalled dealmaking opportunities with the sector’s boldest buyers.

“September sees an important launch of new lighting products as we run in to the autumn months, and a good selection of products from Light & Living, Serene, Calex, Culinary Concepts, Libra and many more are perfectly positioned, with our early September show dates. 

“Showcasing only the latest furnishings, home accessories, textiles and decorative finishing touches, the show is also set to create a forum for suppliers to share expertise on trend, design, sales strategy and more.”

Sustainability will also play a key part in the re-edit, explains Gareth. “Consumers are, rightly, expressing more concern than ever before about how environmentally-friendly, responsibly-sourced and sustainable their favourite products are,” he says.

“For the homewares sector, this has meant a shift away from fur-based soft furnishings, and more products being developed using recycled and zero-impact materials. The decision to create or stock more sustainable products is not only an ethical choice, but it’s increasingly a commercial one, too. Ignoring or shying away from the public outcry is simply not an option. 

“Autumn Fair this year will help the homewares sector rise to this sustainability challenge, offering advice on how to find alternative packaging materials and ways to make supply chains more transparent. 

“With a fresh new direction for 2019, Autumn Fair is set to inject a vibrant flair into the homewares sector for Q4 and 2020. With renewed focuses on sustainability and buyer experience, visitors’ enthusiasm is set to reach well beyond the shopfloor and extend long after the show concludes. Purchasing relationships are built on positive outlook, and with the re-edited platform for 2019, Autumn Fair is creating a strong basis for long-lasting partnerships.”

Registration is free here.