Furniture News speaks to Neil Gaisford, MD of the retail division at Clarion Events, ahead of the organisation’s acquisition of, and as such closer involvement with the development of, the January and Manchester Furniture Shows.

What is the importance of events targeted for the UK furniture industry?
The UK furniture industry is a healthy and vital component of the British economy, and requires strong and successful furniture shows to support it.

Why did the partnership between Clarion and the January and Manchester Furniture Shows come about?
This is an exciting partnership – it brings together the deep market knowledge and relationships of the founders with Clarion’s resources and marketing expertise in delivering world class retail business-to-business events, securing the long-term future of the events.

What are your thoughts on how these two events have been developed over the years?
We must acknowledge the achievements of Laraine Janes and Theresa Raymond, organisers of the Manchester Furniture Show and founders of the January Furniture Show. Through their passion and professional focus they have created a valued and trusted platform for the entire furniture sector to join together, to showcase and source the latest products and network with retailers and buyers from across the country.

How will the current organisers be involved in the events in the future?
Laraine and Theresa have been involved with the running of furniture fairs for more than 30 years and they will continue to play a key strategic role in the direction of both events for the foreseeable future. Clarion’s role will be to support them with the necessary investment and expertise to develop the shows to their full potential.

Why is Clarion the right fit for developing these events further?
With 70 years’ experience organising successful retail shows including Home & Gift in Harrogate and Top Drawer in London, Clarion was the ideal choice when the team began to look for a partner to help them achieve the next stage of their shows’ development. We share the same passion for retail and events, taking pride in being in touch with, and close to the markets we serve.

What is your vision for the events?
We are committed to investing in the events, strengthening and building on their strong foundations and delivering an exciting next chapter for the show’s evolution.  

In the months since we bought the events we have spoken to people across the supply chain and have gained a strong sense of how the industry wants the shows to develop. We know the NEC is where the industry wants their major annual event to be each January, for easy, affordable access from across the entire country.

For our exhibitors, we are committed to maintaining the competitive and transparent pricing, customer service and return on investment for which the shows are known. We’re investing money, effort and expertise in marketing to increase profile, visibility and reach, to attract new relevant visitor audiences.

Who do you want to attract to the shows, and how will you develop their offering?
We will attract more new suppliers to ensure a good variety of products to tempt and excite visitors with an even better showcase of the latest suppliers, trends and innovations. We’ll also look carefully at complementary product sectors and suppliers to extend the buying opportunities and add value.

Delivering a fantastic overall show experience is our goal for all our exhibitors and visitors, so we’re investing in the presentation of the show, from a new website launching this summer for January Furniture Show, through to new seating areas and cafes at the shows.

How confident is Clarion about maintaining the success of these two shows?
With Clarion’s resources, we are well equipped to deliver on this vision, and I am confident that the industry will quickly see visible improvements. We are proud to be the new caretakers of the shows, and look forward to working closely with manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and buyers – alongside Laraine, Theresa and their team – to ensure the events are relevant, up-to-date and that they fulfil the evolving needs of the industry into the future.

The January Furniture Show 2018 will take place at the Birmingham NEC from 21st-24h January.