I have actually written about trade shows before and I want to bring up the topic again today, because I think it’s such a valuable product sourcing concept, but one that is completely overlooked due to the emphasis of doing everything online.
And of course, that’s understandable really; with forums, blogs, sites like Alibaba, and all the other resources available to us, it’s easy to neglect the importance of offline interaction and the opportunities it presents.
So today I want to go over and introduce you to some of the biggest trade shows in different industries that you can attend.
But let me first point out that I’m going to be concentrating on trade shows held within the UK, as this guide is mainly intended for people in the early stages of creating their business, so a trip to China and its famous Canton Fair might not the best idea if it eats into your budget for stock.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Spring Fair, 1-5 February, NEC Birmingham
Unfortunately the Spring Fair has already taken place this year, but as Europe’s largest home and gift items trade show, it’s definitely something you should add to your calendar and think about attending next year.
I get asked a lot about branded products from big companies and where to find suppliers and here is your answer! Many of the exhibitors (here is a full list) supply products sold by the big high street stores, so if that’s something that interests you, be sure to check it out.
As I said, 2015’s fair has already taken place but if you want some more info (and to plan for next year) here is their site:
Autumn Fair, 6-9 September, NEC Birmingham
That brings us onto the next trade show in our list, the Autumn Fair.
Similar to the Spring Fair, expect this one is geared towards festive, “on trend” items that are in high demand at the most important time of the year for sellers, September – December.
There isn’t that much information available about this year’s event, as it’s still a number of months away, but you can head over to their site to get some general info and some facts and figures about previous year’s trade shows:
Internet Retailing Expo, 25-26 March, NEC Birmingham
This is an interesting one! It’s not strictly a trade show, as it really includes everything – workshops, conferences, seminars etc.
Normally I wouldn’t suggest attending such events as they can be heavily geared towards offline retailers, but as this is specifically an internet retailing expo, it’s definitely worth checking out.
After all, it’s free to attend, and with the number of topics being covered (Click and Collect, SEO, PPC etc.) you’re bound to pick up some very useful info for your own business.
And while we’re on the topic of these all in one exhibitions:
Business Startup, 13-14 May, London
This is another event that is free to attend, and with 250 seminars, 350 exhibitors, 12 masterclasses, and 12 speakers (including Piers Linney from Dragon’s Den) – there should be plenty of reason to go.
Although the exhibitors are more service oriented rather than product suppliers, these events can still be terrific networking opportunities.
Plus it’s run alongside a number of other events/shows, including The Business Show, The Sales Innovation Expo, and Going Global.
You can find more info about all of these here:
Alright, so far we’ve covered two of the biggest trade shows in all of Europe, the Spring and Autumn Fair held at NEC (it’s hard to explain the scope of these until you’ve actually been to one – they really cover a huge variety of niches – it’s nearly impossible to cover everything in a single day) and two big “event/information” trade shows.
Now I’ll cover some more of the big ones, that are more niche specific. Of course I can’t cover every trade show there is (that’s simply impossible) so I definitely suggest doing some additional research yourself – if you’re looking for something in a specific niche or in a specific area.
But now, onto our next one:
Off-Price Show, 1-2 March / 20-21 September, Olympia Exhibition Centre, London
This is one of Europe’s biggest trade shows for fashion stock buying and promises the “hottest deals… including big name brands, own brand ranges, and high quality unbranded imports”.
Nearly every fashion sub-niche is covered (high street, sports, leisure, outdoor wear, accessories etc.) and with offers of up to 70% off of normal wholesale prices, if you’re in the fashion niche – you simply have to attend.
Tickets are free so don’t make any excuses and start planning now for the September edition!
Spirit of Summer Fair, 17-20 June, Olympia Exhibition Centre, London
Much more of a niche trade show, the Spirit of Summer Fair is focused on a specific selection of independent boutiques and designers presenting their products. These include interior pieces, garden, fashion and children’s clothing as well as summer gift items, and artisan food and drink.
All exhibitors are hand-picked so this is more of a selective, premium offering. If it’s something that interests you then take a look at a full list of exhibitors and book your tickets here:
Scotland Trade Fairs, 18-20 January / 20-21 September, SECC, Glasgow
If you’re based further North and the Birmingham and London events are just too far for you to travel, Scotland also have a Spring and Autumn trade fair, very similar to the ones held at NEC (just smaller).
Again, the Spring fair has already taken place this year and there isn’t yet full info for the Autumn fair, but you can keep an eye on their sites for more info:
And that’s pretty much it for the major ones within the UK! As I briefly mentioned above, there are of course many more, niche specific, trade shows so feel free to do some research yourself and see if they’re worth visiting.
The best site for this is probably 10times.com as they have a terrific search feature where you can filter by industry, and by country (even down to city level).
Using this site, you can really start to see the huge amount of trade shows that are available for you to visit each year, in every niche imaginable, from clothing, jewellery, household goods, electronics, packaging materials, food and beverage, knitting and stitching, medical and pharmaceutical, cosmetics, wedding, automotive, computer hardware etc. etc.!
Basically, if you can name a niche, there’ll be a trade show for it.
A great way to find something for you (if you don’t already have a niche in mind) is to simply browse the top 100:
I’m sure you’ll find plenty that interests you that way.
For those of you who are just starting out and want to visit a more general event, then it’s hard to beat the Spring & Autumn trade fairs held at the NEC, purely due to their scope.
And remember, it’s not just UK based suppliers and business who present there, but ones from all over Europe, so it’s a terrific opportunity to meet and connect with suppliers that you would probably never even come across online.
I have heard some stories of people wary of visiting because they think you have to be a bricks and mortar store, selling millions of pounds a year for suppliers to deal with you and take you seriously, but that’s not the case at all!
MOQs can be very low (£150-£250) and as long as you are professional and prepared, you will find that the vast majority are happy to supply you, even if you only sell online.
So please don’t let that worry hold you back, as it really isn’t the case.
These trade shows are a terrific way to uncover new suppliers, broaden your product range and grow your business – all with no risk and very little cost!
And remember, you don’t have to know exactly what industry or products you’re interested in beforehand, not at all! One of the best things about trade shows is that you can go to one, look around and simply talk to suppliers and other business owners – you might just be inspired!
In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that you don’t even have to want to buy anything there – you can use it for research, to get some product ideas etc. and then look into Chinese alternatives. Of course, this depends on the products in question and won’t always be a possibility.
Lastly, I want to quickly mention that you don’t have to stop at trade shows in the UK! Why not take it one step further and visit international ones as well?
Of course China and its famous Canton Fair, or the many trade shows held in the US, might be too much for you when just starting out, but don’t neglect Europe…
Nowadays you can get a cheap ticket to nearly anywhere within Europe for peanuts so all in all, including travel and accommodation, it’ll cost you less than a few hundred pounds! (Check EasyJet and Ryanair as they often have deals for flights to Germany, Poland, France etc. for £20-£30 return & you can book 4* hotels from Expedia or Trivago for around £60).
And why not treat it as a holiday as well?
That’s exactly what I do myself… if we’re planning a holiday, I’ll take a quick look at trade shows on around that time and match up the dates so I can spend a day or two visiting them.
Again, the best way to do this is using the same site I linked to earlier, http://10times.com/
Just head to that site and select any country or city and you’ll get a full list of events and trade shows, sorted by date.
And of course, if you have any questions about what you find or would simply like to hear my thoughts, don’t hesitate to post below in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help!
Until next time!
All the best,