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Finding Footfall: Trade show wrap up

Our regular column shining a light on retail trends reflects on some of the highlights from the recent round of trade fairs.

If, like me, you were on the trade show trail over the last month, I hope you’ve fully recovered and are regaining control of the email pile-up.

Before we even had a chance to finish our stash of Christmas chocolates, trade show season was upon us, and we had the chance to up our step count and catch up with lots of industry friends.

This month I’m reflecting on the many shows the team and I visited across the UK and Europe – from London to Nuremberg toy fairs and Ambiente in Frankfurt to the final stretch at Spring Fair.

FF1Our first trade show was Top Drawer, the design-led exhibition offering the opportunity to showcase the latest innovations in design to premium retailers.

Trends highlighted at the show included food being ‘in fashion’ as we celebrate the simple pleasures in life. The feeling of escape was also evident in other trends such as more natural materials and calming tones bringing the ‘folky’ feels to life. And if you’re craving something more vibrant, you’ll be glad to hear mediterranean escapes and sunset inspired palettes are featuring on up-and-coming products.

FF2This palette choice was also reflected at Ambiente in Frankfurt with ‘Peach Fuzz’ nominated as the Pantone colour of the year, with variations of the colour permeating throughout the show. Described as “representing care, empathy and compassion” the colour choice is reassuring and comforting in a time where there is so much uncertainty in other areas of our lives. Like Top Drawer, there was a celebration of bold vibrant colours being used in homeware products from ceramics and home textiles through to cookware and kitchen storage. It was brilliant to see a burst of neon pastels and bright rainbow colours across the show floors in contrast to more muted tones that have dominated recent trends.

Next on the trade show tour was Toy Fair at London’s Olympia which is always a highlight of the licensing calendar. It’s hard, even as an adult not to get excited when you see the vast stands filled with incredibly exciting and innovative products. And, if like me you have a little one, you no doubt start wondering which of the fabulous products will be gracing your living room floor come Christmas time. Here we got our first glimpse of the new Spin Master Unicorn Academy toy line and it absolutely didn’t disappoint; we may be biased but it’s hard to imagine any of the products not lighting up children’s faces when they hit shelves later this summer.

London Toy Fair always feels like a great warm up for the marathon that is Nuremberg toy fair. Bethan Garton and I were excited to jet off for an action-packed trip that involved countless meetings and stand tours, a ride on a mechanical horse and a few dozen sausages! Nothing quite gets your step count up like the walk from Hall 12 to 4, but it was all worth it to see our friends at Jazwares, HTI and Spin Master to name a few.

The trade show trail came to a close at Spring Fair where the team got to catch up with our fabulous licensees showcasing not only our lovely brands but also other fan favourites. It was clear to the team that two key themes were a focus this year: sustainability and capturing attendees’ imagination when it came to licensing. This was demonstrated by the talks on the agenda such as Hasbro’s Cat O’Brien hosting a licensing masterclass and Products of Change’s Helena Mansell-Stopher sharing what is ‘conscious consumerism’.

Other presentations demonstrating the broad audience and opportunities available to attendees included Tik Tok Shop’s 101 on how brands and suppliers can work with them on the booming platform. And for those businesses potentially at the start of their journey, Theo Paphitis presented his thoughts on business and retail in 2024 and met those in the Small Business Sunday (SBS) network to advise on how to navigate the trading environment today. Not an easy task.

FF3Collaborations we loved at the show included House of Disaster’s Peanuts collection and Wilton Bradley’s VW inspired camping accessories range.

We also loved to see Willsow’s Plantable Book broaden its offering with Shaun the Sheep, and Cardology’s range go from strength to strength with its premium card range featuring a stellar selection from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

FF5Despite these examples of licensing sitting front and centre of many a stand, there was clearly an appetite for more from the event organisers and attendees as the presentations and product on show demonstrated. It was especially wonderful to see some of our own brands in full force with Moomin featuring on the House of Disaster, Puckator, Flame Tree Publishing and Half Moon Bay stands.

Across the diverse trade shows that we attended there were some themes that were consistent across the events. These included the continuing evidence proving there is more stretch when it comes to Stitch. The Disney unlikely cult hero is still riding high with all ages, especially kidult. This group continue to drive significant retail sales as retro-inspired and pop culture brands like Stranger Things and Wednesday build on their Netflix success.

Other growth areas which are a key focus across licensing and retail include the importance of experience – whether that’s at purchase in-store, online or the product itself. This is demonstrated with the insight that retailers, especially high-end, are seeking opportunities with brands that deliver experiences for their customers. And demands for these concepts are also reflected in mass retail – with the best example being Primark’s in-store cafes currently featuring Stitch.

Like our end customers, we were excited to see what’s to come at retail from our licensees this year, and we weren’t disappointed. I’m sure, like us, your follow-ups are in full swing and conversations that started in a corner of an exhibition hall may just be the next big thing… or we may be talking Stitch this time next year. Who knows? That’s the beauty of licensing – you don’t know when the next big thing is coming or galloping around the corner!

Becky Langer is head of commercial and brand at The Point.1888.

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