The first online edition of the British Craft Trade Fair ran from June 14 – 15 to support the designer-makers who were due to exhibit at BCTF 2020 before it was forced to cancel during lockdown.
Almost 250 makers participated in the event, which was put together by the BCTF organisers to help the community reach a nationwide retail audience and generate some all-important sales. The event was timed for retailers opening again and seeking handmade, locally made new products to restock their shelves with.
A total of 607 buyers took part in BCTF online, with 82% of participating retailers being completely new to BCTF and 18% made up of buyers who have in the past attended the live event in Harrogate.
BCTF Online exhibitors were invited to upload 20 new product images, along with a video to introduce their work and display it 'in the round'. There was also a facility for them to upload catalogues and price lists and a live chat messenger feature, which buyers could use to get in touch with them during the event.
A total of 790 videos were watched over the two days and over 925 makers were added to buyers' 'favourites' folders. After the event, buyers were sent a list of their favourites as a reminder of the makers who caught their eye during the show.
The show preview, Kraftwork Solstice, was emailed out to buyers a week before the event and downloaded at least 964 times via this route. The figure does not include visitors who found the preview via social media or directly from hosting magazine website, giftsandgreetingsreview.com.The show helped designer-makers pick up sales leads and was a very positive development for the community.
Maxine Hunt of artisan blacksmith business, Big Black House Design Co., said: "I have to say doing this show was absolutely brilliant! I have been a bit in the doldrums with everything going on and participating in this event has done me the world of good."Basically, everyone had their own page with photos, info, contact details, catalogue and video, if you did one. Registered buyers could view your info over the days and 'speak' with you via private chat room – I had a few tech issues but I did get it to work. There was also a hangout chat room for exhibitors/customers as well as an online seminar room. These were brilliant features and it was great to chat with other exhibitors.
Jane Crick, who produces sustainable gift wrap, cards and art prints commented, "I'm still getting enquiries two weeks on – it's definitely sparked something within the ether!" Ian Peterson of Gamries Candles said, "The hangout was a very good feature, and with normally between 70-90 people in there most of the day, it had a nice feeling. We talked about all sorts of things, much as would have happened 'live'."
BCTF organiser, Margeret Bunn, said: "I am not surprised that we attracted so many new buyers from small independents – we always do even for our live event – and this confirms to us that our message is getting out there and buyers are registering as a result of our promotional campaign. We feel overall the online event was a great success as many buyers did logon to support BCTF and its makers.
"Many of our regular buyers were still furloughed during the online event, including National Trust, Museums, Stately Homes, Department Stores, Interior Designers and Architects etc. It was a shame they were not able to take part but as we all know these are unusual times and we are continuing to promote our exhibitors and their products to our extensive retailer audience.
BCTF online developer, Denre Bruins added: "As this was our first ever online exhibition it did not pass without a few technical issues, but nothing insurmountable. We did not have the budget to buy an expensive off-the-shelf-system but had to develop our own from scratch. We learned a lot by putting together this first online event and I am now working on ironing out the flaws and developing new features so any future online events will be even better."