Surge in Gift of the Year entries
Why were there so many entries for Gift of the Year 2015, the most in recent years? Michael Papé, chairman of The GA and a Director of Ravensden - a sponsor of the competition - commented, "Because competition in the marketplace is now so intense, many companies are upping their game by putting an increasing emphasis on marketing and public relations. Gift of the Year is fast becoming one of the key elements in their campaigns - not only for large companies but smaller businesses, too, who can be suddenly thrust into the limelight when they're a finalist in a particular category."
Sebastian Conran, the competition's ambassador and renowned international Product Designer, said, "Because Gift of the Year is a barometer of trends in the gift and home market - reflecting the ever-changing landscape of the economy - I say to retailers, 'Seek out the companies which have been successful in this year's competition. They have the products of the moment. What a terrific opportunity to steal a march on your competitors'.
"To suppliers, both in the UK and from overseas, my message is simple - entering Gift of the Year is a 'must'. If you're successful, you'll reap the benefit in increased sales at home and abroad, as well as immeasurable kudos for your company'."
GA Vice Chairman praises Made in UK products
Made in UK entries for Gift of the Year won plaudits from the judges this year. Anna Rigby, the John Lewis Partnership's Head of Buying, Home Accessories, Gifts and Seasonal, was among those who thought it was the strongest category in the competition.
This has delighted The GA, whose Vice Chairman, Henri Davis, commented, "It wasn't so long ago that people were saying that British-made products were too expensive and often not very good. But with costs rising in the Far East, manufacturers in the UK have grasped the opportunity and the quality of their product is now shining through - and in some markets they've created a greater appetite for it.
"Goods made in the UK, as opposed to designed here, are very close to my heart. As a stationery buyer for the National Trust, all our own-brand stationery, Christmas cards and calendars were all printed in the UK. In my consultancy work I always recommend sourcing in the UK on paper because there's more and more quality, innovative product available at competitive prices." Henri added, "The GA is thrilled that The Potteries was so well represented in the competition this year and that Portmeirion - which is thriving - was highly commended in the Made in UK category."
Successful Sally took seminar tips
Tips about setting up as a retailer weren't lost on Sally Robinson when she attended one of the Spring Fair seminars presented by the GA's Isabel Martinson two years ago.
She returned to Spring Fair this year just 14 months after starting her own business, independent retail company Mrs Robinson's Store, and gave a seminar about becoming an independent retailer online and on the high street. Sally was quick to thank Isabel for her advice about product and the need to enjoy serving the general public - and cleaning - when setting up as a bricks and mortar retailer.
"It's gratifying that she was inspired as a result of attending the seminar and took the advice offered before going on to set up her own successful business," said Isabel. Those attending this year's seminars were people planning to start online ventures - potential bricks and mortar retailers and others who were already in business. There were questions about margins, product, profitability and location.
Isabel added, "There was also a discussion about whether or when to hold sales. Some independents didn't like them at all - fearing an expectation by customers that prices should always be reduced - while others had one sale at the end of January of difficult-to-shift stock before moving on to new product."
Trade associations lobby on late payments and T&C
The GA's Isabel Martinson and other trade association chiefs attended a meeting with Shadow Business Minister Iain Wright. According to Isabel, he was lobbied about the "catastrophic effect" on the cashflow and profits of small businesses caused by late payments and retrospective changes to terms and conditions.
GA community grows
GA Membership Development Manager Simone Rose reports that the association signed 27 members and more than 500 retailer subscribers during the early-year trade shows and Spring Fair.
For The GA, log on to www.ga-uk.org