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Scotland's Trade Fair Spring 2016 review

Mark Saunders, Director of Scotland's Trade Fairs, gives us the lowdown from the recent spring event.

Mark Saunders, Director of Scotland's Trade Fairs, gives us the lowdown from the recent spring event.

We have just extricated ourselves from the SECC after a pleasantly buzzy, vibrant show. It would appear the backend of 2015 and Christmas were on the whole good for trade and as a result there was a welcome spring in everyone's step at Scotland's Trade Fair and Speciality Food Show. Attendance was up by just over 8.4 per cent which was very encouraging, although the remnants of Storm Jonas gave us a good soaking on the final day, taking the edge off two very positive days of trading. If you run trade shows in January in Scotland then it's a rare year when you get three days of benign conditions.

The show had 15 per cent more exhibitors this year. The quality of these companies and the vibrant and innovative nature of their products appeared to be noticed by the buyers, who all seemed genuinely pleased with the depth and breadth on display. The new Craft Gallery was a great success and has created a new trade platform for good quality handmade products in Scotland. The show seemed an obvious platform for it and with Craft Scotland we managed to pull it off and generate a good deal of new business for the twenty brave souls that put their trust in the idea. This area of the market, with higher price points and low volumes, is more Gallery territory and a challenge for the average gift shop. However, it is fertile territory for those looking for real innovation and small, bespoke runs.

Food and drink continues to grow and several well-known gift buyers expressed intentions to dip their toe into the ambient food market. Good news, but I suspect there is some wrestling to be done, given the margin in food is not quite the expected x2.5, despite vat exemptions. A well-known director of a Scottish textile company said during the show, that once upon a time he could plan his production for 12 months with reasonable accuracy, order raw materials with confidence, plan the required overhead necessary and forecast his sales accordingly. Now he couldn't tell me what would happen tomorrow. I am therefore nervous about crystal ball gazing.

There are always dark clouds somewhere, downturns in the global economy, Holyrood elections and European referendums will be disruptive and the effect of the oil price on Aberdeen's economy etc may all create choppy waters in 2016. However, this trade is resilient; 2015 was unpredictable but on the whole came through quite well and I don't see why 2016 shouldn't do the same. No doubt we will see more attrition on the high street but equally I think more of the successful independents will seek additional premises and creep into the small multiple category. These are professionals, running successful shops, knowledgeable about their customers, good at buying, sharp on price, marketing savvy, exploiting online and looking to grow. More power to them!

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