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a tale of two halves

Mark Saunders, director of Scotland’s Trade Fairs, reveals what to expect at this year’s show and gives us the low down on recent events

Let's have a look at the first six months of the year, where we can comment with a reasonable level of certainty before we delve into the post referendum might and might nots of the second half of the year. Overall trade has been steady in the first six months of the year with most buyers reporting satisfactory trading, varying from a bit better to a lot better than 2015. All underpinned by some fabulous weather in late May and early June when shop doors were thrown open, people emerged, shoulders burned and pdq's started to chatter.
Naturally in this trade there are always variations on the general trend. The big news in the independent sector was the demise of 150 year old store, McEwans of Perth, and its two outlying shops in Oban and Ballater. They were simply unable to keep up with the pace of change in the retail market. However conversely, Michelle Mehaffey, buyer for The National Trust for Scotland said: "Trade in the first six months is 18 per cent up on last year due to strong footfall in their properties and good products on shop shelves and the organisation is very confident about retail sales for the next six months."
Which brings us neatly to the second half of the year. As I write this we are now coming out of the political vacuum created by the Brexit vote. Naturally uncertainty throws up challenges, however I firmly believe that once some stability, sense and perspective is restored life will continue and we will prosper. That is not to belittle the magnitude of the task ahead! Whatever the eventual post Brexit UK landscape looks like, Scotland will now face another level of uncertainty, the prospect of Indyref2. Without getting into the pros and cons of independence, this was terrible for business last time and whilst I doubt anything will happen in the short term it's right back on the agenda again.
My thoughts are simply, that for those considering it at the moment and are unsure whether to make a decision with their head or their heart, they should remember that one is for thinking and the other is a pump! So what does all this mean for Scotland's Trade Fairs? To date, sales are strong and both shows sales are tracking above 2015 levels. In the Autumn Show much of the gain has come from new entrants to the market in The Launch Gallery, our nursery for newcomers. This has doubled in size and will feature around 20 stands. We have also introduced a new food area to promote gift food ideas for Christmas which is selling well. However, as retail has generally been steady in Scotland I am confident retailers will need stock and new ideas and we will be well placed to help.
If we have a reasonably good summer and tourist spending is boosted by a weak pound then the next six months might turn out quite well.

Scotland Trade Fair Autumn takes place from 18th - 19th September, 2016, at the SECC, Glasgow.
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