On day three of the UK’s leading home, gift and fashion show, Autumn Fair co-located with Moda, visitors were treated to an insightful and honest conversation with retail entrepreneur and small business advocate Theo Paphitis in which he championed hybrid retail - the mix of physical and online retailing. As well as highlighting the growth in convenience and localised shopping, he urged would-be retailers to take the opportunity now to open physical stores and revealed that his businesses are looking to open more stores and have identified 200 sites to investigate.
He said; "Now is the time to do it, with lower rental costs and lower business rates, I can only see opportunities for physical retail to grow again. There is no better time to open a physical store."
On the impact of Covid he said; "It's been the most amazing retail experiment. We've had so many conversations in the Board about closing stores over the years, but Covid has been a forced experiment that has allowed us to just focus on online. It has also made customers more used to technology, and now we can enjoy hybrid retailing – giving customers what they want, when they want it, and meeting their different expectations for both."
Since it's official launch on Sunday, the Curated Meetings programme has delivered over 400 face to face meetings between buyers and exhibitors. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Priya Crowe from London-based retailer Lark said after her meetings; "Curated Meetings is excellent. It's been a fantastic way to meet business owners to discuss ideas and bounce off each other. There have been lots of companies I wouldn't naturally have spoken to, and I've placed really big orders through this process. It's been really beneficial."
Helen Symonds from Bristol-based sustainable store Frankly also enjoyed the experience, saying; "I found Curated Meetings really helpful: it exceeded my expectations. It was really good to get to know brands and understand their values."
Julie Macken from Neve's Bees added; "It's been really good! The team's been nice to work with and made me feel comfortable. I've definitely had orders from Curated Meetings! I met some small, independent gift shops, and a couple of bigger ones I wouldn't necessarily have chosen but will be really good. I've been pleasantly surprised; we are 100 per cent going to get new orders and I'm looking forward to exhibiting in February."
The positive feedback continued across the rest of the show. Bruce Bell, Marketing Director of Gallery said; "We are delighted to be back in the room with our dear clients and friends. Customers are happy to shop and be back in front of product once again. We have launched new ranges and products at Autumn Fair, including, textile, outdoor living, gifts, and Christmas. Our launch of Sofa In A Box has been a huge success. This has been a recording breaking Autumn Fair, and we are extremely excited for and looking forward to Spring Fair, where we will have an even bigger presence."
Tom Hawes, Director, Tilnar Art; "Sunday was our best 'Sunday' at a trade show ever, and we took more orders yesterday, than in any other day at previous Autumn Fairs. We have great new product, and there was definitely pent-up interest and demand from buyers, who were thrilled to actually see product and new collections."
For more information visit www.autumnfair.com