I came away from this years fair after visiting mainly Hall 1 with a top up of Halls 5 and 2 with a sense that the housewares and gift sectors were continuing the positive trend that was beginning to become apparent at last years exhibition. From the outset I got a good feeling. There seemed to be something of the spirit of the 2012 Olympics about the place with a multitude of smiling ‘greeters’ ready to assist the bewildered and a stunningly swift entry badge service. I realised that I had left mine at home but just a few details at the ticket desk and an identical one was in my hand in moments.
I strode into Hall 1, pausing only to have my badge scanned, eager to see what 2014 would bring.
The Hall, which once would have been filled with the great names of British and many European ceramics and crystal brands, now devotes more space to kitchenware and food preparation in
general. This just confirms the long term shift in the centre of gravity in this sector from traditional tabletop and gifts to the more casual and participatory world communicated through an ever-rising tide of TV food programmes now crowned by the Great British Bake Off. This sea of kitchen gadgets and bakeware now laps around a few islands of consolidated table top brands such as the Denby Group, Portmeirion, Churchill China as well as a select group of surviving individuals including Moorcroft, Dunoon, Royal Crown Derby, Aynsley, Ulster Handweavers & Arthur Price. For the WWRD brands, Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton, as well as major European brands such as Villeroy & Boch or Rosenthal, buyers must now head for the Frankfurt Ambiente fair which follows immediately in the show calendar. A telling indication of the diminished importance of this market for these brands and a shift in their focus to the east.
That said there was much to relish on the stands of Churchill, Denby, Portmeirion and a resurgent Royal Crown Derby. These are now the tabletop stars of the Spring Fair and bring together under each of their banners a diverse range of brands, sub-brands and designer names – Queen’s, James Sadler, Jamie Oliver, Cath Kidston, Alex Clark and Julie Dodsworth at Churchill, Burleigh, Poole Pottery, Cook & Dine and Hartley Green at Denby, Royal Worcester, Spode, Sophie Conran and Pimpernel at Portmeirion
Maybe its a sign of the times but for me almost the most exciting aspects of my visit, apart from catching up with ex colleagues, were the opportunity to browse the new look at Royal Crown Derby and attend a short seminar by Richard Pollin, Head of Business for Google UK on ‘Marketing for a Constantly Connected World’.
Royal Crown Derby is now under Steelite ownership. It provides that leading hotel ware business with a brand weapon to go after the global 5 Star hotel and high end restaurant sector and compete on more equal terms with brands that enjoy both domestic and high end hospitality markets such as Wedgwood, Minton, Villeroy & Boch, Rosenthal, Lenox and Noritake. While retaining its traditional strength in Imari and richly decorated styles, Derby now presents a portfolio of fine tailored edge patterns ideal for the hospitality sector as well as a magnificent statement design called Equus ( shown above) with more than a whiff of Versace style about it. There is certainly new vigour in a much loved brand.
As for the seminar by Richard Pollin, one of the most significant nuggets of info shared was the explosive increase in on line browsing powered by smartphones and tablets and the changes in online behaviour that follow. As an example we were informed that much browsing on tablets takes place in the evening. The main theme of the seminar was the vital importance for businesses trading online to make themselves aware of how consumers are now interacting with the web and directing their communication accordingly. The modern version of knowing your marketplace and its key dynamics. Richard was keen to emphasise the importance of the three ‘A’s – Always There, Always Relevant and Always Optimized. It demands that we think of the relevance of our communications in a number of dimensions – intent ( inbound/outbound), device (usage behaaviour), time of day, location, content and individuals demographics and interests.
All of which is going to demand an intense focus on ones Google Analytics stats and, no doubt, many opportunities for consultants with search expertise to expand their business.
What is for sure is that the future of tabletop and homewares success lies in adept use of the web as much as physical location.