Harrogate Christmas & Gift Show Preview - Sales inspiration

More than 2,000 garden centre professionals are expected to visit the Harrogate Christmas & Gift show in January, Matthew Appleby reports.

Harrogate Christmas & Gift: show aimed at independent retailers, mail-order buyers, garden centres and department stores - image: HC&G
Harrogate Christmas & Gift: show aimed at independent retailers, mail-order buyers, garden centres and department stores - image: HC&G

The Harrogate Christmas & Gift event on 13-16 January 2013 is expected to attract 100 exhibitors to show in seven halls at Harrogate International Centre in North Yorkshire. The goods on offer cover sectors including Christmas, toys, gifts, fireworks, food gifts and home and garden. The show is aimed at independent retailers, mail-order buyers, garden centres, promotion agencies, department stores and wholesale and volume buyers.

Organiser Simon Anslow says 57 per cent of the event's 4,000 visitors are from garden centres, hardware shops and nurseries. He adds that with a steady increase in diversity of products, buyers from many new retail sectors are coming along to the show, a factor that has contributed to an increase in visitor numbers, with a rise of 35 per cent since 2010. "More and more gift retailers from almost every sector are making Harrogate Christmas & Gift their first port of call each year, confident that they will get first pick of brand new stock lines months before launch at other UK trade shows."

Notable change

Anslow continues: "This trend is certainly making a notable change to Harrogate's show and while the name 'Christmas & Gift' suggests a purely festive approach, those attending in recent years can vouch that the trade fair encompasses considerably more than just Christmas lines.

"Among the baubles, tinsel and Christmas trees, which of course are still in abundance, you will also discover an array of home and gift lines to fill shelves the whole year round, from silk flowers and potpourri, pictures and chinaware to garden furniture, barbecues and outdoor ornaments. There are toys, novelty items and products to suit almost every calendar occasion from Mother's Day and Easter right through to Halloween."

He adds: "Harrogate Christmas & Gift is attracting a very wide audience and while historically buyers were looking purely for Christmas, the fact that many retailers are evolving to ride through recession means that they are stocking much further-reaching product lines. For example, many garden centres are now carrying toys, baby products, food items, interior furniture, ornaments and gifts to attract add-on sales to their mainstream ranges.

"We have also seen a steady increase in buyers attending from tourist attractions such as theme parks, museums, country estates and even ecclesiastical sectors and farm shops looking for impulse purchases to encourage new revenue streams, and the show is evolving to accommodate this trend."

One new exhibitor at the show last year was Josoblu, which specialises in all kinds of bags from baby changing bags to shoppers and everyday handbags. Managing director Joelle Seksum says: "We weren't really sure whether Harrogate Christmas & Gift would be relevant to our range but were pleasantly surprised by the quantity of visitors and they were exactly the right type of buyers for our products too."

The biggest Christmas brands will be there, such as Festive Productions, Gisela Graham, Salco Group and Premier Decorations, which will once again be taking Hall H in its entirety.

Home and giftware company Salco will exhibit gold, red festive and contemporary silver and white collections with new hand-crafted figurines, drinking glasses and decorative flowers, fragranced candles and room diffusers. It has extended its Landon Tyler brand of interior, garden and Christmas products to incorporate hearts and pearls, accented with lemon against white and reflective surfaces. It also has jewelled tea light holders, Moroccan-style lanterns and luxury fragranced collection Boutique du Parfum.

Anslow adds that if you are looking to bulk buy economy priced Christmas trees or top-of-the-range handmade baubles, you are guaranteed to find them here and most exhibitors will be displaying products for all occasions. For example, Dutch manufacturer Ambiente Europe will be bringing its huge range of paper napkins to not only accommodate the festive table but the latest cupcake trend. The free drinks party night at the Majestic Hotel on Monday 14 January is also a big draw, Anslow points out.

Show Details

When: Sunday 13 to Wednesday 16 January 2013 - 9am-6pm Sunday-Tuesday, 9am-4pm Wednesday

Where: Harrogate International Centre, King's Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 5LA

Website: www.harrogatefair.com

Visitors are 21 per cent buyers, 12 per cent directors, 11 per cent managers and 35 per cent owners. Their main product interests are Christmas (29 per cent), gifts (18 per cent) and cards and wrapping (19 per cent).


25-40% - Percentage of garden centre Christmas sales made in November

15% up - October Christmas sales 2012 compared with 2011, Garden Centre Association

Festive Productions: market growth driven by independent garden centres

Europe's biggest tinsel maker, Festive Productions, says independent garden centres will bring it growth this year, with turnover rising this calendar year to ú16m.

The south Wales-based firm aims to eclipse rivals such as Premier Decorations, Snowtime, Gisela Graham, Kaemingk, Triflora and Konstmide to become the biggest Christmas supplier in the market after buying Widmanns recently to make it the UK's only remaining tinsel manufacturer. Festive claims to hold about 50 per cent of the UK's tinsel market.

Centric Commercial Finance provided Festive with a ú6.25m invoice-discounting facility and the company was recently recapitalised with a ú14m injection. Commercial director Jon Hughes says: "It's been a tough time for everyone. But I've sold Christmas for 20 years and, although Christmas is not recession-proof, it is one area people will spend money on. Garden centres will always buy. There might be some leftover stock but they will still go for it."

He adds that garden centres are one of the few retail sectors to "do Christmas properly" and he tells foreign visitors to go to either Webbs or Bents to see their displays.

Hughes says the biggest growth area is Christmas lighting but, with US ideas such as "Santa stop here" signs, the appetite for Christmas product is growing.

Festive supplies bespoke product for B&Q, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Next and many more as well as supplying the Garden Centre Group and Klondkye. It has now grown sales to independent garden centres looking for a "one-stop shop" for Christmas, lighting, trees, tinsel, decor and giftware.

Hughes adds that buying the 100-year-old Widmanns "gives us another brand with added credibility with garden centres".

Festive had "significant investment" in late 2010 from owner Hedlund International, having been loss-making for several years, and introduced a new field sales teams running a mobile roadshow as well as Hughes and new managing director Ian Newton. Hedlund bought the Cwmbran site and plans for "significant growth in the next three years".

In the year to 31 March 2011, the business posted a pre-tax loss of ú466,000 on turnover that had fallen from ú16.9m in 2010 to ú14.5m. Losses had narrowed from the ú3.1m pre-tax loss reported in 2010. The company is now 100 per cent owned by Malios Holdings.

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