As we get ready for the August Trade Fairs, I thought I would reshare my Feb recaps: First Up: AGA.

I love trade fairs, at home and abroad. Meeting suppliers and/or customers, old and new, fellow exhibitors, association members and touching base. These are all important reasons and functions of a trade fair.

Equally as important is the product, marketing support & ideas exhibitors show. Sadly I felt this was lacking on the whole. There were very few ‘Wow, look at that’ moments for me. There was a lot of, ‘that’s nice’, ‘what a great idea’ but not a lot of ‘wow’.

Of the 3 fairs on at the same time, the AGHA exhibitors were the most proactive and engaging and ready to interact with visitors. I truly don’t understand the staff (yes they are staff who do not have to pay the very expensive cost of the stand out of their pocket) who sit (yes physically sit) on their stand tapping away on their phone or computer – not looking up and engaging customers.

Interestingly I didn’t even look at what they were selling, I just kept walking, why would stop and promote such behaviour? If I was a visitor, I simply would not stop at these stands and spend my money. If they’re like this before they get your money, imagine what they would be like after?! This is so important as it is the personal contact that makes the whole experience and effort of the trade shows worthwhile.

Rather than be embracing 2012 Trends, exhibitors seemed to stick to safe, tested, conservative ranges, if anything I saw 2011 Trends that I didn’t see last year. I couldn’t help but feel that conservatism and caution were key motivators and there was generally a lack of excitement all around. Exhibitors who stuck to tried and true ‘safe’ products did not have as good a fair as those who invested in new products.

Furniture and homeward stands were bigger and better, with less walls with exhibitors taking more care with display and visual merchandising.

The overwhelming trends since GFC has been children’s products and concepts. There were definitely less this year and I think this is due to so many ‘at home’ businesses leaving the market rather than a waning trend.

Something close to my own heart is stationery and there seemed to be a smattering of stands but none of the big names. This indicates the big brands are using other channels to reach retailers and staying away from the shows, which is a pity as lifestyle, homeware and fashion stores would enhance their offering if they had a decent selection.

Very lacking was also a social media / online lead up to the fairs. There should have been a lot of activity, posting, informing and promoting but there was not (on the whole). I posted on all of the trade fair pages offering to visit and feature exhibitors who let me know where they were. Sadly I had only 2 exhibitors posted. Missed opportunities!

Rather than a Trade Fair Trend Report I choose to share a different angle and some insight into what I thought were stand out products or concepts and some buying tips as a way to recap the February trade fairs.

The standout thing for me when looking at exhibitors is that they have a good assortment, more than one interesting products well as a keen sense of introducing new products / designs and evolving the range. I do not understand why retailers buy one or two items from one supplier times 20??!! Just doesn’t make sense. Buying, the supply chain and ultimately the product assortment are very important to every retail business. Dealing with fewer suppliers and forging strong relationships is the key to survival. I go into this in much more detail in my book, ‘7 Powerful Ways To Boost Retail Profits, In Any Economic Climate’.

The other important thing I looked out for was web and social media presence. If they are using it and mastering it then they can support their customers and drive traffic to them. I approached a number of exhibitors I didn’t know (yes there are some left in Australia!), if they ummed and ahhhed or didn’t understand that I would be sharing pictures and info online, then I moved on. They don’t understand the value of connection and referral and will not be able to offer it to their customers.

This by no means is the definitive list of the who’s who of the trade fair as there are so many things to see and do. This is just my ‘standouts’ for one reason or another.


CONTENTS; Party, Christmas, Home

The Contents stand was full of visitors for most of the show. In the last 18 months they have diversified their range from a lot of Christmas with a little bit of homewares and general party, to equal parts homewares, Christmas and expansion of general party with a boutique party range, Polka Party.

The stand out piece on the stand and the draw card for the most part was the Candy Floss Cart, easily the most photographed thing at the fair. Bloggers, stylists and retailers waited patiently to inspect the cart and the products it was displaying. This cart has already been featured on the Amy Atlas Blog, one of the most prominent party and event stylists in e world, so the Contents crew was not surprised.

They also had new pieces what worked with 2011 collections and staples as well as new collections: Seraphina and Botanica. This is important so that a range evolves in store and the retailer can freshen up existing stock without large investments and losses due to markdowns.

Contents customers already order online and interact on the Facebook page and twitter. New prospects and customers had also done their homework and visited the online sites and were acquainted with the collections before they arrived at the fair, making the most of their limited time at the fair.

Kate and Peter Clarkson, tell me that a lot of pieces sold out at the fair and the next shipments are almost sold out too. This illustrates the importance of visiting the fairs – otherwise you may miss out or be seen to be a follower not a leader / innovator.

Disclaimer: Contents are a client of mine. They are featured here because they are a great exhibitor and doing a lot of things right, which was evidenced in their activity and response at the show. This is what we work on together and has proven results.

TREND: vintage, retro, nostalgia, cocooning, festive, design, party

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The stand grabbed me straight away, the products were on display and easy to browse, everything you want at a trade show. Sheffi & Yael Shapira, the husband and wife team, design and manufacture their own products. I very much enjoyed learning about where the products came from and how they were developed.

The products; tea towels, aprons & t-shirts, are bold, simple AND VERY CLEVER. They have combined 3 strong trends:

  • Bold Graphics / block colour patterns
  • Slogan / posters
  • Personalizing / locality

They product designs with local suburbs printed on the front or can personalize then for clubs, associations, community groups and retailers. The minimums are really small and accessible and the prices very reasonable.

This is a great service to pass onto the consumer too – imagine telling your customer they can have their own details / suburb / club / event on the product?! Not only is it a great service but it is right on trend, Consumers live in a world that is being personalized to them more and more and are spending their money on them.

Really sweet and cheeky range of babywear too with great words and design on the front.

If words and graphics aren’t your thing, then the bold floral silhouettes are for you.

This is a good supplier who understands their customer and their product.

TRENDS: personalization, humour, cocooning

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This stand stopped me in my tracks. I have an inner geek and am a daughter of a scientist and have been despairing at the nature of children’s educational toys and use of computer games of late.

What I found was even better; I met the owner Nigel Kirby who is the new AGHA President and learned that they developed a lot of the products themselves. Great considering a lot of my friend’s children had American accents, when they said certain words, from the speaking toys they grew up with!

Even better was that it is his lovely wife Patricia who researches the Australian content and his daughter that supplies some of the illustrations.

I grew up with educational toys and viewing the range took me back a few years (yes just a few, wink wink!) but looking at the products themselves I was really impressed with the depth of the range and details.

To give you an idea of some of the products:

  • Make Your Own Volcano
  • Mini Micro-scope
  • Solar Windmill Kit
  • Dinosaur replicas
  • Assorted Science Toys: Bouncing Putty was a fav!
  • Stampers
  • Puzzles
  • Souvenirs

There is much more than the above list, visit the website and be 6 again!!

This is a great range to add to lifestyle, kids and homeware stores. Parents and gift givers may be watching their budget but children’s education is not something to skimp on.

The fact that they are quality products as well is a bonus!

TREND: conservation, education, nostalgia

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This collection is the perfect marriage for any range – gorgeous packaging and beautiful products! I was drawn to the whole thing, the look and the product. The attention to detail is fantastic and you can see the respect the brand has for its products.

Each collection has its own name, scent and look: colour, font and design. The new ranges are:

  • A Walk In The Woods: woodland figures with red accents + woodsy scent
  • Queen Of The Snow Bees: cool blue, golden highlights and snow drops + scent of fresh garden
  • Curiouser & Curiouser: Alice & her looking glass are the inspiration for the black packaging and gold foil mirror, with a hint of boudoir pink
  • Vanilla Musk & Amber: All White with a touch of gold foil with gorgeous clear resin handles on the packaging that conveys the cool freesia and magnolia scent of dew in the garden

Owner and creator, Rena Benjamin took me through each collection. Open the top of the box of the scent sticks and discover the exquisite text that tells a story. The packaging is a product on its own! There is a collection here for any taste or colour!

I particularly loved the book covers they supply that co-ordinate with each collection which wrap around any book. They are just that extra little touch that shows Rena’s love of her products, attention to detail and understanding of creating the story on the shelf.

Only quality ingredients and components are used: Less is more :
NO mineral Oils | No paraben preservatives | No propylene glygol | No PEGS | No animal by-products | NO animal testing

I particularly like this on every page of their website:
Environment : We have always formulated our products with care and respect to our precious environment, long before it was a ‘fashionable’. For instance we are well aware of the real concerns regarding the degradation of the forests, the illegal plantations, the degradation of the rainforests and the resulting loss of habitat of the Orangutans in Kalimantan, Indonesia. We have ensured that our palm oil is sourced from a reputable and long established ex rubber plantation on the Malaysia Peninsular.”

Customers can buy with confidence and use without concern for their skin or health.

Each collection has a wide assortment of product that will create impact on shelf as well as keep the consumers coming back for more. This range fits into fashion, gift, homeware and lifestyle stores.

TREND: fashion, conservation, personalized gifts, design

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Consistently, one of the biggest and best stands at the trade fair, this year they didn’t disappoint. Twin sisters Pat and Joan develop the products and design of every collection and collaborate on the eye catching displays on the stand.

This was one of the rare companies embracing bold colour and design across their wide range of products:

  • Cushions & throws
  • Bedding
  • Table & Kitchen Linen
  • Rugs & Doormats
  • Garden
  • Kids
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Decorator Pieces

This stand could have been at any international show.

The new collections stand on their own as well as work into existing palettes and collections in-store. The designs show attention to detail as well as innovation. The 3D cushions with embellishment are a design piece on their own and not just a functional piece of decor.

The colour palettes are striking:

  • Burnt red, orange, red on a neutral base
  • Blue, green, taupe, moss on a neutral base
  • The nostalgic retro collection of flowers, musical notes and gingham

The designs are right on trend:

  • Bold geometrics
  • Floral silhouettes
  • Exquisite Bird illustrations with vintage handwritten script
  • Tonal 3D floral stitching


The Decor pieces are perfectly co-ordinated with the homewares: Bird illustration and vintage handwritten on dishes and bowls co-ordinate beautifully with the cushions and throws.

Madras Link is a great supplier, they have been in business since 1999 and know what they are doing, they add value to customer’s business and understand the role of a brand builder.

TREND: bold colour, animal prints, strong design: floral silhouettes, vintage illustration, hand-made feel, co-ordination, metallic, nostalgia, cocooning

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This stand is busy every day of the fair, in past years I have not been able to get near it so I headed there first thing in the morning and met CEO Josee Tom, the woman behind the brand. Josee is an engaging and informed business woman who knows her business. She travels internationally for the business and has her finger firmly on the pulse of fashion.

Pottery Lane is a striking compact stand of homeware and fashion accessories that are colour blocked to create impact as well as help the customer buy in stories. They offer a solution to the customer not just eye candy. She was one of the few exhibitors I saw using Tangerine, the Pantone Colour of the Year.

Josee develops the range to create impact: each story, colour or design has 4 – 5 product categories.

Over the years they have lessened the homewares and grown the range of accessories. Currently the range consists:

  • Bags & Handbags
  • Scarves
  • Jewellery
  • Wallets
  • Fashion
  • Decor: lamps, prints, textiles
  • Furnishings: Tables, Chairs, Ottomans, Sofas, Outdoor

The price points are very reasonable and the colours and designs are right on trend!

TREND: colours, metallic, fashion, animal print, vintage

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I met Rodney King at the AGHA Trade Shows at my Social Media Seminar and have been connected to him on Twitter and Facebook ever since. I feel like I always know what is happening with the business not just touching base at trade fair time which is great Brand Building Activity!

I have endless amounts of fun on his stand every time I am on it. Last February, I had a lot of fun with the gun and augmented reality iPhone screen. This year I had oodles of fun with the Rubik’s Cube and Facebook paraphernalia, fake moustaches, vinyl record coasters, Crayon sauce dispensers, Cool Clocks and more.

Novelty and humour encourage consumers to open their wallets. Items with humour and novelty value that have a trend or fashion element will appeal more.

I love the iPhone accessories, especially the docking station that is a phone with handset!

If you are old enough to remember the Rubik’s Cube or if you like the design but don’t remember it, you will love the:

  • Coaster
  • Mug
  • Notebook

Love Facebook? Gadget King has something for you too! The ‘Like” thumbs up features on

  • Mugs
  • Sticky Notes
  • Like / Dislike Stampers
  • Keyring

Gifts for men are hard to find, well interesting gifts are hard to find and Gadget King has so many useful, funny and just plain nostalgic products in their range, like the remote control esky!

Everyone has an I-thingy, and is looking for holders, cases and accessories. This is a must have for EVERY store!

TREND: novelty, nostalgia, social media, humour, technology

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A very cool collection of Reclaimed Furniture and decor that are almost design pieces on their own! The material is reclaimed timber and metals, creating unique original pieces.

The range has so many pieces, designs and elements:

  • Clocks – novelty and executive
  • Watches – novelty and executive
  • Handmade Stationery made from eco-friendly recycled material and leathers
  • Leather Accessories for men and women
  • Travel Accessories
  • The all important leather laptop bags, and tablet sleeves


They have a gorgeous assortment of products! Special mention goes to:

  • Metallic leather
  • Olde Worlde Map Design on albums
  • Embossed chocolate leather albums
  • Reclaimed Metal Birdhouse (sooo cute)
  • Reclaimed Metal Nesting Tables
  • Cool Retro Chair

This is an ideal supplier for everything gift – you can buy from different collections through the year and build a strong relationship with them rather than buy from her and there to create an assortment like NERO’s.


TREND: Recycled, sustainable, eclectic, technology, executive, design, metallic

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I was drawn to the stand because I thought the products were interesting but more importantly, owner Diane Harvey was standing opening and closing her umbrella (the product) and speaking to people as they walked by and came onto her stand!

They carry a range of novelty umbrellas, rain coats, and masks. They match and co-ordinate and tell a nice story. This range would also work in a wide cross section of stores: from kids to gift and homeware / lifestyle.

They appeal to the children, who are strong influencers if they are in store as well as the grannies who want to buy something attractive yet practical for the grand kids which is a win win for the retailer.

TREND: kids, novelty

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The range of novelty tea sets has wide appeal and interest. Although they don’t have a wide assortment of products, they do go deep into their category with a wide range of designs, colors and patterns.

The animal sets are fun and yet practical and can be used. They are complimented but the floral designs and the UK memorabilia which will have extended appeal this year thanks to the Olympics after the hype around the 2011 Royal Wedding.

Their price points were very reasonable. I chatted with owner, Adrian Hewton, who told me how he develops the range and negotiates great pricing based on his volume. This is an exhibitor who understands his role in the supply chain and the price the market will pay.

TREND: novelty with functionality, personalizing to tastes

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I hope this gives you a good insight into great suppliers who can support you and your business!



About Nancy As The Retail ‘Miss Fix It’ and the Chief of Ideas at Magnolia Solutions, I have drawn on my own experience of over 20 years in retail and with my first business Paper Magnolia, to help clients create integrated marketing solutions online and offline that are based on sound retail practices.

In 2009, I gave myself the challenge of finding a super low cost solution to get Paper Magnolia started selling online. At the same time, I started to use this new ‘thing’ called Social Media with great results! In 2010 I co-founded Social Media Women and continue to support new social media users. I hope my experience will help you start off on the right foot.

I work with retailers, manufacturers, brands and service-providers in various roles including external Marketing Manager. My focus is on Customer Service, marketing, new media, product, retail principles and retail as a craft. I utilise online and offline tools in a wholistic approach. I am an avid user and participator in Social Media as an extension of my marketing activity.

I have just written my first book “7 Powerful Ways to Boost Retail Profits”, to help retailers identify and refocus on the essential elements of retail. Available as e-book and in print.

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