29 May 2024, 12:46
By Furniture News Jul 29, 2014

The Furniture Show at May Design Series

UBM Live Built Environment has reported that May Design Series, held at London’s ExCeL and incorporating a preview of the new Furniture Show event, attracted 10,051 visitors – an increase of 1% on last year’s inaugural edition. What does this mean for the show’s future?

According to the organiser, the fair attracted high-calibre retailers, contract buyers and interior designers from the UK and further afield. However, while the show boasted many positives – great presentation, colourful features and a strong setting – Furniture News is aware that the event failed to deliver many exhibitors the volume of buyers they expected this year.

With this in mind, we approached UBM’s Suzie Ager, brand director of the Furniture Show, to find out what feedback she has received, and how the event is set to develop.

You’ve reported a visitor count of 10,051 to May Design Series. Was this in line with your expectations based on pre-registration numbers?

Yes.

What factors contributed to the turnout, both positive and negative?

At this year’s Furniture Show at May Design Series we were pleased to offer the industry a multitude of UK show exclusives such as Calia Italia and Alhambra. This is what the show is all about – connecting the industry with relevant business opportunities while bringing innovative, new international brands to the UK market.

“We are confident that in 2015 there is no other sizeable show providing the buying opportunities the industry needs”

The new London location had many benefits – easily accessible location with a seamless build-up. ExCeL really did live up to its world-class status.

The Conversation Series, Designers with Light Forum, Lighting Design Family Tree and New Design Britain were something to be really proud of – our educational content programmes are one of a kind and really reaped rewards with visitors.

Bringing the Furniture Show to May Design Series really transformed the look and feel of the show. Put simply, buyers are able to gain a holistic view of trends in and outside of their market, and apply them to their industry. We are confident that in 2015 there is no other sizeable show providing the buying opportunities the industry needs, making Furniture Show at May Design Series a secure option for buyers looking to place orders.

The quality and diversity of visitor reported this year – coupled with an enriched offering of new and international product – not only demands a London location in May, but paves the way for a show that was everything Interiors UK was and more!

Which exhibitors boasted the greatest success stories, and why do you think they in particular were successful?

There’s a raft of success stories across the show from DX, Kitchen + Bathroom right through to Lighting and the Furniture Show. Their success stories are simple – some highlights from the Furniture Show alone include:

Fabrizio Guiliani, Calia Italia, who said: “We have had a lot of major buyers come to visit us at May Design Series, including Chaplins, Barker & Stonehouse and Sterling. We have taken orders on-site, and it has become evident that meetings in Milan have transformed into orders at May Design Series. Our most popular lines have been our classically-Italian, design-led products, proving that the market is grateful to see something different from what is usually on display at a UK trade show.”

Sasha Kamenetski at Tudor Oak, who commented: “May Design Series has been a very good show for us. We’ve been introduced to a varied group of prospects and have met the exact audience that we were hoping to target, and the leads generated have all been of very high quality.”

"The quality and diversity of visitor reported this year – coupled with an enriched offering of new and international product – not only demands a London location in May, but paves the way for a show that was everything Interiors UK was and more!"

Tom at Tom Schneider has said: “We were keen to support this event – it makes so much sense to have a London event to rival the likes of Cologne and Milan. From our experience at May Design Series ‘14 we are confident that the show will grow to do just that.”

Wayne Clarke from And So To Bed added: “We felt it was important that we were at the show to meet the right people, from contractors and specifiers to hotel designers – even generating a lead from a franchisee. We are delighted to have taken part, and the logistics at ExCeL were the best of any show we have been to.”

Eric Hanson, Authentic Models, said: “We were very impressed with the calibre of the retailers and designers we met at the show, including a lot of people who we’ve never seen before in Birmingham.”

Paul Irwin at Ease Furniture and Durham Upholstery said: “I have been hugely impressed with the quality of the show – it has been the best show I have been to in over 20 years in terms of both exhibitors and organisation. It is clear to me that May Design Series will quickly become an international destination. I have been delighted with the number of orders taken – it’s been a great show all round.”

Which seminars/feature areas did you feel worked particularly well, and are there any you’d like to bolster/add next year?

Designers with Light, the Conversation Series and the Fabric Pavilion were hugely popular areas. It was great to have a dedicated free-to-attend lighting conference attracting designers from a diverse range of disciplines, enabling them all to share and learn from each other in one place.

The Conversation Series was constantly buzzing, with Daniel Hopwood, Ab Rogers and Eve Reid’s 10 Steps to Visual Retail Success among some of the best-attended sessions in what was a jam-packed area all show long. The Fabric Pavilion too looked great, with its unique fabric designs. All of these features proved a popular draw for visitors, a sign that we must be getting the content right.

At UBM we like to get feedback from our stakeholders – whether that’s exhibitors, the associations we work with, or from external research – to obtain further feedback before making any decisions on growth areas. We are, after all, growing the industry’s event, for the industry.

What aspects of the Furniture Show in particular worked well?

We’ve had a lot of comments that we pegged the quality and diversity of exhibitors in the Furniture Show at just the right point, and more specifically in a way that was a very different mix to the NEC in January. Calia Italia, Tom Schneider, And So To Bed and Koinor are just some examples of either UK show exclusives, international or UK brands that we are working with to make this distinction, and which we will build upon to deliver the UK’s definitive furnishings fair.

We brought a big number of new and international brands to the Furniture Show this year, which is a marvellous start for the preview. Having five distinct districts covering each interior space really allows visitors to the Furniture Show to cover trends outside their market and vice versa.

As well as hearing of the attendance of a good number of buyers from key retailers, we heard a few reports of public visitors to the Furniture Show. What measures are in place to vet the quality/professional credentials of visitors?

The only reports we’ve heard are of the exceptional quality of visitor at this year’s show. Our procedures are exactly the same as most other exhibition organisers – all visitors turning up on site are asked for business cards, and those that pre-register need to fill out their company details, with frequent spot checks being carried out in both instances to validate relevant buyers.

Were there any positive aspects to the Furniture Show that you hadn’t anticipated?

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of exhibitors – those that traditionally market to the core retail sector – who were ready to market to the specification and contract markets too. To see the marketplace harness and understand the key offering of what a London show is all about, so soon, was great!

“We’ve had a lot of comments that we pegged the quality and diversity of exhibitors in the Furniture Show at just the right point, and more specifically in a way that was a very different mix to the NEC in January”

What would you say to those who missed the event last month?

It was a shame you couldn’t be there, as it was a great and vibrant show. We can’t wait to welcome everyone to the 2015 edition, where we are sure you’ll just love what we have to offer.

Do you have any anecdotes that you feel truly summed up the event?

It has to be the diverse range and quality of visitor. Calia Italia really summed it up when they said: “It has become evident that meetings in Milan have transformed into orders at May Design Series.”

All the comments we have received [some of which are listed previously] make us enormously proud to facilitate business of this kind, with key takeouts that the show turned enquiries into orders.

Do you feel that the all-encompassing concept and visitor target of May Design Series is solid?

Yes, the vision is clear. We now have a 12-month marketing cycle ahead of us to utilise UBM’s expertise and network of international offices reaching 22 countries worldwide. We plan to work with buyers, associations, embassies, Government bodies, agents and media to draw key retailers from across the globe to make, with the industry’s support, the UK’s definitive international furnishings fair.

“This year we had a good turnout of key independent and multiple retailers to the show, with feedback from the majority indicating that it’s the place they need to come back to”

How do you hope to build the overall event’s next edition, and what are the main challenges you face?

We were really pleased with the preview of the Furniture Show at May Design Series. Our main focus over the coming months will be getting together a unique and exciting mix of exhibitors to make 2015 a must-attend event.

We will re-issue our VIP programme, attracting key regional retailers from every corner of the country – this year we had a good turnout of key independent and multiple retailers to the show, with feedback from the majority indicating that it’s the place they need to come back to. We will be re-examining the layout for 2015 to make sure the transition and curation of each of the five sectors is clearly defined, and that visitor flow between the two boulevards is seamless. 

As always, we need the industry behind us, and we will keep checking back with key stakeholders and advisory panels.

This interview was printed in the July issue of Furniture News magazine.

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