Postponed and relocated, this year’s Manchester Furniture Show faced an uphill battle – yet, as the first large-scale furniture show for over a year, there was high demand for Clarion’s summer sourcing opportunity. And thankfully, for the many exhibitors and visitors which made the trip to sunny Harrogate this July, it delivered …

In a marked departure from the norm and prompted by pandemic necessity, this year’s Manchester Furniture Show ran from 18th-21st July across the Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC) and grounds of the DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate, and was co-located with the popular Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival.

“As one of the first shows back for the industry – and the first for Clarion Retail – it was such an important milestone in getting back to live events,” states the organiser. 

“There were, of course, some challenges in the run-up to the event, with the ever-changing Government guidelines and communications, and the situation surrounding Covid – this was monitored closely by our team in the run-up to the show to ensure a safe experience for everyone involved. Once the show had been selected to take place as a Government pilot, it allowed our team to work really closely with the relevant Government departments so we could provide a safe return to live events.

“The majority of visitors and exhibitors were keen to get back on-site, but some were a little apprehensive after the events of the last 18 months. However, any doubts that people may have had vanished as soon as the doors opened on the morning of 18th July. Having a clear Covid pass verification process in place allowed people to feel safe and secure entering the event, and it allowed for people to reconnect and do face-to-face business again, which was really celebrated by all present.”

Indeed, visitor numbers proved strong, and, according to Clarion, buyer quality was “outstanding”, tracking in line with previous editions. 

Manchester Furniture Show continues to attract key UK buyers from independent, group and online retail stores, as well as contract and interior design buyers. In general, the mood of visitors was positive, and for many the event was the first opportunity they had had to engage with their suppliers in person. 

Stephen Buchanan, buyer at Emmaus, notes: “The Manchester Furniture Show in Harrogate was very well organised, with great suppliers and a chance to buy new ranges to sell in stores.” 

Exhibitors reported positive reactions and business, with buyers keen to gauge the availability of new lines, and stock up on new products and ranges. 

Tom Bayliss, UK sales director at Kettle Interiors, comments: “As soon as the doors opened on the Sunday morning, any doubts on how a change of venue would impact the show were quickly lifted.  

“Throughout the four days the footfall was consistently good, and the halls often full with store owners keen to refresh their displays with the latest looks for the busy AW21 season ahead.  

“I know that some of the trade were apprehensive about the new location, but the beautiful Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate did the sector proud, proving a fantastic stand-in venue. We were overwhelmed by the level of interest our new furniture received, and look forward to seeing it on high streets across the country later this year.”

James Ellis, MD of Ancient Mariner, says: “Thank you Clarion, for being brave in challenging times and moving Manchester to Harrogate. We had a record show, with results driven by the right products in stock at the right time, against a backdrop of supply chain disruption faced by many wholesalers.

“The major benefit for us was being attached to Home & Gift, which drove a whole new set of customers to our stand which we would never see at Manchester. Manchester is always a good show for us, but having it attached to Harrogate gave us 10 x better results – great location, great buyers, great social atmosphere and a well-organised event led to an outstanding result.”  

Health and safety remained paramount, and the organiser ensured that the safety of visitors, exhibitors, and staff on-site was a priority. “With the backing of the Government and local authorities, we were confident that we would be able to run the show, and it was only with the support of our key stakeholders that we were able to do so safely and successfully,” states Clarion.

The focus now turns to the January Furniture Show, which returns to the Birmingham NEC from 23rd-26th January 2022. The UK industry’s flagship event already promises the likes of Forte, Tetrad, Kettle Interiors, At the Helm, Hydeline, Carlton, Italia Living, SITS, Rauch, MLILY, La-Z-Boy, Alpha Design, Gallery Direct and Pacific Lifestyle, and more exhibitors are confirming their attendance with each passing week.

“The highly anticipated return of January Furniture Show is set to be a great success,” states Clarion. Visit the January Furniture Show website to find out more and to register an interest in attendance.