There comes a time in the depths of January each year when talk of spring starts to be bandied about. No, not by over enthusiastic gardeners, but by the organisers of Spring Fair – ‘the UK’s number one home and gift show for the retail industry’. And so, despite feeling very un-springlike at 5am on a Sunday morning, we made our annual pilgrimage to the NEC, armed with plenty of snacks and water and our comfiest shoes.
We are very lucky as members of the British Association of Fairtrade Shops and Suppliers that there is a specific trail we can follow each year to find our Fairtrade friends among the acres of mosaic glass gorillas, smoking wizards and 10ft high driftwood giraffes (no I’m not making this stuff up – however much of a mission you are on to get round quickly there are still times when you have to stop and gaze at something in horror or awe). But hidden within the glitz and the tat are the little jewels of BAFTS wholesalers – like an oasis of ethical calm in a consumerist desert!
So what were the highs and lows of our trip this year? Well one definite downside was the effects some of our suppliers are feeling from Brexit and the current exchange rate. This was reflected both in the reduction in the number of suppliers that were actually exhibiting and in the discussions of price rises that will inevitably follow. Particularly hard hit have been people who import from India., who are facing a double whammy due to changes in the developing nation status of that country. This means that Fairtrade goods – which had been free of import duty – are no longer exempt.
But on the upside, we did see some fantastic new products – both from existing suppliers and from new suppliers who’s goods we would like to start to stock for the first time. Nothing beats actually seeing a product ‘in the flesh’. And it avoids some of the mistakes that can be made buying from a catalogue without checking sizes – anyone remember the giant salad servers or the Mayan hot chocolate whisks? We had to give one of those away in a ‘can you guess what it is’ competition.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Fair and Fabulous outing without at least one silly incident. This year we were both given an exceptionally smelly free gift of a scented drawer liner, which we quickly dropped into our matching cement bag trolleys. Unfortunately, Jill’s landed in her trusty traveling mug, which meant her Fairtrade coffee break was tainted by an added floral bouquet. I wish I took a photo to capture her expression, but I was too busy laughing!
Most exciting of all, however, was the fact that our supplier Louise from Believe You Can (the home of all things fairy) won the newly-created Fair Trade category of Gift of the Year Award 2017 for her beautiful tutus. Now if only she would start doing them in adult sizes I could celebrate her achievement without looking quite so silly!