Having been trading for just over 18 months, Go La La! is fairly new to this trade show malarkey; we’ve exhibited at PG Live twice (2016 was our launch show) and Spring Fair, and plenty of people suggested that Top Drawer is a good show to do, so a little later than we should have we booked our stand (ZA59 in the Gift area to be precise).
Top Drawer takes place at Olympia in Kensington, London and is one of the UK’s leading retail trade events for lifestyle buyers. As a result there are some beautifully designed and crafted trade stands brimming with amazing products – for me The Sex Pistols – 1977: The Bollocks Diaries coffee table book was the top item on display.
Getting to the venue for us is easy to from Glastonbury – the coach outside our house runs into Hammersmith and then it’s just a short taxi ride to the venue; we would have walked but laden down with so many bags it was impossible. We travelled up on Friday, anticipating 2 days to set up, but once we had actually found our stand in the cavernous building, Laura painted it in about an hour – I just watched the paint dry (about an hour), and the velcroed shelves took us another hour to put up; so, by early evening we were in the pub; and then had most of Saturday to explore West London.
We weren’t turning cartwheels when we saw our stand, but that is no-one’s fault but our own; we had booked late, and there was very little choice left, so we ended up with a 2m x 1.5m stand, which as you can picture is a bit boxy and uninviting – even worse when we measured it, as it was actually 2m x 1.46m – in the sneered words of Johnny Rotten “it’s a swindle”. We were probably conned out of 50 quid by the measurements – though I’ve not drilled down into it ;-). Our stand also looked a bit cluttered to us (it’s amazing how much stuff you can chuck into it, and that we did), although others said that it looked fine.
Finding somewhere to position yourself on a trade stand like that is tricky – I felt I was always in the way wherever I stood, but I guess that’s nothing new! I personally felt it seemed like a bit of a backwards step for us, as we really would have liked a 3m x 1m stand which looks more stylish and demonstrates our excellently designed and presented cards perfectly.
We launched 3 new ranges at Top Drawer (Blunt Instruments, Nice Little Ditties and Laugh a Minute), as well as additions to our bestselling Bawdy Banter range, and a totally revamped Rules of Engagement. We also had our non-humour range, Found in Translation which we released in December. Feedback for all ranges was extremely positive, and we managed to attract several lovely new stockists as well as some great potential leads, as well as renewed orders from previous customers. It is always satisfying when you see people stop to look at your products and burst out laughing. One lady was actually crying with laughter at Nice Little Ditties, while explaining HRT and the word Cumbubble to a German distributor was a challenge I left to Laura.
The Greeting Card industry is a friendly one and we had great and creative neighbours in our area; these lovely people included Memelou, Arch & Ivy, Paper Sole and Kapelki Art who kept us smiling with silliness and laughter (as well as being very professional with the customers of course). We also managed to catch up with old friends from previous shows: Jelly Armchair, Papagrazi, Pabuku, Sarah Lovell Art and Objectables. All of these publishers have created a wide range of cards and some really fantastic offerings to appeal to the most classy and discerning retailers.
It was also interesting to talk to 2 old pros in the area, Penny of Penny Lindop Designs and Ge Feng of Forever Cards; both have been in the industry for 20 years, and had some useful knowledge to impart; they also told me how Trade Shows have evolved over the years, and unfortunately how much more difficult the industry is now. Ge was also hilariously funny and kept me entertained with jokes and quips throughout.
Weirdly there was one publisher nearby appeared to have a severe allergy to the show. Despite having a beautifully presented stand, they turned up late and went home early on the first 2 days and didn’t even materialise on the final one. They made little attempt to socialise with anyone around them, and were pretty non-communicative with customers. I assume they paid for their place at the show and had money to squander.
At the moment, we haven’t decided on whether to return to Top Drawer; on balance we think we preferred Spring Fair, and we would also like to trial other shows like Glasgow or Harrogate. Shows are very expensive and time consuming at the relatively young stage of our business we’re not sure if we can spare the time or the money, so ask us again in a few months.