Deep in the darkest, chilliest depths of Winter, we head out exploring.
Our quietest time in store happens to be one of the busiest behind the scenes. In late July & early August, it's trade fair season. A jam-packed couple of days full of exploring, walking, sourcing, walking, snacks, more walking, coffee, and buying.
Often spoken of in tones of awe and wonder, the trade fairs are something like the grown-up retail version of an amazing playground. Lots of colour, plenty to explore, and never quite enough time to try everything.
I experienced my first in 2019, and had no idea at the time that it would be three years before we would be able to go again. The time between flew past in a blur, even with all the hurdles of the past few years, and suddenly it was July again and I was standing outside the Royal Exhibition Building ready for round one.
Cracking into things early, we started our buying journey at LifeInstyle. Perhaps the prettiest of all, and the perfect bite-sized introduction for our lovely work experience student Ava.
When the doors opened at 10am, I bounded off quickly, only to realise that Ava, a step or two behind, was taking it all in. People swirling, music floating, so many things to see.
We stopped and caught our breath for a coaching session with one of my business heroes Fiona Killackey, then started our buying and exploring time in earnest. Like any good students, we'd done some homework in the days prior and had a shortlist of brands we wanted to visit in person. Jewellery, accessories and fashion - and that's only the tip of the iceberg of all that's on offer!
We chatted business with potential suppliers, talking trends and finance and all the nuts and bolts, before moving onto our next target and starting all over again. I love a little thinking time so I'm not always one to order at the show, preferring a quiet review session in the days following, away from the hustle and bustle when I can think a little more clearly. However, seeing the products in person makes choosing which labels to take on and which pieces to choose a million times easier!
After a quick recharging lunch, we popped into two seminars to grow our brains a little more;
- One on the importance of sustainability and how to begin to pivot towards a more environmentally friendly approach with Belinda Humphrey,
- and another session on humanising your brand and marketing the people behind the business, rather than just the products with Fiona again.
Both sessions left us with lots to think about - luckily, because the drive home took more than a couple of hours, leaving us with ample opportunity to digest all we'd seen and heard.
Reed Gift Fair & AGHA Gift Fair
Round two saw a second Melbourne trip on Tuesday to visit two more fairs - Reed & AGHA, both conveniently located in the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. I'm not sure if you've spent much time in this building, but it is huuuggee, and man, did I do a lot of steps on Tuesday!
There was a lot to see and much ground to cover, and while I started with an energetic bounce in my step, I slowly lost a little pep as I traipsed up and down every aisle.
There's heaps of homewares, lots of toys and games, plus giftware, accessories, jewellery and a little bit of fashion. I also caught up with our lovely rep Denise at the Palm Beach stand, and chatted to a few potential new suppliers too.
By lunchtime, I was worn out and in need of an energy boost before a Humidity Winter 23 showing in the afternoon. I demolished a bowl of spaghetti carbonara on Southbank, then took some time out at The Lume digital art gallery. The swirling Van Gogh artworks and soundscape were the perfect mental break from the hustle and bustle of the morning, and left me feeling refreshed and calm, and ready to choose your future favourite knitwear pieces.
I ventured up to the 19th floor at the Pan Pacific Hotel to see our rep Kym, and discover what our favourite WA label has in store for us next year. The views across the city were beautiful, especially on such a sunny afternoon! And I saw lots to love in the collection too - think earthy toned cords, long cardis, cosy skivvies and the return of some much loved and well known pieces.
By 5pm I was all done and heading back to my car to journey home. Trade fairs ticked off, plus some extra buying finished too!
Trade fairs always leave me wishing that I have a store three times as large, a buying budget that has no limit, and the chance to stock any and every brilliant brand out there. But I also know our bright little store can only hold so much, and just like a kid in a toy shop, we can't have every shiny, pretty thing that catches our eye.
What little bits of treasure did we find? Well you'll just have to wait and see!