04 October 2010
British Bridal Exhibition in Harrogate – the biggest and the best
At the weekend, Europe’s biggest and most important bridal industry trade exhibition, BBEH, was the highly-commended finalist in the annual Events Awards, staged in London. This was a massive achievement on the part of show organiser Ocean Media, but in many ways unsurprising, as the success of the BBEH September went to prove.
The 250 exhibitors at Harrogate included top names in all areas of weddingwear, from bridal gowns to mother-of-the-bride, kiddies and bridesmaids’ attire to accessories and menswear. Alongside the big, international companies were many young emerging talents who added their own sense of piquancy to the trends set by the long-established designers. And it is this sort of blend of style and personality that makes BBEH such an important show and one that attracts retailers from across the country and around the globe. Of the 4,000 visitors to the September exhibition, 15 per cent represented overseas bridalwear shops, a considerable increase over previous years and a positive sign of the pulling power of BBEH.
Exhibitors themselves were thrilled – and why not when they reported the highest-ever sales figures. Said Graham Connell, MD of Mori Lee UK: “It was a record show which was helped by the increasingly high attendance. We also noticed a rise in overseas visitors, including several from the USA! This tells me that BBEH is now recognised as a world-leading event in the Bridal trade and that the location is not an issue for the serious retailers. The organisation and logistics involved in getting to and from the show improve every time.”
Award-winning menswear house Jean Yves agreed. Its UK boss, Tony Rowlands was staggered by the sheer weight of buyer-interest. “This exhibition was the busiest we have ever experienced since we launched into the UK four years ago. Despite the fact that we had five sales people on our stand, there were times when we were unable to cope and missed a number of key buyers who fortunately made appointments to see us over the weeks ahead. It is a long time since I have seen a queue of people waiting to be served - n one 20-minute spell on the Sunday we sold more shirts than I have ever known in such a short space of time.”
In the Designer Room, a feature at Autumn show, British designer Madeline Isaac James was overwhelmed with the reaction from existing and new retailers. “We have had such a brilliant show – both the exhibition itself and the designer preview catwalk show were superb and we’ve had an amazing response to both This BBEH has been our most successful ever and we will be working with some great new stockists – we’re all really excited!” Madeline, like so many others, has already confirmed her space for BBEH 2011. Another true Brit, couture kiddieswear designer Nicki MacFarlane, couldn’t have been more thrilled. “What a wonderful show! We had a fantastic stand in a beautiful hall and an amazing response!”
Buyers agreed the BBEH buzz was at fever-pitch. Traditionally and very deliberately, the last show on the bridal-buying circuit, many retailers will visit a chosen number of exhibitions throughout the season but hold off from ordering till Harrogate where they will spend their entire year’s budget. “It’s a show one simply cannot afford to miss – because everything is there, in one place, and in Harrogate, which is, after all, the home of bridal exhibitions and has been for more that 25 years,” said one excited buyer.
Veromia, whose growing portfolio now includes Jason Jennings Couture, was inundated with visitors all day every day for the duration of the show, often with up to 50 people waiting patiently in line to get on their stand. “We had the best Harrogate ever – double what we did last year. It was the best September Harrogate Veromia has had the history of the company.”
Interestingly, this year more than 50 per cent of visitors to BBEH attended the show for more than one day, allowing time to see not only their regular suppliers but to find new names to add to their offering. Companies like Heirloom Couture really benefited. Small, niche, and with a wonderfully original signature, this young company had interest from dome of the most prestigious names in retail.
Event director Wendy Adams has spent the two weeks post-BBEH completing contracts for exhibitors anxious to secure their place in both the March and September shows for next year, when an additional multi-million-pound purpose-built hall at the exhibition centre will be open. “The facilities here are fantastic,” says Adams, “but 2011 promises some extraordinary developments, with amazing space and a vibrant support programme. Harrogate is the place to be seen if you are in bridal and it will be a Harrogate like never before.”
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