This year saw the Schoolwear Show celebrate a milestone achievement – 20 years of showcasing new products and garments to schoolwear retailers. Here P&P editor Melanie Attlesey reviews the event and takes a look back over the last two decades.
The Schoolwear Show, which took place last month, was founded by five schoolwear suppliers, David Luke, Rowlinson Knitwear, William Turner, Gymphlex, and Banner back in 1997.
The idea behind the launch of the event was to show independent school uniform retailers what was available in the market and to help them to improve their own individual businesses. Two decades later the show is still doing exactly that.
David Burgess, chief executive of David Luke and one of the founding organisers, shared his fondest memory of the last 20 years.
He said: “The most memorable moment for me came in 2006. Around 30 exhibitors exhibited at the show and it was the first time that I felt we had achieved what we set out to do. This coincided with the launch of the Schoolwear Association and it really felt as if there was a real coming together in the industry. The show and the association working together to achieve a common goal. Since then the show has gone from strength to strength.”
Beginning with just a handful of exhibitors, growing to around 30 exhibitors in 2006, the show now regularly features around 50 suppliers who return year on year to enjoy the benefits that the show brings.
Regular exhibitor John Baines of Kwik Tape Labels says he loves the show. “It’s great to see the spark in old customers as they see a new piece of equipment. He also rather enjoys helping new customers start out in the industry.
“I get so overwhelmed when I see some customers reactions. I love this show and every year I am so busy it’s untrue,” he adds.
This year’s event saw several new exhibitors join the show, including Innovation Schoolwear, Your Embroidery Services Ltd, Pioneer Schoolwear Manufacturing, RagTagd, Optimum and Ascent Australia.
Innovation Schoolwear last exhibited 10 years ago and returned this year due to customer demand.
Michelle Cohen, export and head of accounts, explains: “The market was different back then. There were no reps or agents, which today is very much a business in itself. Our business grew through word of mouth, everyone knew each other. However, we didn’t keep up with the times. After the fire at our warehouse in 2015, we realised how many retailers and distributors were not aware of who we were or how extensive our product range is.
“So we decided to attend and it has been really fantastic. We plan to do it every year from now onwards. It’s the personal connection with our customers that you can’t get over the phone which is really valuable.”
RagTagd was another new exhibiting, flying in from Australia especially for the show. RagTagd produces smart tags which can be attached to any item of school uniform. When this item goes missing, parents automatically receive a text message notifying them that their child’s item of clothing is in the school’s lost property.
Founder Eugene Holdenson says: “We have found the Schoolwear Show super useful and would rate it an 11 out of 10. We have met the right people from one-stop-shops through to CEOs of companies. We have come away confident that the UK is the right market that we should be targeting.”
John-Paul Burton, director of YES Ltd, agrees with both Michelle and Eugene, that the show is the right place to be for those wishing to target the schoolwear market.
He adds: “The show has gone exceedingly well for us. We were busy throughout the three days of the event. We have achieved good connectivity with our customers. Our new products were received very well and we have got some great leads to follow up.”
In addition to the show, the Schoolwear Association held its inaugural Schoolwear Industry Awards on October 15, where David received a lifetime achievement award for his long career in the industry.
A winning formula
The Schoolwear Show has a winning formula for both suppliers and retailers alike. It is the place to be for suppliers to reach out to their customers and for retailers to keep abreast of what’s new in the industry.
David adds: “Going forward I would like to see the show evolve with more alternative products added, such as equipment and epos systems, which will help retailers with the growth of their own business.
“The show continues to drive up standards in the schoolwear industry. It definitely gives retailers more bullets in their gun. We will have to see what the future holds.”
Plans are already well underway for the 2018 event, with three new already exhibitors signed up. So watch this space for details.