David Burgess, chair of The Schoolwear Association, shares his thoughts on the return of The Schoolwear Show – the biggest event in the schoolwear industry calendar.
The Schoolwear Show was back live at Cranmore Park in Solihull on October 10 and 11.
There had been a tremendous amount of planning to ensure a safe environment for the retailers and exhibitors. It’s the first show in the two-day format, since the very first one, back in 1997.
There were fewer exhibitors, by design, as the organisers wanted to create significantly more space, with bigger stands, to give the openness which they felt would work well for everyone. There were fewer visitors, as you might expect in these strange times, but they brought a clear sense of purpose and showed a great focus on starting the work to make 2022 a year of progress for their businesses.
All the exhibitors we spoke to were pleased with the layout of the stands and the space for their customers. The retailers were similarly delighted to be back in a face-to-face situation and were enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere which had been created.
Another first for the show was an online appointment facility. This was balanced by the ability to just turn up and see exhibitors as they were available. So many retailers have used appointments for parents over the past two Back to Schools, there was a good take up for many exhibitors. This was seen as a significant benefit for planning availability and making important pre-show preparation.
Planning was a theme on most stands, where exhibitors encouraged serious discussions about how to mitigate some of the delivery concerns for 2022, following a difficult time during this year. There were many give-aways from the standard free pens, to note books and everything in between.
Product launches were more limited, but new hoodies and zipper sweats were evident, and more ties were on show. New labelling concepts and increased investment in enhanced digital platforms and technology for retailers. More shoe exhibitors showing, with this area developing into a useful add-on for many retailers.
The main thrust of most conversation was focused on supply chain issues and looking at potential solutions. Early orders, particularly for made to order product, was one of the main areas. Suppliers were talking about increasing stock in key areas, but everyone was aware that the fragility of the supply chain is still a significant risk for the whole market. Despite all the various delivery issues, there had been a strong Back to School and most people were confident the market would overcome most of the potential problems.
As you might expect, sustainability had another growing presence, with quite a few stands declaring their green credentials or intentions. As COP26 is being held in Glasgow there is likely to be extra thought given to sustainability than might have been normally.
There was a Schoolwear Association event on the Sunday evening, where around 120 SA supporters evidently had a great time and raised some much-needed funds to aid the work of this important part of the schoolwear market.
Altogether, the show brought the market together and gave everyone an increased positive feeling for the future.
The show dates for 2022 are provisionally set as October 9 and 10 and possibly October 11 as well.