We are about to enter one of our tougher trading periods here in Hassocks, after what can only be described as a mediocre summer. So it was with a slightly heavy heart that my wife and I trundled up to the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London this week.
We went on the last day and I was genuinely surprised at how quiet the event was. What also surprised me (but left my wife relieved!) was how few retailers I bumped into. On previous visits with the team they have had to drag me away from people. The suppliers themselves all seemed to be saying the same thing, that the show was ‘okay, but too early to gauge’. This may be a sign of the times, but for me it was the first time I have seen an impact on this type of show.
I know in my business we are working harder than ever, and to quote a fellow retailer ‘working harder just to stand still’. The increasing pressure on our sales, margins, costs, bureaucracy and so on has the potential to give us all a ‘bunker mentality’.
Having done my rounds at Olympia and having had a shorter day than expected, I reflected on the day. We had made contact with three potential new suppliers (one of which offered us a full sale-or-return option as an incentive to try their products). We were also in a position to deal direct with two other suppliers that we had previously purchased through an intermediary wholesaler, giving us the potential of greater margin or lower prices.
If I look back at previous shows, the rewards perhaps have been greater for my business. But what I have taken from the show this year will no doubt be of benefit.
I think we are all in a dangerous market for so many reasons, but our biggest potential threat is ourselves. If we start to retract and work in our businesses and not on them, as Michael E Gerber talks about in his book The E-Myth, then are we potentially sealing our own fate? If going to trade shows can temporarily lift us out of that silo and give some much-needed perspective, then surely it’s worth it.