Autumn Fair International, held every September, is the little sister to February's Spring Fair, the UK's biggest trade event for the home and giftware industries. As both events are held just a short train ride from me at Birmingham's NEC, they form two of the highlights of my year.
Although they're aimed at retailers buying stock, I can get in as a Graphic Designer and spend the day exploring the halls (5 in Autumn, all 20 in Spring) and discovering the latest trends in giftware, greetings, homeware, toys and jewellery.
It's tough on the feet but I always come out of it buzzing, inspired and wishing I had the money to set up my own gift shop. It would have to be a ruddy big shop, though, because I'd want to stock up on EVERYTHING!
During my time there, I managed to stumble across the last 20 minutes of a Talking Point Seminar by E-commerce consultants Intelligent Retail. I picked up some very useful tips about how Google ranks websites based on how key words are used on them and why outgoing links from a site are as important as incoming ones.
This was also the first time I'd heard a professional opinion on the year's internet phenomenon, Twitter. I'd never really seen the point of it, from a personal angle. I'm not really interested in what Stephen Fry's had for breakfast, as much as I love his shows. In fact I've never even used Facebook, either. I've dabbled with MySpace but let's just say this camel had her back broke over there a couple of months ago. Yet speaker David Fairhurst managed to get across Twitter's business benefits quite enthusiastically. It can be a very quick and efficient way to target a specific group of people, who you can search for and monitor using Twitter management tools. You can then instantly alert them to new products, website updates or any other news you want to bring to lots of people's attention. So now I'm seriously thinking of joining, to network with graphic design businesses and anyone else who might be able to get me off the ground.
Of course, if I do join and you're reading this because you found it on my Twitter feed, thank you for popping over. But as that feed doesn't exist at the time of writing this, we're getting into serious wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff here.
Best move on...
In the 2nd part of this review I'll link you to some of my favourite products at this year's show, followed by what I saw as the current top trends.