I've been meaning to write a post for a couple of weeks about buying stock... Customers quite often ask me where I get my stock from and probably about half of it is sourced through trade fairs.
A trade fair is kind of like shopping on a giant scale. Manufacturers and wholesalers display samples of their goods for retailers to look at and order from - but it's not quite as simple as that as there are usually certain 'rules'. For example, most manufacturers are quite choosy about who they will and won't supply, and certainly won't supply more than one shop in the same town, a lot won't supply Internet-only businesses plus there are often hefty minimum orders so you have to be prepared to spend several hundred pounds. Moreover a lot of what is on display won't actually be available for several months so you have to try and plan ahead. I find the whole thing quite daunting to be honest, and it is so easy to get carried away!
Perhaps the biggest trade fair in the UK is Spring Fair at the NEC in February. It is spread over numerous halls and lasts for five days - I think you could probably go every day and still not see everything.
I used to go for a couple of days and spend ages wandering around looking for inspiration, but now I am much more focused and just pop up for an afternoon to visit the suppliers I particularly want to see. I save inspiration-hunting for less overwhelming situations.
When I went this year - just a couple of weeks ago - I had my afternoon all planned out and kept it to just three suppliers (plus a couple of pit-stops for coffees and muffins). Two of these were companies which I've been 'eyeing up' for quite a while but which are brand new to Cottontails (more about them soon) and the third was Moulin Roty, who had such a lovely stand - just like a gorgeous Moulin Roty shop really!
I took some photos on my phone so the quality isn't great, but it's nice to get an idea...
Here is the stand - you can tell how big it is from how tiny the rocking horses look, standing on the top shelves:
This is one of their wooden baby toys - it's really nice to be able to wheel things around and try them out:
This is a new range of soft toy bunnies which come in their own gift boxes - and they really are soft toys, very floppy and tactile. I think Humphrey might want one.
And this is me brandishing a Moulin Roty garden rake! We have a LOT of gardening goodies due any day now....
Oooh, before I go... I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Ernest, the soft toy rooster who is currently making his way around 'Blogland', and am delighted to announce that he is coming to stay at Cottontails for the week! His last 'host' emailed me last night to say he is on his way so I am half expecting him to arrive tomorrow. As soon as I hear a pecking at the door I'll let you know!