The warm weather didn’t deter crowds of buyers from visiting Top Drawer A/W 23, held at Olympia London from September 10 to September 12, with the event closing its doors on a high, having delivered a 10% year-on-year rise in attendee numbers.
Strong pre-registration was reflected in the breadth of visitors across the threedays, which included buyers from Anthropologie, Argos Asia, Asda, Avoca, Blue Diamond Garden Centre Group, Burford Garden Company, Capital Gardens, Card Factory, Cardzone, Clintons, DFS, Dunelm, FatFace, Fenwick, Fortnum & Mason, Frasers Group, Fron Goch Garden Centre, Garsons, Graham & Green, Habitat, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Heal’s, Hobbs, Hoopers, Hotel Chocolat, Imperial War Museums, Jarrold & Sons, John Lewis & Partners, JoJo Maman Bebe, Kew Gardens, Lakeland, La Redoute UK, Lark London, Laura Ashley, Le Bon Marché, Liberty, Longleat Enterprises, Moonpig, National Trust, Natural History Museum, New Look, Next, Oliver Bonas, Papersmiths, Paul Smith, Petersham Nurseries, Planet Organic, Ransoms Garden Centre, RHS, River Island, Rossiters Of Bath, Saatchi Gallery, Sainsbury’s, Science Museum Group, SCP, Scribbler, Selfridges, Southbank Centre, Squires Garden Centres, Tate Enterprise, Tesco, The Body Shop, The British Museum, The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The V&A Museum, TJX, Urban Outfitters, Waitrose & Partners, Waterstones and WHSmith.
In addition to an overall visitor increase of 10%, there was a 38% increase in international visitors, which included a 24% lift in the number of countries who attended compared with the 2022 show.
This year’s edition also saw significant gains in various key retailer categories, including 63% more garden centre buyers, a 20% increase in multiple buyers, 18% more gallery/museum buyers, and a 10% increase in department storebuyers. Top Drawer’s new dedicated VIP campaign also paid dividends, delivering a 72% increase in attendees with buying budgets of £1 million-plus, resulting in the highest ever level of collective spending power at the event.
Buyers were effusive in their feedback, with many highlighting the quality of the exhibitor offering. Carla Ringer, buyer at Blue Diamond declared that “Top Drawer is always my favourite show [and is] the place to find exciting new products”. Molly Price, founder of online children’s boutique Molly-Meg, said “it’s my favourite show for gifts and finding treasures”. Louise Rynehart, senior designer seasonal at Sainsburys was equally positive, stating that “Top Drawer has been incredible… extremely cool and innovative” and Claudia Johnson Sabine, junior buyer – projects at Dunelm added: “It was wonderful being back at Top Drawer and connecting with old and new suppliers… I came away with tons of inspiration and feel so excited for future seasons!”
Visitors were treated to nine distinct sectors containing more than 400 brands, including over 150 exhibitors that were brand new to Top Drawer. The sheer amount of high-quality new suppliers was remarked upon by many: “[We] set an all-time record for placing 14 orders in one day, 10 of which were with new brands!” enthused Donna Nichol, owner of Chloe James Lifestyle store in St Albans, while fellow independent retailer Vickie Huxley from Simply Rye said:“Lots of chatting, lots of beautiful things, lots of buying, lots of catching up with our suppliers, lots of steps, lots of laughter… we call that a successful buying trip!”
Longstanding exhibitors reaped the benefit of the huge increase in footfall this season, with Designworks’ sales director James Mountfield celebrating a“tremendous show” and revealing “we were really busy throughout”. This sentiment was echoed by Katie Holman, founder of The Colour Emporium, who reported a “busy and bustling show where visitors were up for something new, quirky and different”. Dave Heffernan, managing director of Aery was just as enthusiastic, commenting: “Top Drawer is the only UK trade show we do – it’s perfect for our brand.”
Away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor, the RetailFest stage was busy with visitors hearing from industry figureheads including Amanda Wakely OBE, PR consultant Priscilla Pollara, retail experience consultant Mary Wallace, Independent Thinking podcast host Alexandra Forrest, and social media stop motion expert Alice Loveday.
These hotly anticipated sessions gave attendees an array of tips and tricks to implement for their own businesses, as Top Drawer continues to champion small and independent shops.
The show’s new Business Hub also proved a resounding success, allowing people to meet industry experts such as Karolina Barnes from ESTILA, Ami Rabheru from Retail Huddle, and Nicola Snell from Press Loft, and seek advice on everything from their product branding through to the best buying strategies for their store.
Top Drawer’s show partner The Better Trends Company returned once again with fresh predictions for the future, which it then brought to life on the show’s trends feature, which saw product from exhibitors across the event utilised to highlight three emerging trends: Understated Luxe, No-ccasion and Dreamwave. Visitors were able to take this insight and shape their new collection as the industry steps into the new season and beyond.
Reflecting on a highly successful three days, show manager David Westbrooke commented: “Top Drawer has always been and will continue to be the home of trend-focused retail in the UK. With over 150 amazing new brands exhibiting, buyers were spoilt for choice, discovering the latest and greatest products the industry has to offer ahead of the all-important golden quarter. With the quality of our hand-picked exhibitors, combined with our amazing trends feature and seminar programme, it’s no wonder we’ve had such sensational feedback. I can’t wait for next season!”
Top Drawer will return in 2024 for its Spring/Summer edition at Olympia London from January 14 to January 16 register your interest now.