There is no doubting it! The Alphabet Gift Shop’s three top colour trends for Spring are yellow, coral and mediterranean blue (with a bit of leaf green thrown in for good measure!) This conclusion did not come easily – we’ve been on a long journey of discovery first!
There is a slight disagreement amongst our team as to when the start of Spring actually is . . . March 1st? Or at the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 19, 20, or 21?. To be honest – for me Spring is more a feeling than a date on a calendar. Its difficult to describe but you know when it’s arrived. It’s the day you leave work (and its actually daylight) and the air and the light feel different . . . you feel different . . . you feel “springy” (not in a boingy way) and everything seems right with the world!
But something else happens.
Suddenly you have nothing to wear, you develop an urge to clean your house, sort out the kitchen drawers, buy new cushions and manically pore over the Farrow & Ball paint chart for colour inspiration for your now urgent need to re-decorate the entire house. Oh . . . and the garden needs sorting . . . NOW!
So, in early January and again in February we begin to order our Spring stock for the shops in anticipation of this annual Springing!
The International Spring Fair happens in February and is our biggest buying event of the year. Its where we don our trainers and cover literally miles of the NEC in an attempt to find the most beautiful jewellery, handbags, candles, smellies, stationery and other stock . . . you name it, it’s there in abundance . . . for our gift shops.
The Trends Arena is where we dutifully begin the day to seek inspiration for our forthcoming buying frenzy. It’s where an eclectic selection of the most ‘on trend’ items are showcased – chosen by industry experts and artfully displayed by merchandising gurus from the vast range of products on show from exhibitors across the Halls.
We do our best to absorb the new trends, colours, textures and ideas that are represented by this carefully edited collection
But It’s not an easy task!
Amongst the vast selection there is every colour under the sun, every style . . . from mid-century English furniture to morrocan influenced vases, to Ikat, Indian and paisley prints to pared back neutral scandi style simplicity. It is mesmerising.
But somehow the trends do seep through . . . almost without realising you find yourself drawn to the rich deep green luxe velvet cushions over the simple pale grey linen ones . . . how did that happen? Weirdly you find yourself looking with fresh eyes at terracotta vases, brass candle holders, artificial cheese plants and mustard pom pom decorated knitted throws . . . what happened to everything having to be a shade of grey accessorised with blush pink?
So we walk, look, touch, discuss and eventually choose the items that we like and that we hope and think that you will too. We try not to be influenced too much by the salesman’s patter, or by the standard of nibbles on each exhibitor’s stand (Art Marketing’s little custard pastries are to die for!) We look for great design, a colour palette that we like and a sensible price.
We place our orders and travel home.
And then we wait.
A few weeks later the orders start to arrive . . . and then we discover exactly what colour trend information we have absorbed. As the boxes are unpacked it quite quickly becomes clear which influences have made their mark on us.
This year it is the beautiful bright yellow that is in Fenella Smith’s washbags and purses, Estella Bartlett’s brilliant little travel wallets and travel jewellery cases, Pilgrim’s gorgeous resin earrings and in Abbacino’s fabulous handbags and purses.
The same companies have options in corals and blues – with some really lovely summer scarves that mix all three colours in floral, geometric and abstract patterns from Peace of Mind, One Button and Abbacino. Our range of stationery items and make up bags by Joules bring all three colours together in one of their iconic designs.
The test comes when we start to merchandise the shelves and window displays. There is a deep sense of satisfaction when it all hangs together – and when we combine stock from different suppliers in one display a magical synergy happens!
And then (finger’s crossed) it starts to sell . . . best feeling ever!
Sunday sees the start of Autumn Fair – one of the biggest buying opportunities of the year for home and gifts. I’m not a huge fan of the NEC but it serves a purpose and its proximity means that I can come home to a lovely homemade tea after a hard days buying rather than a slightly dodgy hotel room and an overpriced meal in Kensington which is the joy of buying in London!
Christmas buying is mostly done now so this is a great opportunity to look for new suppliers and see new ranges from companies that we already buy from for Autumn and Winter. I get stupidly excited about the prospect of seeing new things, especially from super creatively talented people who are showing their wares for the first time – their enthusiasm and energy is infectious and you just want them to do well.
There is always a dilemma to battle with though.
I read about upcoming trends in magazines and online. I trawl through Pinterest, scour design source websites, subscribe to trend prediction websites and blogs and I carry in my head visions of on-trend colours, themes for home and furniture, birds, woodland animals, homemade, handmade, retro, vintage – it’s all there in the mix!
But also in my head I have the words and opinions of some of our regular and loyal customers telling me what they like (and what they don’t!), what they would like their homes to look like, what brands they aspire to, how they live their lives, where they go on holiday, the weddings and christenings they attend, what they watch on telly . . .
I am suffering from information overload
So when those boxes of iridescent, tribal influenced, rustic, block printed cushions decorated with the observational botanical drawing and self-conscious hand painted picture of a fox arrive in the next few weeks – you’ll know why!