British manufacturing showcase Best of Britannia has launched a transactional website and will become biannual from 2015, running an event in Manchester as well as London.
The third annual Best of Britannia kicked off in the Farmiloe Building in London’s Clerkenwell yesterday, attracting a small but steady stream of trade visitors ahead of its opening to the wider public today.
At the same time, Bestofbrtitannia.com was relaunched as a transactional website, stocking 10 of the brands exhibiting at the show including footwear brand Hetty Rose and knitwear specialists Romney Marsh Wools.
The site only delivers to the UK, but Best of Britannia co-founder and creative director Antony Wallis told Drapers he is in talks with potential partners over an international service.
It will stock more brands in the future, he added, including some who do not exhibit at the show – as long as they are made in Britain.
He also revealed plans to run a second event in Manchester in May 2015, although a venue has yet to be found.
Best of Britannia has also launched an attempt to raise £150,000 through crowd funding website Crowdcube. Wallis hopes this investment will help to accelerate the event’s growth. “Visitor numbers have gone up each year,” he explained, although he declined to provide numbers.
This is the last year Best of Britannia will be hosted in the impressive venue of the Farmiloe Building – once home to lead and glass merchants George Farmiloe & Sons – as the site is being redeveloped next year.
Wallis said the new venue would likely be bigger, although they are yet to find the right location. “There’s definitely room for growth,” he said.
A total of 164 brands are exhibiting at this week’s show. On day one, retailers in attendance included Asos.com, Fortnum and Mason, Fenwick, John Lewis, Liberty and Harvey Nichols, among others. Only a few independents were spotted.
“We don’t get droves of buyers, but the ones we do attract are high quality,” said Wallis.
For most brands, however, Best of Britannia is not about trading; it is a way of raising awareness of British manufacturing among the public, as well as an opportunity to meet potential business partners.
William Church, joint managing director of Joseph Cheaney & Sons, who is exhibiting for the second year, said: “We don’t sell many shoes here, but it enables us to network with the right people. Last year we met Hackett here; that resulted in us producing Hackett by Cheaney shoes, which are going to market in the next two to three weeks.”
Justin Hall, chief executive of sock brand Pantherella, agreed: “We’ve seen a couple of indies, no major buyers. But for us this isn’t so much about trade; it’s a PR event and an opportunity to listen to customers.”
Alastair Rae, co-founder of menswear brand Albam, exhibiting for the first time, said: “Friday and Saturday (when the show is open to the public) will be the more important days for us. It’s about connecting with people that don’t know about us.
“It’s a diverse mix of brands, so there’s not a huge amount of synergy, but we’ve met some nice people and there could be some partnerships there.”