The North Yorkshire trade show continues to gain traction as more brands seek a fresh space in which to exhibit.
More from: Harrogate Fashion Week does Yorkshire proud
The cold, wet northern weather failed to dampen this season’s edition of Harrogate Fashion Week.
The airy and bright halls of the Harrogate Convention Centre were noticeably “bigger and busier” than previous seasons at the womenswear, footwear and accessories trade show, which ran on 26-27 January.
Visitors queued outside, and footfall in the aisles was brisk. Stands were consistently busy, and exhibitors reported “good, quality buyers” writing orders.
This was the fourth edition of Harrogate Fashion Week, which was launched in 2018 by trade show stalwarts Sarah Moody, Wendy Adams and Stephen Dixon. There were 100 exhibitors for autumn 20 – a 65% increase on the January 2019 edition.
Plans are afoot to expand into a third, or even fourth hall of the convention centre for the spring 21 edition as the organisers seek to branch out into lifestyle. They said new and existing exhibitors have already pre-registered for the event on 26-27 July 2020.
An array of familiar names filled the stands, including Ampour, Airfield, Rino & Pelle, John Charles, Sahara, Pomodoro, James Lakeland, Lotus Shoes and Marble. However, some said the show needed to bring in a wider mix of brands, to avoid becoming an occasionwear exhibition.
Most of the visitors to this regional show were independent retailers, largely from the north of England, Ireland and Scotland. There was no sign of buyers from multiple retailers and department stores.
However, brands Drapers spoke to said the earlier timing of Harrogate Fashion Week was better than that of larger Hyve Group-owned rival Moda, which will take place on 23-25 February, as buyers have not yet allocated all of their budgets. They also noted that the stands are less expensive.
“We had a great selection of brands that were fairly edited,” said Adams. “People like the dates we have chosen, and they are happy with the price points we stick to. They are also pleased with the exhibiting costs: £155/sq m for the standard package.”
Moody added: “We’ve already got people rebooking for the next show, including new brands. Next season we will potentially expand into three or four halls as the show continues to get bigger.
“We are being asked to do three days instead of two [Sunday to Tuesday], so that is something we need to consider for the seasons ahead.”
Although still small, the Yorkshire show offers a “breath of fresh air” to the UK trade show scene with its edited mix of brands at accessible price points in a vibrant location. The exhibition is one to keep a close eye on as it continues to build its market share.
What Drapers heard at Harrogate Fashion Week
Hilary Haresign, owner of womenswear independent Snooty Frox in Harrogate
This season has definitely been definitely busier and bigger, with some nice new brands exhibiting. The venue is easy to navigate, and the location is great. Everyone loves Harrogate, and it’s nice to have a show back up north.
I think two days for a show is OK, but three days would be much better. I will definitely be coming back next season.
Julie Garner, owner of outdoor clothing independent Everything Outdoor in Holkham, Norfolk
It is a lot bigger than the autumn 19 show. There have been a lot more visitors, with people even queuing to get in. There has been a real buzz. The venue and the exhibitor stands look beautiful.
This trade show is a change in ethos to other shows. It is very organised, and it feels like the organisers are actually interested in the exhibitors and visitors.
Harrogate is a nice town with nice places to eat and stay overnight. The show is lovely and it doesn’t feel as though you’re having to give up your weekend because you actually want to be here.
We usually go to Moda, but we have decided to come here instead, as we don’t recognise anyone on the exhibitor list, and they are mostly footwear brands.
I visited [Harrogate on Sunday] to search for new brands and placed a big order. I plan on coming back on Monday to make sure I haven’t missed any brands. I think we are all being cautiously optimistic still, but we’re all tired of talking about it being tough out there.
Josephine Parkhill, head designer at occasionwear brand John Charles
We have been showing here since it started. The timing of Harrogate is great – it’s early in the season and it means we can get orders in sooner. Moda is too late in the calendar year to be able to deliver on time. The earlier the better.
We’ve seen some strong potential customers, but they’ve mostly been independents. It’s still a very new show, but it is getting even stronger in presence with a mix of good brands. Its also a very good price to show here, Moda became too expensive.
All in all 2020 is looking up. I think things will pick up again after Brexit. With the big players like Karen Millen going under, it gives brands like us an opportunity to fill the gap.
Anne-Marie Holdsworth, director of Leeds-based Brodie Cashmere
It feels slightly quiet in terms of visitor footfall. It was busy in the morning, but slowed down after lunch [on Sunday]. However, the show still feels busier overall than last year. The layout looks great and there are more booths, with more exhibitors. We didn’t spot any multiples or department stores here – it’s mostly been independents.
We love that the show is based in Harrogate. It’s a really lovely town with nice restaurants and hotels, which I think entices good, quality buyers.
Kim Barlow, wholesale manager for womenswear brand and retailer Sahara
This is our fourth season showing at Harrogate. It’s been much busier than previous seasons – and has doubled in size since last January. Footfall has been fairly quiet, but we’ve been making orders with good, quality buyers, so that is all that matters. Buyers have definitely experienced a tough winter, but they are definitely buying.
It’s a beautifully run show in a fantastic location. People adore Harrogate. It has a good range of hotels and evening events, which makes it a nice weekend away for people. This is helped by the warmth and friendliness of the north.
Noreen Puri, brand director for womenswear brand Pomodoro
This was our fourth time showing at Harrogate, and it got off to a very good start. We love coming to Harrogate, it’s a really lovely experience because you can mix business with pleasure while here. It’s a very user-friendly town. There is a really good brand mix and more brands showcased here this season, which makes it more worthwhile for buyers to come. Harrogate trade show is a real breath of fresh air.
People are certainly buying with caution, but we’ve noticed a lot of positivity from buyers while here.