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Make it British Live a success at new location

Spirits were high among exhibitors at London sourcing event Make it British Live, as they embraced its new home in Islington and reported good trading in the face of continued political and economic uncertainty. 

The trade show, set up in 2014 by Kate Hills, ran on 29 and 30 May at the Business Design Centre in Islington. It was previously held at The Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.

Exhibitors were positive that the new larger site provided improved natural lighting and gave visitors better accessibility to the stands.

“We much prefer the location,” said Susannah Murray, sales director at Scottish knitwear manufacturer Harley of Scotland. “The natural lighting is much better for displaying the products and showing off the fabric colours.”

John Harrop, sales manager at Leeds-based manufacturer Moon, agreed: “It’s a much more open location. Compared to The Old Truman Brewery there is much more light, meaning the stand and fabric colours look better.”

Several exhibitors noted the abundance of start-up businesses at this year’s show, interested in investigating British sourcing.

“We’ve met with lots of start-ups and new indies who are looking to make ethical and sustainable decisions by manufacturing in Britain,” said Chantelle Raymond, development manager at London-based manufacturer Fashion Enter.

However, she added: “There seem to be lots of product here, but not many factories. If we could get more factories that produce each element – trims, zips or packaging – then it would help to create a simple supply chain for visitors.”

Others praised the event for educating brands and retailers on their sourcing decisions.

“We’ve mostly met with companies from the UK, who currently buy their product from Portugal or overseas. They are under the impression that they can’t afford to buy from here [Britain], but conversations at this show make them discover otherwise,” said Melanie Storer, sales director at kidswear manufacturer Team Tots Clothing.

Manufacturers said the ongoing political uncertainty has resulted in an uptick for Made in Britain business.

“There is a continual build of people wanting to go British in the face of Brexit,” added Harrop. “Business is brilliant.”

Tracy Holt, sales executive at Stockport manufacturer William Turner, agreed: “People are looking for more British suppliers. We’ve seen increased sales and lots of new enquiries. Business has been steady.”

Make it British Live founder Hills has plans to further diversify the event going forward and is considering adding new product categories. She also intends to divide the show into zones next year to ease navigation.

“Stores are buying a more diverse mix of product, so we wanted to represent that in the show,” she told Drapers. “We’re going to zone the show for next year, with an even more diverse offering from homeware to gifts, as well as fashion.”

“Originally we weren’t going to carry on in the same format, we were going to do several smaller events,” she explained. “However, when we mentioned that to the exhibitors, they asked us not to. A lot of the garment manufacturers have such a fantastic time at the show that they get so busy they have to skip a year.”

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