When I set off for Manchester’s Event City to go to the Independent Retail Show last weekend, I did so expecting a valuable experience. I wasn’t disappointed. From the first moment after entering the exhibition hall when I met Matt Goddard, the PepsiCo UK field sales director, I found all the people that I talked with were engaged in wanting to do business.

From Kevin Whitehouse and his team on the WHSmith Local stand to David Tymm of i-Movo, from Sue, Alan, Tom and the other producers at the Farmers’ Market to Kevin Maxfield of the National Skills Academy for Retail, the hall pack packed with people who wanted to engage positively with retailers.

I gained a great education from several of the e-cigarette and e-liquid suppliers. With these products due to be covered by a licensing regime from 2016, retailers will need to check that the brands they stock will still be available when this change happens. With the number of brands, flavours, nicotine strengths and types of e-cigarettes on the market, finding what is right for any store must be significantly more challenging than getting the right range of cigarettes!

What I particularly liked about the Independent Retail Show is the number of smaller businesses that exhibit their products. This year the businesses that stood out for me were Russell and Paul who told me about The Candy Makers, Geoff and Mick of VO4Home selling the benefits of voltage optimisation and Taylors of Harrogate where Steve talked to me with passion about tea, coffee and sustainability.

Whenever I go trade shows I always meet friends and acquaintances in our industry and the IRS 2013 was no exception. I was delighted to meet Tracy on the TAS, Trusted Accounting Services stand. I was a client of theirs for 20 years and Tracy was my VAT accounting problem solver, but we had never met in person before. Thanks to the Independent Retail Show that failure has now been corrected!

The NFRN and Newtrade team did a great job with this year’s show and I look forward to an even better one next year.