I travelled to the Independent Retail Show on Sunday without particularly high expectation of the value I would gain from the show. I had read the exhibitor list published in last week's Retail Newsagent and viewed it as being much weaker than ProRetail or the Musgrave events earlier this year.
I couldn't have been more wrong, from the moment I arrived and picked up my name badge from the registration desk it was clear that the show had been well organised with a focus on the visiting retailers. The hall was well laid out with the differing types of exhibitors placed in zones to ease the visitors journey.
My first call was to the newspaper publisher zone with The Telegraph, News International, Trinity Mirror and the Express. With each publisher I was delighted to hear about how they are working in partnership with retailers to grow sales both instore and home delivered.
Next was a series of NFRN stands where I talked to Brian Murphy about Newspro, the National Vice President, Colin Fletcher about the Radcliffe Fund, then Tom Searle who was selling the value of the NFRN Credit Union, Cathy Atkinson about NFRN Mutual and on to the NFRN main stand I talked to Nigel Smith who used to visit my business in Sussex.
Opposite the NFRN was a big Booker stand where I learnt about the success of the Premier symbol group and their free EPoS offer. In to the main body of the show I was delighted to find this was not a clone of other trade shows and that among the exhibitors there were the unexpected and the unusual. Kraft had a big stand, but for me I did not notice the absence of the other big manufacturers as the small names more than made up for this.
The Farmers Market zone offered a selection of enthusiastic independent suppliers that covered a great range of products that would be worth the consideration of any convenience store owner who wants to be different. Linked to the Farmers Market was a Fine Food Theatre that gave visitors to opportunity to discover more about each of the exhibitors products.
There was plenty of retail technology on offer from a variety of EPoS suppliers to finger print recondition. There was even a company offering a card payment facility that works with a smart phone or tablet computer.
One of the significant exhibitors with a big stand was Post Office Ltd who had plenty of staff on hand to answer the many questions that visitors had about the changes that are happening in their network. Along side the POL stand was the NFSP and I had a great conversation with a sub Postmaster who is about to undertake a conversion to a Main Office, very interesting.
At the centre of the IRS was the Newtrade Profit Zone where 17 presentations were delivered covering category management and instore excellence. These were great stories that left me inspired to do more.
This was a show that delivered far more than I had expected. Well done to the NFRN for presenting such a great show!