Pulse the definitive retail event – Part 1.

A new event for my calendar this year but one I have heard a lot about, Pulse is a trade show for the most discerning & forward thinking retailer or designer. Professing talented exhibitors galore providing inspiration on giftware, modern living & retail insights. Their tag line is Discover the Unexpected and that is exactly what I found on offer; unseen brands, new products and an overflowing well of inspiration.

I ended up spending two days traversing the floor boards of Kensington Olympia taking in the event as a whole; seeing what the exhibitors did with their spaces then taking a closer look at the products and the trends Pulse presented. On top of that The Indytute had a curated selection of ShopTalks available a few of which I caught and enjoyed, so find this blog post cut in three.

Part 1. The show itself and some of my favourite exhibitors displays.

Part 2. My wish list of products and the key trends from Pulse to look out for. >> Read Here

Part 3. A special look in to the ShopTalks I attended and my top tips to plan for. >> Read Here

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Pulse is made up of Fashion, Living & Launchpad: offering the largest platform of emerging talent whether it be individual designers, small independent labels or larger wholesale only product collectors. This also includes exhibitors from UAL & RAW which are never seen before design talent If that wasn’t enough there is also a collection of East London designers from Secret Emporium who’s talent scouts have chosen the most innovative fashion & accessories designs to present this May just for Pulse.

Whether you are looking for gifts, key fashion pieces or ordering some filler pieces for Christmas there was a diverse selection of products to look through. With lots of new colours, prints & patterns launched during the event itself you were guaranteed something you have never seen before. The show guide offers some interesting trails you can follow that highlights linked exhibitors with common threads including my favourite their customisable trail. A key element that customers are driving for!

There was plenty of excellent quality British made products from handmade leather goods to bold tropical prints coming from all over the country brought to this wonderful central hub. There were a few familiar faces from both my London rolodex of talent but also a couple pleasant surprises from the north where I spent some of my rebellious youth. Add on some lovely conversations with the very friendly exhibitors and I felt thoroughly welcomed in to the retail sphere.

Found is an element scattered throughout the show bringing out the best international unseen design brands with a special show from Design Scandinavia. It gave me a hint of where the UK sits in terms of creative skill and design influences as well as a little flavour of exotic lands. Then at the centre of it all the ShopTalk stage put on by The Indytute, who filled three days with keynote speakers and panel shows by some industry experts who shared their words of wisdom. With so much to see there was plenty to take away with you: plenty of stock to choose from, new networking connections, visual merchandising goals to aspire to and even a little sunshine.

Retail display comes in many shapes and sizes with the stands at Pulse offering a blank slate for brands to transform and represent themselves. The way you display your products can be just as important as the products themselves, getting you noticed and highlighting your products USP’s.

So lets meet some exhibitors.

Dandeliontree Papers & Patterns was one of the first displays I noticed, 12 wooden hands reached out from the white space presenting a curated selection of the brands products in complimenting pattern sets. It really stood out from those surrounding it and made me wish I had one of their notebooks so I could draw those captivating hands for myself.

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Cherry 2 Berry This wonderful on trend wholesaler is passionate about glassware, planters and terrariums and their display really covered all the bases, a real treasure trove for the eyes. It had a element of fun and variety including a bicycle wheel used as a hanging rail. It’s also my first example of planting used in visual merchandising a major trend at the moment.

Sophie Morrell a small family business created a warm an inviting library like atmosphere for their display. Their designs are very versatile featuring largely cute animals & soft pastels each sitting in their own made for the occasion warm wooden square cubby hole. Disrupting the symmetry with larger prints and soft furnishings made for a very inviting scene.

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Chive had a visual eye candy of a display, offering up every kind of vase you could think of. Their display was supported by wonderful mint green army trunks with shelves offering levels of display all the way up to the top. The collection of glass & ceramics worked so well against a natural wood backdrop and really made the colours pop alongside a selected of fresh flowers.

Cubic – Danica Studios a brand under the umbrella of a wonderful worldwide wholesaler that had lots of space to play with went a little old school, with 3 slate grey A-boards. They were covered in peg boards to allow for all the product to be hung and displayed all together in each collection.

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Ark Cambridge went all out for their display, large leather paper chains, abstract acrylic squares and a full rainbow of leather products. I love how fun they are with their brand, they really enjoy what they make and sell and it comes across. With a blush pink background, not a tan piece of leather in-sight they step away from the traditional and offer up the funky and new.

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Ink Bandit deserves it’s wonderful name. With lots of interesting card options lined up in front of an abstract watermelon inspired hand painted backdrop her stand was an instant draw. Her whole display was youthful, upbeat and very honest with no need for anything other than a bit of hard work and masking tape.

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Rosa Pietsch is a rising young talent in a relatively new jewellery category, acrylic and laser cute creations are on the up fighting against a stereotype outside of precious metals. Her stall was well planned out for the open space she had and presented her pieces as art work on canvas with elegance & glamour. There was a practical line of symmetry down the centre with the level of precision to detail clear that Rosa put into her display.

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There isn’t a set of rules that will make you sales at a trade show, you are in a an environment packed with some of the best designers, brands and products available, so how do you stand out? How do you know if you are offering what their customers want? Is Pulse the trade show for you? All really good questions and the answer is as always not simple.

Anything you do needs to be thought out, my best bit of advice is do a dry run. Set up your display and get a friend to mock make an order, then you’ll know what it will look like and what you might need to change. Business cards, price lists, wholesale catalogue, order forms, pens … don’t forget the pens, these things seem obvious but make sure you have access to them easily on your display. Make any free samples, reading material or flyers easy to get at but blend nicely in to the display. People are there to look but also to touch your product so don’t nail everything down. Most vital of all be prepared to answer questions, I know how stressful the run up to a show like this is especially when launching a new product for the occasion but you have to know your stuff.

My top tip is always continuity of brand – in your print collateral, your packaging, even the way you talk about yourself. If you have a niche fun loving product, then act as such there is no point being stuffy and formal unless your in a Knightsbridge art gallery. It was one of the selling points of Pulse for me that people wanted to talk, even to little old me, they loved their products and wanted you to love it too.

Pulse is the place to be innovative ask questions as well as answer, I told people where I was buying their products and what I was buying them for. Tell people you were thinking of adding a new size or colour way and whether they would be interested, at the end of the day they have their customer in mind when ordering so they’ll have an opinion. I love seeing these connections from designer to maker to seller to customer and back around again, it is becoming much more of a two way street with consumer having an even bigger role in the process. Viva le retail revolution!

Find out more about my time at Pulse in Part 2 & Part 3!

p.s If you have an questions about the show or an exhibitor I’ve shown do drop me an email I love a good question!