A World of Opportunity

The industry was holding its breath for a great Merchandise World and on the day Milton Keynes delivered a safe, social and successful return to meeting again

This September, the BPMA team had the slightly unreal but real experience of packing up and heading off to Milton Keynes for its first show in more than 18 months. A sense of trepidation and excitement filled the office as they took call after call from members, looking forward to catching up in person after so many months on screen. The BPMA was back on the road, ready for Merchandise World. As the doors opened for the show, the happy din of our fellow distributors and suppliers proved the show was not only welcome but timed well as the industry enjoys increased order levels after many months of uncertainty. Conversation was consistent in tone and theme; increased orders, challenges over stock and availability, freight charges that could surely not rise any further – and a report of communication issues across the board. 

CEO Carey Trevill reported to PM on her outlook for the coming months: “We were all clearly delighted to be back at Merchandise World and as this was my first show – and the first time for me meeting so many of our members face to face – it was a wonderfully exhausting experience, and I can’t wait for January 2022.”

Looking further ahead, she noted that the industry faced a combination of unique opportunities and stresses at the moment.“The industry has really endured over this period in away perhaps many thought they never could have done, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The overall positive view from most members and industry we speak to at the moment has an underlying fragility dictated by the price rises in raw materials, stock and of course freight.”

She added: “Every time we think we’ve seen the worst of it, something else pops up. I have faith in the resilience of the industry and the news that budgets are being spent in our direction. I would stress to every distributor the need to keep communicating with their suppliers and for suppliers to do the same. We must ensure every base is covered during the order process – landing these orders smoothly and successfully is essential for every part of our supply chain at the moment so keeping on top of any twists and turns is paramount.”

Referring to increased levels of feedback from all members, the pressure from end users who are assuming it’s back to ‘normal’ is in turn ratcheting up pressure across the industry, Trevill pressed home that managing expectations is fundamental to maintaining order levels and reputation. The BPMA will be continuing to support members in the coming months with more business information, skills and insight to help every member stay on top form.


Eighty exhibitors took the leap of faith and booked stands to meet once again at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena. With constantly changing situations and expectations in the run up to the show, it was unclear which distributors, and how many would attend.

As Sourcing City’s David Long has noted, the entire industry has been suffering for many months and many distributors have had to reduce staffing levels to survive. This in turn meant that the potential visitors were reduced, and there was also the knock on effect that it made it more difficult for distributors to leave their offices. Based on these circumstances it was anticipated that visitor numbers could be disappointing. However, much to everyone’s delight around 400 distributors attended the show
and hearing the show hall buzzing was exciting for everyone. Many exhibitors also commented on the high quality of the people they were speaking to, and were delighted that their commitment to the show had paid off. It is clear that people were very keen to reignite existing relationships, meet new people
and to get the industry thriving again. As Haydn Willetts of Midocean put it: “It shows what a social industry we have where people do value each other.”

In terms of business opportunity, the recent reawakening of the sector following the pandemic induced hibernation made for a busier than usual late summer show, according to Oldeani’s Lucy Bennett. “Businesses that would normally have been planning ahead for the autumn seem to have held back, cautiously but are now ready to get back on track–hence the high volume of urgent enquiries.”
The show also demonstrated that it was possible to hold a show in a COVID safe environment, with a safety policy for everyone’s benefit. It won’t be long before the industry gets the chance to do it all again, on the even bigger stage of the two-day Merchandise World at Ricoh Arena.

Merchandise World’s new year event takes place on 26-27 January, with the BPMA Awards Dinner taking place on the 26 January. For more details go to merchandiseworld.co.uk

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