Making An Impression – Merchandise World

It may have been a new venue, but the latest Merchandise World continued its record of delivering the best experience for exhibitors and visitors.

Come to Milton Keynes, sang the Style Council. The merchandise industry did just that in September, decamping to the splendid venue that is the Marshall Arena, part of Stadium MK, the 30,000-seat home of MK Dons. Over 550 (576 actually) of the promotional merchandise industry’s top distributors attended the latest edition of Merchandise World, the industry’s must-attend autumn curtain-raiser to the busiest time of the year for many firms. With the Golden

Quarter bearing down on them, visitors were looking for new products for Christmas campaigns, new branding ideas, eco incentives, and inspiration. They had come to the right place.

According to David Long, CEO of Sourcing City, the BPMA’s joint partner in Merchandise World, almost every major UK distributor company was there, alongside many other significant and professional distributors. “The hall itself was buzzing and vibrant as 125 exhibitors created an excellent array of colourful and innovative stands to present their eco, new and top-selling products,” he added.

There was certainly plenty of colour with fantastic stands from such industry stalwarts as Oldeani, Senator, Preseli, and The Sweet People, to name just a handful of the exhibitors who have really pushed the boat out. The one-day event provided exhibitors with a perfect shop window for their products, and there were launches aplenty.

AT Cross’s newly appointed global business gift director of sales for Cross and Sheaffer, Owen Keating, was launching himself on the market, as well as introducing new products from the writing instrument specialist. “The show allows time to meet with all our key business gift wholesale partners from UK and Ireland and spend time with the programme and account managers who lead innovation in terms of product and category selection and drive sales in the industry,” he said. “We specifically targeted Merchandise World to launch our

innovative new Calais Custom Colours programme for that reason.” Feedback was overwhelmingly positive to a new offer of brand and logo Pantone matched finishes on the Calais ballpoint pen line, he said.

The company also used Merchandise World as a platform to announce the extension of Sheaffer’s lifetime mechanical warranty to its collection, a move that is designed to underpin the company’s commitment to quality. “All in all, we’ve had wonderful feedback to Merchandise World. It has set the scene nicely for a busy run into the year-end,” said Keating.

Another pleased exhibitor was PopKakery, not least because the show was only about 20 minutes away from its Buckinghamshire base. However, convenience wasn’t the only plus point said director, Melissa Darbari. “I thought that the quality of the visitors this time was very good and I think that a venue at a central location works well for everyone,” she said. “I also think that the Branding World area was a nice addition to the show as it showed the distributors how the products are branded and this brought everything to life a bit more.”

As well as it’s signature pop cakes, Popkakery was promoting several new products linked to growing trends in healthy eating. Its energy balls are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, and the Pop cakes are gluten-free and include a vegan flavour, Pop Noir. In line with concerns about single-use plastics, the company has also switched to paper sticks for pop cakes.

While Popkakery was a local business, others had come from further afield. A Dutch company, Correctbook brought its endlessly reusable notebook to the show. Already established in Europe, it was exhibiting at Merchandise World for the first time and attracted a deal of interest, said chief writing officer and founder, Sam van Tol. “It was our first time and it was very successful, everyone was so enthusiastic,” he said.

The company hoped its social mission to help supply schools in Africa with writing materials will appeal to the CSR instincts of British companies. The correct book donates 10% of its B2B sales value and 25% of its B2C sales value to Correctbook Development projects, currently in Rwanda. “We created a system in which schools are getting enough materials to write for years into their Correctbook. For example, we provide extra ink stations, pens when they break and safe boxes so the materials will not get stolen,” he added. With Brexit still a topic, it was heartening to see other European companies keen to access the UK market.

German confectionery company Jung brought a smile to the face of visitors with its sweet treats, and innovative cardboard engineering advent calendars in various shapes. Meanwhile, a Polish printed goods supplier, NoteDeco was keen to show that it was looking for UK business. Export manager Janusz Stefko said that the UK was important for NoteDeco as it was a much more developed market for promotional merchandise than some Eastern European markets where spend was low. However, he warned that businesses could face higher costs due to possible customs hold-ups as Brexit continued to cast a cloud of uncertainty over the business.

Elsewhere in the exhibition hall, exhibitors seemed more intent on actually doing business rather than fretting about what might hinder them in the future. With the traditional Merchandise World free breakfast and pick ‘n’ mix to fortify them, visitors were treated to a full day of options, including product launches, demonstrations, branding techniques, samples, networking, seminars, and massages. Notebook provider Castelli was one of several companies demonstrating its branding services. Visitors could have their own personal notebook monogrammed in front of them.

It wasn’t the only branding demonstration – Merchandise World Branding World assembled an array of businesses that were putting branding technology and processes through their paces, providing an up-close view of what is possible with the merchandise. Another development this year was Eco World, an alley of products designed for the growing requirement for sustainability across the supply chain.

More than 80 products were highlighted in the section, ranging from notebooks and bags, to clothing and electronics. As well as the large array of eco products, many companies were also highlighting the green processes that they are bedding down into their working practices. For example, Preseli highlighted its carbon-neutral freight programme that allows businesses to offset the carbon emissions from their transportation requirements and put them into environmental schemes in other countries. Ultimately, the latest show delivered the best experience for those in search of the best merchandise, as well as being the place for the industry to gather. And if you can’t wait for a repeat, then you don’t have to. Merchandise World’s main 2020 event is just a few months away – we’ll see you at the Ricoh Arena,

The next Merchandise World is on 12-13 February, 2020 at Ricoh Arena, Coventry. To enquire or exhibit please call: 0844 504 5006 (international calls: +44 1252 701034) – or contact Liz, Ella or Katie on


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