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Relief at Connect’s demise for 2024

Greeting card industry approves Hyve Group’s decision to scrap meetings system


The greeting card community is relieved by Hyve Group’s decision to scrap its Connect meetings system for both Spring and Autumn Fairs in 2024, as announced by PG Buzz on Monday, 25 September.

Following a swathe of industry feedback as to its failings for exhibitors and retail buyers, Emma Ball, founder of Emma Ball Ltd, encapsulated the views of many: “I’m pleasantly surprised by it all to be honest. Power to the people! Hopefully a line can now be drawn and we can all get on with enjoying trade shows once again!”

Above: Emma Ball (centre) wants to get back to enjoying trade shows
Above: Emma Ball (centre) wants to get back to enjoying trade shows

GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson told PG Buzz: “This is the right decision for Hyve to make for Connect at Spring Fair and Autumn Fair. I’m so glad the situation has been resolved before this week’s GCA Conference and AGM.

“I have been informed that the extensive submission the GCA made detailing Connect’s shortcomings for our members – backed up by real data from exhibiting publishers and retailer visitors – had a bearing on the decision that has been made. Thank you to everyone who contributed, enabling us to put forward such a strong and credible case for Nicola Meadows and Hyve to consider.”

And Amanda pointed out: “By us all working together, fostering a greater understanding of each other’s businesses, situations like this can hopefully be avoided in the future. I am looking forward to welcoming several members of the Hyve team to our conference on Thursday and working collaboratively with them in the future for our mutual benefit.”

At Stationery Supplies in Marple and Wilmslow, owner Sarah Laker said she “found the marketing of Connect aggressive and off-putting, and had emailed explaining why the scheme wouldn’t work for me as a buyer”.

Sarah added: “I’m really pleased that the system has been scrapped for next year as I was alarmed at the number of exhibitors who were pulling out, so I was wondering whether it was going to be worth the expense of both taking time out of my business and the travel costs to attend Spring Fair next year.”

Above: Autumn Fair saw an exhibitors’ protest in Hall 20 against Connect
Above: Autumn Fair saw an exhibitors’ protest in Hall 20 against Connect

Rob Sampson, who runs A Stone’s Throw in Sherwood with his partner Pete, took the time to give Hyve lengthy feedback via its Spring & Autumn Fair Facebook page following issues he and his buying team found registering to attend AF through Connect.

He told PG Buzz: “I’m glad Hyve has taken the decision to pause Connect for the 2024 show season. While innovation is a fantastic thing, it does need to focus on solving a problem that actually exists and, having utilised Connect to arrange six meetings, I’m not at all convinced there was actually a problem that I needed fixing.

“For us as a retailer the shows are at their best when there are lots of exhibitors with lots of products, with time to walk up and down the halls and take in trends and energy, and I feel Connect took away from the experience on both counts – pre-arranged meetings meant the flow of the show was disrupted while simultaneously encouraging exhibitors to take smaller stands due to the cost.

“Different retailers use the show for different purposes of course, perhaps if the intent on visiting the show is to see a small number of specific exhibitors in as short a period of time as possible, the Connect functionality would be entirely appropriate, but that’s just not how we approach it.

“It’s vital to our business that we physically see, touch and feel as many products as possible in order to make our buying decisions, and the concept of Connect just doesn’t marry with that at all.

Above: Rob (left) and Pete Sampson struggled with registering for Connect
Above: Rob (left) and Pete Sampson struggled with registering for Connect

“Even if having pre-arranged meetings is the perfect way for a certain type of retailer to experience the fairs, there was so much functionality missing from Connect – like the ability to remove/ignore spurious meeting invites, or having to duplicate work for every attendee – that I can’t imagine it was actually useful for anybody.”

Commenting from a Spring Fair exhibitor point of view, David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Group which owns Ling Design, Great British Card Company and Penny Kennedy, told PG Buzz: “We are very pleased that Hyve has acknowledged that the requirements of Spring and Autumn Fairs are different from those at other shows, especially the highly-technical shows in the USA, and our customers do not need a system for appointments being made in the manner they were advocating.

“It’s never easy for a large company to do such a U-turn and this represents them listening to the very vocal demands of the industry and we applaud them for that.

Above: David Byk is pleased Hyve has scrapped Connect for the 2024 shows
Above: David Byk is pleased Hyve has scrapped Connect for the 2024 shows

“I also think the industry, including the GCA, has worked hard together to get their point across to Hyve and I thank and congratulate everyone who was part of that voice.

“Spring Fair is a massive show for Ling, GBCC and Penny Kennedy. We see so many great UK and international buyers over the course of the four days and we are now very positive about the show. Hyve now needs to reconnect with the buyers and encourage everyone to come along to a great show in February.”

The announcement about Connect for Spring Fair, Autumn Fair and Glee 2024 was made by Nicola Meadows, Hyve’s divisional managing director, in an email on Monday to all Autumn Fair exhibitors and those already booked for Spring Fair.

She explained: “We will credit the £699 paid as part of Autumn Fair, which can be used against Spring Fair or Autumn Fair 2024 payments. We hope this demonstrates our commitment to you, and to the future success of these events.”

Anyone already booked for AF 2024 will be receiving a new contract with the revised fee, with a cooling-off period to 4 October, while exhibitors who were at this year’s show but have not rebooked can take advantage of the onsite rebook rate of a 6% increase until 31 October.

Above: Amanda Fergusson (left) with Nicola Meadows, who said Connect caused “a distraction”
Above: Amanda Fergusson (left) with Nicola Meadows, who said Connect caused “a distraction”

Anyone already booked for Spring Fair or Glee 2024 will have the Connect fee credited to their account, which will be replaced with a new invoice of £450+vat for a marketing fee. And the £699 credited for AF 2023 exhibitors will be deducted from monies owed on the next event for which they have a booked.

Having said Connect was introduced with the aim of improving how buyers and sellers do business in a way which makes the most of exhibitors’ time and resources, Nicola commented: “We hold our hands up that we fell short on executing this for you,” and she thanked them for reaching out “with your candid feedback on this year’s Autumn Fair”.

And Nicola added: “I recognise that, during what are increasingly challenging times for everyone in retail, the introduction of Connect did not add value for you in the way we expected it to. While for most the show was successful and produced great outcomes, it is clear that Connect became a distraction and cause of disruption.

“Looking ahead, we know there is an opportunity to provide you with a considerably better show, which delivers increased return on investment, through the smart use of data and technology. We remain committed to innovating and finding ways to improve the show, while making an increased effort to keep you at the heart of our decision making.

“I would once again like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience during this time, and your continued support of these historic shows. I hope that this gives you the confidence that we are listening to what you have to say and that we care about getting this right for you.”

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