With no physical card and gift trade shows taking place this Autumn, and retailers readily admitting how much they are missing them, two enterprising Scottish card and gift agents – Sharp Stuff’’s Lucy Sharp and Easy Agency’s Darran McBride – came up with a solution for their customers – creating an Autumn/Winter ‘Sharp & Easy Pop-up’ showroom at Edinburgh’s Apex Grassmarket Hotel from August 17–27, featuring a stellar line-up of card and gift brands.
“Ever since Home & Gift, Harrogate was cancelled, we suspected that the same would happen with the subsequent Autumn/Winter trade shows, so Darran and I began discussing how we could team up to offer an alternative. I have always been a ‘face to face’ person and conversations with our customers during lockdown reinforced how important seeing people and having the opportunity to show physical products is,” explained Lucy. “I have organised small scale ‘pop-ups’ for retailers at my house before, and they worked well. So, as Darran and I have been industry colleagues for years and we share a lot of the same customers, it made sense to team up on this initiative to be able to offer customers the opportunity to see multiple card and gift brands under one roof,”
While Lucy is the Scottish sales agent for Caroline Gardner, Roger la Borde, Redback Cards and Brainbox Candy on the greeting card front, Darran represents U Studio and Flame Tree Publishing. Other gift, stationery and homewares brands in their portfolios include Kikkerland, Broste Copenhagen, Black Ginger, Scentchips, Swig, Talking Tables, Abrams and Chronicle, Edelman and Paperblanks.
All of these brands’ products will be on show at the Sharp & Easy Pop-up showroom, in the Apex Grassmarket hotel.
The overwhelmingly positive response from retailers has meant that since the plan was first mooted, the first week’s diary was filled up quickly, resulting in the decision to extend it to the following week too.
Among those giving Lucy and Darran’s idea a proper ‘thumbs-up’ are…
Denise Laird, co-owner of Spirito of Glasgow: “Hats off to Lucy and Darran for taking the initiative and trying to find new ways to adapt to the current situation. I am really missing the shows. It will be lovely see some lovely new products. I think this is a great idea from Lucy and Darren reaching out to customers with this pop-up event.”
David Robertson, md of JP Pozzi, Elgin and Buckie: “If the last four months have shown us anything. it is that we still need both to really enjoy and make our business successful. Lucy and Darran are both known for their quirky companies and their solution to the current problems pretty much sums them up. Fun and a little off the wall. What they are also doing is showcasing all ’their bag’ in a way that perhaps we will look at companies that we had previously disregarded. Also, it is an opportunity to interact and hear what is happening out there. This is another reason that shows and agent visits are important as they give us an overview of what is working and happening in the industry. A barometer if you will.”
Fiona Fabian, owner of Papyrus in Glasgow: “I am delighted to hear that Lucy and Darran are organising their Sharp & Easy Pop-up. We are bereft of shows as it will be almost a year without seeing any new products in a physical environment. Buying online is very convenient and definitely has its place, but my much-favoured method of buying new products is at shows – where I can see the product as well as assess the quality of design and manufacture. It’s just a better experience all round and also great to catch up with agents and companies, I’m really looking forward to the event
In keeping with social distancing and hygiene requirements, in addition to appointments being pre-booked, the Sharp & Easy Pop-Up showroom will have a one-way system in place and also a working area with a screen should customers want to sit down after viewing the products and go through some planning. In addition to customers bringing their own PPE, Lucy and Darran will also be supplying a pack to every attendee which has a mask, hand sanitiser and anti-bac wipes.
“We will keep safe of course, but it is becoming more and more apparent that while trade websites/digital catalogues and Zoom meetings are all very necessary, there is still a huge want and need for that personal relationship that adds so much extra value to everyone’s business, be that the retailer and the manufacturer. We work with very tactile, design led products and all the above methods, while undoubtedly useful, can’t fully replace the experience of seeing a product in real life and talking through your business with someone who understands your individual challenges and tastes and can help you navigate a product selection that will be right for your individual business,” summed up Lucy.
As an added extra, Lucy and Darran have paired up with a social media expert to offer customers attending the Pop-up the opportunity to have a social media audit carried out in advance of their visit. “They will then have the opportunity to sit down for a free consultation at the showroom, discuss the findings and get some free advice on ways to engage and grow their audience further,” explains Lucy.
Top: Lucy Sharp and Darran McBride have joined forces to create the Sharp & Easy Pop-up showroom.