Billed as the UK’s definitive international furnishings fair, May Design Series, organised by UBM Live Built Environment, delivered the second edition of its much-anticipated event at London’ ExCeL. The event differed from the inaugural event in lots of small ways, but the main story was the addition of another hall to the event, a preview of The Furniture Show at May Design Series which will be fully rationalised for 2015. The new hall was dedicated mainly to domestic furniture, upholstery and accessories.
UBM reports that, over the three days, in excess of 10000 visitors made the trip to the eastern fringe of London and maintains that this audience represents a robust response to an event which is still laying down its foundations.
Around the halls, typically on stands where impressive products were being shown, high-calibre retailers, contract buyers and interior designers were noticeable. Visitors came from across the UK, and internationally. John Lewis, Homebase, Tesco, Wayfair, Foster+Partners, Conran & Partners, B&Q, Staffan Tollgard, Nicholas Haslam, Sofa.com, Debenhams, Fenwick, Laura Ashley, Furniture Village, DFS, Tara Bernerd &
Partners, M&S, Starwood Homes, Lee Longlands, Barratt Homes, Richmond International and Berkeley Homes are just a sample of an impressive list of attendees.
For the most part, the main interest for hospitality designers was to be found in among DX featuring the likes of Dierdre Dyson and her amazing rug designs, Koinor’s well tailored upholstery, Sharon Marston’s beautiful lighting installations, Bethan Grey’s new furniture launches, Cole & Son’s exquisite wallpaper and Armourcoat’s creative surfacing among a considerable amount to tempt.
In the Lighting section, Dark stood out with its platful new Big Bubble design, Ebb and Flow impressed too.
Whilst volumes of visitors may not have been as high as some would have liked, talk of top quality visitors was often heard around the halls – but less so it has to be said among those exhibiting with more commercial product at preview of The Furniture Show.
Fabrizio Guiliani, Calia Italia, said: “We have had a lot of major buyers come to visit us at May Design Series, including Chaplin, Barker & Stonehouse and Sterling. We have taken orders on-site, and it has become evident that meetings in Milan have transformed into orders at May Design Series. Our most popular lines have been our classically Italian, design-led products, proving that the market is grateful to see something different from what is usually on display at a UK trade show.”
Tom, at Tom Schneider, said: “We were keen to support this event; it makes so much sense to have a London event to rival the likes of Cologne and Milan. From our experience at May Design Series 14 we are confident that the show will grow to do just that.”
Retailers from around the UK and Europe were impressed with the quality and variety of brands exhibiting as well as the comprehensive features at the event, giving positive feedback on the latest edition of the show.
Richard Ball, buying director at Glasswells said: “As a new trade show offering, it seemed only right to visit The Furniture Show at May Design Series. The show lived up to my expectations, and I saw some new products which made my visit more than worthwhile. There was a very varied mix of products on display, and furthermore I felt that the planning, execution and publicity leading up to the event were all very well done. I will certainly be attending next year.”
Hannah Fenech, buyer at Harrods said: “I was pleased to see a selection of British brands that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see at other shows.”
Andy Stuart, group director concluded: “This year’s May Design Series has been a great success and I am immensely proud of the team executing such a fantastic show. In the last few months not only have we delivered a triumphant final Interiors UK with strong visitor numbers, we’ve successfully delivered a preview of The Furniture Show at May Design Series to quality retailers and buyers doing big business.
“A high proportion of our visitors were keen decision makers across both the retail and contract markets with independent and multiple retailers and interior designers and more all in attendance. This year’s May Design Series has built firm foundations on which to take the show forward with 65% of space re-booked for 2015.”
In conclusion, most people at the event I spoke to seemed to concur at the May Design Series concept is a good one: the location is right from an international perspective, it’s in a modern, easy to navigate space and should develop considerable appeal to retail, design and contract audiences. The time for London is now in so may ways, yet the nation’s capital is the stand-out omission from the roster of top international design locations. The UK should have an event which puts it on an equal footing with the other great design destinations of Milan, Cologne, New York, Tokyo and others.
But to deliver an event which is seeking to impress on an international stage, whilst satisfying a wide variety of exhibitors’ and visitors’ expectations is never going to be easy task. It is UBM, and UBM-alone, which has the expertise, experience and heft to do so. But it will take time. I hope enough of those participating, paying their stand fees, have enough confidence and patience to see the event through to fruition. After all, it is they and the throngs of visitors, who will benefit in the end.
I, for one, am certainly looking forward to May 2015.