Harrogate International Nursery Fair and Nursery Online recognise there is a need to continue to champion brands and support retailers during the autumn and winter months. That’s why we’re running a second Harrogate Digital Preview Show on 16 and 17 November to bring the latest autumn/winter launches and industry updates together in one easy to access place.
But where did it all begin?
Not so long ago, the Harrogate International Nursery Fair boasted over 200 exhibitors, filling nine halls of the Harrogate International Centre and attracting more than 2,500 visitors every year. But now, because of the pandemic, the exhibition space is a Nightingale hospital and the 2020 shows have moved online.
When we consider the technology we use to produce a slick, digital show, or the beautiful trade stands we saw at the exhibition centre just last year, few of us are aware that the show was first established in 1968 – that’s more than 50 years ago! We take a look at the history of Harrogate.
The Harrogate Pram Fair
The show began as the Harrogate Pram Fair. Robert Anslow, Harrogate International Nursery Fair director, remembers, “Initially, the Harrogate Pram Fair was a small event across three Harrogate hotels each October, having been in London the week before. The exhibitors would pack up their stands and travel to Harrogate to show their products to retailers in the north of England.”
In the early 1980s, the original Harrogate Pram Fair’s founders decided to call it a day – times were changing and the companies involved simply didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to the show. Rodney Cotterill of Pegasus Toys approached Robert Anslow, who at the time was working for his family business Charlesworth, and David Scacchetti of Mamas and Papas and together they formed a committee to keep the Harrogate show alive. The London arm of the show was taken over by the British Baby Products Association (now the Baby Products Association) and for many years after, the two nursery trade shows ran as two regional shows. Harrogate Pram Fair moved to March rather than October, but still there were two similar events vying for the same audience.
Robert explains, “The Harrogate show had grown rapidly – we quickly outgrew Harrogate’s hotels and moved the event to the Harrogate International Centre. Then, in the mid-1990s, the Baby Products Association decided that there was only room for one nursery trade show in the UK and the 12 largest exhibitors pulled out.”
Robert adds, “Overnight, Harrogate was depleted from a thriving trade show to an exhibition struggling to fill one and a half halls. At the time we thought it was the end of the road, but thanks to the support of many good friends who offered their expertise and time, we managed to forge a resourceful team which has gone on to make the show the success it is today.”
Time soon proved that retailers loved attending Harrogate, with many commenting that it was the place where all of their major buying took place and when forced to choose between London and Harrogate, the majority voted with their feet and headed north.
The Harrogate International Nursery Fair is now the UK’s only nursery trade show and it attracts not only retailers and buyers from across the UK, but from around Europe and worldwide too.
Robert continues. “Harrogate International Nursery Fair is very different to Harrogate Pram Fair in the 1960s and 1970s. In those days, the majority of the products were British-made and were predominantly larger items such as carriage built prams, pushchairs and nursery furniture. At every show, I am amazed by the diversity and innovation of the new products arriving at the show. Because of the pandemic, we had to move online earlier this year, and our first digital show was a success. So much so that our second digital show will take place on 16 and 17 November. We are very much looking forward to returning to the physical Harrogate show in 2021, but over the decades we have learned to adapt to different situations, and the pandemic is yet another challenge faced. We’re just glad to do our part to help brands and retailers talk to each other and build the relationships that keep our industry alive.”
The Baby Products Association now embraces Harrogate International Nursery Fair and the two organisations are united in their missions to encourage and support the British nursery industry