Dan Smith at the Education Show!
I visit the Education Show at the NEC every year and this year was no different. This type of exhibition always proves to be useful, it allows me to see first hand the new innovations which are happening in the market, catch up with existing suppliers and sought out new ones. Things in the Educational world move so quickly! So it’s doubly important to constantly be moving with them; this show helps with that!
Adam and myself chose to visit on the 19th this year, and as always decided to drive there early! After casually parking at around 8am we acquired our parking passes (which by the way I find a little highly priced at £10 each) and began our descent to the exhibition halls. Chatting and talking shop along the way, topics of supply chain, plans for the future and how it’s getting busier and busier going into peak season……we got as far as going through the main entrance before we were greeted by Starbucks. Anyone who knows me will know that I cannot pass up an opportunity for a coffee. So naturally once we had stocked up on large caramel Lattés we were well on our way. We printed off our visitors passes at the exhibition hall entrance terminal and carried on in.
Despite being so early, the hall was already brimming with people. A mixture of suppliers, exhibitors, schools, pupils, and school leaders. I’ve been involved in this trade now for near on a decade so just by glancing around I could recognise a fair few faces.
Our first port of call was to hunt down one of our new partners, the ‘iStick’ gang. We partner with ‘iStick’ as their Educational arm, so any school looking to make purchase of their product will be directed towards us. At that point the customer can take benefit our account management services and credit terms.
On our travels we bumped into a number of our existing suppliers, and caught up with each and every one of them. Brands such as Titan, Gratnells, Classmaster, Colorfade, Mister Maker, Steadtler and Berol but to name a few. We’re all so busy during the main peak of the season it often becomes difficult at times to keep in touch. With The Education Show you know that they will all be there, in the same place at the same time so it’s the perfect opportunity to touch base with them over up and coming plans and products.
Prior to the visit I had already decided on likely new ranges of products and services we would be moving towards ahead of 2016 and the release of our new catalogue. So with that in mind I set about visiting some potential new suppliers. I don’t want to give away too much as it’s nice to leave some things as a surprise (you’ll see in our new catalogue next year) though I will say that there is a clear focus on adding in more outdoor and soft play equipment into our offering. We are also expanding some of our existing ranges to give our customer base more choice. Areas like arts n crafts have been a massive success for us and is growing all the time as our schools are finding out more about our wide range of products.
By mid afternoon and after what felt like at least ten miles of walking, we decided to call it a day. We had multiple bags of catalogues, samples, swatches and general info all taken from suppliers. Over the next few days and weeks these are the things that I will sit down and reflect on. How to offer our customers more choice and for ideas and inspiration ahead of catalogue launch are key focus areas for me after such an informative day. The walk back to the car was noticeably slower than the same journey on the morning for obvious reasons. The relief of sitting down in my car and giving my feet a rest was immense!
Another year visiting The Education Show successfully completed. Until next year!
Just to summarise my thoughts on the show; for a direct to school supplier such as ourselves. It is invaluable. As the Head of this particular part of our business, it gives me a real and tangible insight into what is going on. Our competition in the main is split amongst perhaps 5 or 6 big suppliers. All of which are fairly similar in approach. Products and services seldom change. So for us our endeavour instantly is to be different, to go above and beyond what the other guys are doing and with regards to what the other guys are doing, well, we’re going to do it better.
Ian Smith Education is part of the evolution from it’s ‘Office Supplies’ parent. A company that has been providing products and services for nearly 50 years. In short we take the ethos from that side of the business for superb levels of customer service and support and plough that into our Educational offerings.
With the ongoing feedback from our customer base, and resources such as The Education Show we can’t really go wrong.
For me personally there is nothing more exciting than sitting back and reflecting on how far you’ve come as a business, but what tops that is the potential of things to come.
Thanks for taking a look at my post 🙂
Head of Education