Craft And Giftware Companies Bid For International Business

Fifteen giftware and craft companies from Northern Ireland will be bidding to win new business at the Showcase 2006 exhibition at the RDS in Dublin from 22-25 January. They will be displaying a broad range of innovative products on an Invest Northern Ireland organised exhibition stand.

Included in the Northern Ireland group are four companies that will be taking part for the first time at the international exhibition. The newcomers are Catherine Scott Ceramics, Newtownstewart; Firebox, Belfast; Cathy Villiers Design, Belfast; and The Post Card Company, Omagh.

The show, now one of Europe’s most important events in the giftware and crafts calendar, has attracted around 700 exhibitors for the 2006 event, marketed worldwide by Enterprise Ireland. Over 10,000 visitors, on average, from over 30 countries and all parts of the island of Ireland are expected to visit this important event.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade director, says: “Over the years, Showcase has proved to be a tremendously successful event for Northern Ireland companies in giftware and crafts. Last year, for example, our companies secured new business worth more than £100,000. Achievements at Showcase are contributing to a vibrant local industry.

“It has become a vitally important opportunity for our companies to monitor evolving trends in Ireland and further afield. As a result of their participation in Showcase, local companies have won important business in the US and also in the United Arab Emirates, as well as in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

“Showcase has also become an important platform for new product launches and an effective arena for emerging designers and small companies to introduce themselves to buyers from many parts of the world,” he adds.

Adrian McAleese, of Celtoi Designs at Dundonald, has taken part in Showcase over the past four years. Celtoi has two main product lines under its Celtic Knot motif – exclusive hand finished table lamps and framed pictures. Not only is each Celtic Knot unique to each item, its new range of gift frames can be personalised to reflect the recipient’s personal details for birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, and special events.

Mr McAleese says: ‘Showcase Ireland represents the best possible direct way of presenting Celtoi Designs products to the Irish and North American markets.

“This is my fourth year with the Invest NI stand and I have seen an increase in orders every year. As sales to the Republic represent 80 per cent of my business, the trade show allows local people like me a chance to tap into a potentially huge tourism and gift market.”

John McKeag, who runs Firebox, a specialist in contemporary ceramics and Fine Art prints, with wife Valerie, says: “We are looking forward to launching our expertise in the Republic and further afield at Showcase. It will be useful for market research by enabling us to test out products and to see what the current trends in the global marketplace are.”

Successful companies last year included Sign and Time, a Hillsborough clock maker;  Eden Pottery in Millisle; the Feel Good Aroma Collection, Downpatrick; and Duile Le Cheile, a Draperstown pottery business.