It was our Crufts debut this year and what a great time we had. The four days of the event ran really smoothly but the build up and breakdown were slightly more eventful!
It was a stressful start as I only found out 6 weeks before the event that I had secured a stand so the run up to the show was very busy getting lots of stock made and designing the stand but I couldn't have been any more prepared in terms of stand set up - however the whole Crufts experience was a bit of an eye opener as it is likely to be the largest event we have and ever will attend and I had only been twice before, both times on a Thursday, and so I had never experienced a 'Crufts weekend' but plenty of people had warned me as to how busy it would be.
I have now learnt that I should use the NEC deposit system for unloading my van. To be honest I didn't fully understand how it worked so instead parked in a 'nearby' carpark and began to trolley my crates to the Hall. Now anyone that has been to the NEC knows that even the closest carparks are a fair walk away, and after a 10 minute walk to the Hall entrance, at the end of which one of my arms was quite noticeably longer than the other, it was obvious this was going to take me and my trusty helper Pauline a fair few hours just to unload the van. Fair play to Pauline - a wee bit of sweet talking the traffic guys (there may have been mini eggs involved!) and we got ourselves a pass to drive the van right up to the Hall and 15 minutes later we were all unpacked. It was a long day setting up though - we arrived at the NEC at 11am on set-up day and left at 5pm! A wee unanticipated detour round Birmingham Airport after a wrong turn and we eventually made it to our hotel for a well deserved drink!
The four days of the show were great - everything ran smoothly and we had lots of laughs, sales and met lots of lovely people. Nando Brown, the well renowned dog trainer stopped by to say hello, and we even had customers who already have a Freckles Drying Coat popping by to say thanks as they love their drying coats so much! It was fantastic to meet people who had been my online friends for years and to see all walks of the dog community come together.
I didn't realise just how tiring it was going to be though and on Saturday I managed to get through the day by surviving on energy drinks and Haribo thanks the to newsagents in the NEC. I had a wee stool to sit on but next year I feel a bar stool will be required so it doesn't look like I'm squatting in the corner of my stand due to the toilet queues being so long!
Although the days were long we managed to amuse ourselves, and other stand holders tickled us at times too - the sign at Billy + Margot which read "Buy 1 for £1, or 12 for £15" - that doesn't seem like a bargain to me! They knew it had been printed wrong, it should have been 15 for £12, but it still made me chuckle.
I think I was brainwashed by the guy opposite us selling vacuum cleaners. Four days of listening to his pitch and watching him swing a bowling ball on the end of his vacuum hose to demonstrate it's suction power (honestly!!) and I ended up buying myself one - but it was purple so matches my branding!
The breakdown was a bit chaotic as all traders vans were held in the carparks until after 7pm and then it was a bit of a free for all to find a spot close to the Hall to load up the van. We eventually left the NEC after 5 long days at 8.30pm on the Sunday - totally shattered but having had a great time.
We will be back next year and it should be a lot less stressful now I know what to expect. Thanks to everyone that stopped by and hope to see you again next year!