The London International Wine and Spirits Fair is broadening its base. Rosie Davenport and Nigel Huddleston report

Paparazzi photographers could have a field day at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair. The plethora of celebrities lending their names to wine brands has made star-spotting an added incentive for visitors to what has become a key event in the industry’s calendar.

Cliff Richard and Helen Lederer were among the famous faces who injected a touch of glamour to the show at London’s Excel last year, plus a couple of David and Victoria Beckham lookalikes.

And James Murray, the exhibition’s director, hopes this year will be no exception. “We want to move from being an exhibition to become more of an event and we are doing that with things like the industry briefings.

“But celebrities, costumes and PR stunts are great and add colour to the show.”

That said, Murray clearly wants to ensure that business remains at the core of the three-day event. “There are shows on the continent that are dramatically bigger than us, but we believe we are the number one business exhibition in the wine and spirits industry,” he adds.

And retailers certainly seem to share this view, with more than 2,000 international and UK-based off-trade buyers expected to attend the show where 1,300 exhibitors from 35 countries will be setting out their wares.

Brintex, the company behind the event, argues that the UK’s position as a relatively small wine producing nation means the show is made up of exhibitors from all over the globe rather than dominated by domestic producers, as can be the case at other wine shows.

“Because we are not a massive wine producing country, we attract a breadth of producers from different areas of the world. This allows the show to focus on international business and networking,” Murray says. However, he is keen to point out that another home-grown phenomenon - the competitive UK retailing scene - will be on the agenda for discussion as industry briefings, held in the Waterfront Rooms 19 and 20, provide information on the latest trends.

Of particular interest to buyers will be a seminar, hosted by Brintex on Thursday (11am-12.30pm), examining wine retailing in the context of the high street shopping
environment. Visitors must register in advance for the seminar, which the organisers say will give delegates “three or four gems” that they can put into practice in their business.

Other seminars will include a look at how discounting in supermarkets this side of the Channel affects cross-border shopping (Wednesday 15.30-17.00). Speakers include Quentin Rappoport, director of the Wine & Spirits Association and Nico Thiriot, Sainsbury’s product manager in France.

On the product and marketing side, the Waverley Group will unveil the results of the fourth phase of its research into wine consumers (Tuesday 11-12.30) and Sabaté will discuss its latest data on wine taint and closures.

Murray hopes the seminars will be an added draw for visitors, but with a 5% increase in floor space this year, he believes the stands, which make up the main body of the fair, will give retailers plenty of ideas. “We don’t want to keep people away from the show floor for too long but some big issues will be discussed at the industry briefings,” says Murray.

To help the expected 17,000 visitors navigate the show effectively, free catalogues will give details of exhibitors and their locations.