Showcase – the best of design and craft in Ireland


Karen Hennessy, chief executive of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland on the rise of the Irish design & craft industry.

karen hennessy

Showcase – Ireland’s International Creative Expo, takes place at the RDS Dublin, Sunday 22 – Wednesday 25, January 2017. 

What sets Showcase Ireland apart from other large trade shows?

It’s a world-class trade show focused on Irish creativity. The annual show features 450 Irish designers, manufacturers, and craftspeople unveiling their new season collections across fashion, jewellery, home, and giftware. A particular emphasis is placed on new products to market, providing retailers with opportunities to discover and stock up on the latest design-led products, many of which are unique to the show.


How has it grown over the years?

This year is the 41st annual Showcase, and we are continually developing the show’s offering to attract buyers from across Ireland and around the world. Showcase enjoyed strong growth in 2016, with the number of buyers attending up 7% to 5,300, and sales orders placed at the fair increasing by 17% to €21.7M, equating to a full-year sales value of €121.2M.

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What are the best success stories from exhibitors in the last few years? 

The Local Enterprise Showcase features over 100 emerging companies mentored and supported by their Local Enterprise Office in participating in the trade show. It is always great to see companies who will have exhibited at Showcase for the first time in the Local Enterprise Showcase returning in subsequent years to exhibit on the main tradeshow floor. 

Are there any companies/brands/buyers you are particularly looking forward to seeing this year?

It is exciting to see the latest collections across a broad range of disciplines being unveiled by exhibitors at Showcase each year. This year I’m looking forward to seeing the new work produced through TextISLE, a collaborative project focusing on the potential of Irish textiles in fashion and homeware that has brought together designers and producers to develop new products unveiled at the show.  Participating designers include Peter O’Brien, Mariad Whisker, Helen Steel and many others.

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From feedback from the buyers at the event, how much is it the products at the event and how much is it those selling the products at the event that makes them interested in buying the products?

Good question. Buyers are interested in the authenticity and the people/stories behind the products. It is about uniqueness, quality, authenticity and provenance. It’s about the story in the making.

What is the most important thing for exhibitors to focus on when preparing for the event.

Have a clear and succinct pitch ready to introduce your brand to buyers. At the event, you should also gather contact details for everyone you meet. Post event, you should focus on building relationships through follow-up contact after the show.

What should exhibitors have as a top priority? 

I think a key aim should be to under promise and over deliver when it comes to serving all current and potential buyers. Letting your customer down by not living up to commitments to delivery dates won’t do your business any favours.

How has social media helped the event for Showcase and its exhibitors?

Social media is critical in enticing buyers to the show. Posting great images in the lead up to and during the event can be impactful in generating interest in your brand over the intensive four-day period when you want to make your product stand out.

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What would you do to change the business or social climate that would allow more of your exhibitors to gain more market share at home and abroad in the future?

I would establish a National Centre for Design and Creativity showcasing the very best of what Ireland has to offer to the world.

What do you think the impact of the US election and Brexit will be in the Irish SME community? 

Enormous challenges regarding the likely impact of tariffs and of borders and how these will be implemented and policed. However anti-globalisation sentiment is driving the demand for uniqueness, authenticity, and provenance, what our dynamic sector has in spades. 

Interview by Barry Walsh. 

About Showcase

Showcase – Ireland’s International Creative Expo® is one of the country’s largest international trade shows. The annual event is attended by over 5,000 buyers from Ireland and more than 20 countries around the world, generating sales orders of up to €20 million over the four days of the show. Showcase is a partnership between the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and Showcase Ireland Events Ltd., with support from Enterprise Ireland in promoting the show internationally through their network of offices overseas. More than 450 Irish designers, manufacturers, and craftspeople exhibit at the fair, including over 100 emerging Irish businesses supported by their Local Enterprise Offices. Showcase is for trade attendance only.

About the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the champion of the design and craft industry in Ireland, fostering its growth and commercial strength, communicating its unique identity and stimulating quality design, innovation, and competitiveness. DCCoI’s activities are funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI currently has over 60 member organisations more than 3,200 registered clients.