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March/April 2018




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WELCOME The home of market leading trade magazines

The home of market leading trade magazines The home of market leading trade magazines The home of market leading trade magazines March/April 2013

The home of exhibitions The home of exhibitions The home of exhibitions The home of exhibitions

The home of market leading trade awards The home of market leading trade awards The home of market leading trade awards The home of market leading trade awards

Max Publishing Ltd, United House, North Road, London N7 9DP T: 020 7700 6740 F: 020 7607 6411

Welcome to the Party The last two months have been a particularly busy period for the party industry. Since we last spoke, we have enjoyed catching up with trends and friends at two successful trade shows, celebrated Valentine’s Day, World Book Day and St. Patrick’s Day, spent time at Angels Open Days and, most recently, eaten far too much chocolate at Easter. It’s amazing we’ve had time to put this issue together at all, to be honest. Taking a vaguely chronological approach to recent weeks, the European trade show circuit started with a bang (and a Above: Progressive Party Europe’s Rob Willis and Jacqui Parr. beer) at Spielwarenmesse, otherwise known as Nuremeberg Toy Fair. It’s been a hotspot for party product from balloons and pinatas to costume and make-up for some time now, but the buzzy, lively show really has to be experienced first-hand. Retailers pining for the ‘good old days’ of The Party Show in Telford might find themselves pleasantly surprised... Hall 9 – where most of the party exhibitors hang out – has been under increasing pressure for some time now, with supply and demand issues meaning that certain suppliers have been unable to take as much space as they would like. This will be addressed in 2019, as the ‘Festive Articles, Carnival and Fireworks’ sector will be getting its very own activity area, housed nearby in Hall 8. The new space will allow exhibitors to showcase their latest lines via fashion shows and product demonstrations, adding another element of theatre to the show. Back in the UK, Spring Fair was the next stop on the itinerary. There had been a mixed reaction to the move back to Hall 5, with some exhibitors welcoming the idea of being back with toys and gifts and others disappointed to be losing the natural cross-pollination from the greetings hall. The resulting show was far better than many had anticipated, with a healthy mix of serious buyers and casual browsers keeping exhibitors busy during the fiveday show. The move to Hall 5 was broadly considered to be a positive move and The Party Show will be remaining in situ for 2019. See our feedback piece on page 42 for more opinion and comment on the party show season. Once all that was over and done with, we were able to get on with the serious business of those all-important mini-seasons that make up much of Q1. Valentine’s Day came and went without too much fuss (or was that just my household?) and St. Patrick’s Day made the most of falling on a Saturday, but World Book Day was another story entirely (pun fully intended). Once again, the annual literary celebration saw parents, children and teachers flocking to their closest party shop (or nearest supermarket, or cheapest online marketplace...) to secure their chosen dress-up option. This year, that was primarily Harry Potter (see news story on page 9) – although the Roald Dahl Story Company also reported its biggest World Book Day ever, mostly down to the hugely popular officially licensed costumes from Smiffys. While all this has been going on, there has also been a great deal of discussion in the news about balloons; specifically, about banning them. The issue itself has been the subject of much discussion and some heated opinions and there’s too much for us to cover here – but check out our industry issue feature on page 23, and do get in touch to let us know what you think. It’s an important issue and one that could ultimately affect most of us in one way or another so it’s essential we as an industry keep talking. If that is all a bit serious for you, we’ve also included one feature on balloon décor trends and one looking at comedy and novelty costumes, as well as two top-notch international interviews and all our usual new product information and news. I still don’t really know how we fit it all in! Until next time, please do get in touch with any news, views or anything else you’d like us to look at in the future. This is a team effort, after all!

@Prog_Party_Eu ISSN 2058 797X


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What’s inside: MARCH/APRIL 2018 09 35 21 36 NEWS


Read all about it - the latest news from the world of party.

John Bowler takes us behind the scenes at the recent Qualatex World Balloon Convention.



A guest column from Widmann’s Charles Dulles on the importance of B2B communications.


As the war on plastics continues PPE looks at the effect this has on the ballon industry.


New licensed product hitting the market.


Shiny new things, gathered together especially for you.


The newest lines from across the European market.


PPE speaks to US party retailer Great Lakes Party & Gifts to find out what’s going on across the pond.

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We find out more about family company and Italian balloon experts Grabo International.

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Looking for attention-grabbing ways to boost your costume offering? Look no further!


We talk trade shows with exhibitors, covering H&P Expo, Spielwarenmesse and Spring Fair.


Super-stylish and fabulously creative, balloon decor is having something of a moment.


Retailers share what’s been keeping their tills ringing throughout Q1 2018.


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NEWS UPDATE World Book Day Is Resounding Success

This year’s World Book Day, held on Thursday 1 March 2018, was another major success, despite the snowy weather which saw the literary dress-up day delayed and postponed across much of the UK. Research published after the event – which once again saw major retailers including Asda, Tesco, Argos, Morrisons, Primark and Sainsbury’s ramping up their offerings as they embraced the occasion – has revealed some of the spending habits which occurred around World Book Day 2018. According to statistics gathered by, parents spent £50million on the event, with each parent spending an average of £10 per child. The online marketplace estimated that the

average parent spent 15 minutes searching for World Book Day costumes on the site, with searches beginning as early as 8 January. However, the most popular day for searches was 23 February 23, with nearly 34,000 searches taking place on that day alone. Harry Potter was the most searched for character and costume this year, with nearly 360,000 searches taking place –which averaged out at nearly one per minute. “Every year we see World Book Day fever intensify,” said Lizzi Thomas, head of fashion at eBay UK, “with proud parents posting pictures on their social feeds of their children’s costumes inspired by their favourite character.”

Inset: Harry Potter was a popular choice for this year’s World Book Day.

Harry Potter Leads WBD For Argos Harry Potter was the most popular character for this year’s World Book Day at Argos, the retailer has revealed, with costumes associated with the bestselling book and film franchise accounting for almost 25% of the retailer’s costume sales. The top ten character costumes were: Harry Potter, Gruffalo, Spider-man, Superman, Willy Wonka, Star Wars Stormtrooper, Where’s Wally?, Star Wars Darth Vader, Batman and Disney Princess Sleeping Beauty.

Halloween Removes ‘Offensive’ Costumes From Sale Royal Wedding HIA Launches 2018 Spirit Reservation Royalty, Naughty The Toronto branch of Spirit Tops Trump! Consumer Initiative Halloween has removed a number Navajo and Huron Honey – With just weeks to go until the The Halloween Industry Association (HIA) has launched an industrywide consumer initiative to promote Halloween and year-round dress-up. Following last year’s purchase of the Halloween & Party Expo, HIA has established a steady annual income which it will use to fund ongoing industry initiatives. The focus is currently on a new consumer marketing initiative for this year, with the goal of establishing HIA as the voice of Halloween for consumers and the general public while increasing sales for member companies. “We have developed a specific plan for 2018 that includes several elements,” explained HIA marketing director Aneisha McMillan. “This includes a consumerfacing website featuring the top costumes for the year as well as the ‘big idea’, which will see us teaming up with an industry partner to promote celebrating Halloween on the last Saturday in October. These will be supported by year-round media pitches and a robust social media effort.” Aneisha will be enlisting the help of a team of HIA volunteers to participate in the 2018 programme. If you’re currently an HIA member and would like to be involved, please get in touch at

of offensive costumes from sale, following a complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Canadian offshoot of the US-based party retailer has quietly settled a complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging some of its Aboriginal-themed costumes promoted hyper-sexualized and racist views of indigenous women. As such, it has agreed to remove the offending costumes – with names such as Pocahottie,

Unique Party Adds L.O.L Surprise Partyware supplier Unique Party has added popular children’s toy brand L.O.L Surprise to its licensed portfolio. The new range is the latest addition to Unique Party’s offering, which already includes best-selling lines such as emoji, Harry Potter and Shopkins. “L.O.L Surprise was the best-selling girls toy during Christmas 2017, so we know that this brand is going to translate well to party and will be a huge hit,” said Jim Cairns, Unique Party’s vice president, “especially given the pedigree of its origins.”

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from its Toronto stores. Some other retailers voluntarily stopped selling the costumes following similar complaints, but Spirit Halloween ignored requests to remove the offensive costumes, later claiming a defense of ‘commercial freedom of expression’. Spirit Halloween’s lawyers only agreed to the settlement after a number of applications of fact and expert statements were filed with the tribunal.

The range was previewed at Spring Fair, where retailer feedback was brief and to-thepoint. “To be honest, retailers were just asking when they could have it,” said Jim. “So we’re aware that this brand is going to be a little bit special!” The Unique Party collection will include partyware, party favours, decor and balloons as well as a pinata.saw 997 people gathering together to set the new world record for the largest number of people dressed as Harry Potter in one place. Previous champions from the UK had held the record of 676 since June 2017.

royal wedding, Mask-arade has reported that Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle have finally overtaken Donald Trump as the company’s bestselling masks. As demand increases for products featuring the couple in the run-up to the wedding, Mask-arade has pressed the button on 18,000 more masks to be produced. “We love the fact Trump has been selling so well but it will be nice to see the top sellers spreadsheet change,” said Ray Duffy, commercial director of Mask-arade. “The nation is really getting behind the new royal couple. We are seeing sales rising steadily and the royal wedding is a great early boost to the new year.”

Below: The Mask-arade ‘Royal collection’ also includes The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Kate Middleton, Prince William and even a Corgi.



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PG Live 2018 Makes Plans For Tenth Anniversary Show Party retailers should register now to ensure they are part of the celebrations as the UK’s only dedicated greeting card trade show (but with some great party exhibitors!) prepares to raise a glass to a decade of design. Show organiser Max Exhibitions is preparing to celebrate ten years of PG Live, which has spent the last decade showcasing design excellence and celebrating the greeting card industry. With greeting cards featuring in the top five best-selling categories for party retailers in Progressive Party’s 2017 Retail Barometer, PG

Palmer Agencies Launches 2018 Catalogue Halloween and party company Palmer Agencies has released its 2018 catalogue, featuring over 300 new products, as it prepares for a bumper 2018. The catalogue itself is packed full with almost 300 pages; the result of a concerted effort to help independent retailers differentiate themselves from the buying power and strength of the multiples. “We are so excited for 2018,” said Sergio Battaner, sales and marketing director at Palmer Agencies. “The response after the trade shows has been superb. We have taken a record number of orders at Spring Fair and our international business in Nuremberg was also up. Certainly a busy year ahead… and we’re raring to go!”

PCA Trade Conference Success The Party Club of America (PCA) has announced the results of its successful 14th Annual Members’ Conference and Trade Show, which was held in New Orleans prior to H&P Expo. The buying group – whose members are affectionately known as ‘Super Retailers’ – was thrilled with the response to the exclusive two-day event, with the Halloween and party industry’s top vendors and retailers reporting positive results. “The PCA show was great this year,” said Allen Scarsella of Mayflower. “It’s a great venue for members and vendors to interface, do business, and relax and get to know each other. We really enjoy doing this show and can’t wait to do it again in 2019.”

Live 2018 is the perfect platform for anyone looking to complement their partyware ranges with exciting new card collections. Taking place from Tuesday 5 to Wednesday 6 June at London’s Business Design Centre, PG Live will play host to fresh innovative ranges and exclusive show offers from more than 250 publishers, artists and designers from right around the globe – including party favourites such as Gemma, Pioneer Europe, Neviti and Mask-arade. “We are so proud of what PG Live has become over the past ten years,” said joint show director

Left and above: Party suppliers will be adding some colour to the BDC during PG Live 2018.

Licensing Awards Open For Entry The Licensing Awards 2018 are now open for entry and party suppliers are encouraged to send licensed product in for the product judging as the countdown for the big awards event on Tuesday 11 September 2018 officially begins. The awards categories cover all aspects of the UK licensing industry and are free to enter. Suppliers looking to enter the Best Licensed Dress-Up or Partyware Range (which this year is sponsored by Beano Studios) can

download an entry form from - entries must be submitted by Wednesday 31 May, 2018. Previous winners have included Disney Princess Dressup for Sainsbury’s from Rubie’s, Marvel Superheroes Dress-Up for George at Asda by Christy’s, Rainbow Adult Dress-Up from Smiffy’s, Mr Men and Little Miss Dress-Up from VMC Accessories. The Spiderman Airwalker from Amscan International also took home The Innovation Award in 2013.

The Mad Hatter To Move On One of the best-known retailers within the UK’s party and fancy dress industry will be closing its doors this year unless a buyer can be found to take the Somerset-based business over. Mike and Terri Burt have been running fancy dress and joke shop The Mad Hatter for the last 32 years and the couple are looking to retire as their time with the business has ‘run its course’. The pair hope that someone will buy the business as a going concern and continue to run The Mad Hatter as both a bricks and mortar shop and online business. “Nothing would sadden me more than coming back into Yeovil and seeing this shop empty,” said Mike. It’s such a bright and fun welcome to the town.” Mike and Terri have taken to social media to reassure customers that they won’t be going anywhere too soon, as they plan to have one final spectacular Halloween season before moving on.

Angels Open Days: The Verdict Held from 25 – 27 March, this year’s Angels Open Days were a resounding success, bringing suppliers together and helping exhibitors reach new retailers. “It’s been really busy,” commented Emma Angel, director of Angels Fancy Dress, Angels Distribution and organisational mastermind behind the event, “really successful. We’ve had lots of people in and we’ve had people from all over – we’ve even had a handful of people coming from Europe.” Emma also revealed that the visitor profile was a varied combination of established retailers and new names. “I think the nice thing about it is that everybody here brings their existing customers – but they might not be someone else’s existing customers, so they pick up new business. It works really nicely.” This year was the second event and Emma is keen to continue for 2019 as well. “People really enjoy [the open day] and we’ve had really good feedback,” she concluded. “Hopefully we can continue and it can grow.”

Trading Standards Seize eBay Trader’s Stock An eBay trader had over 3,000 children’s costumes seized by West Yorkshire Trading Standards just ahead of World Book Day, a key period for children’s dress-up sales. If genuine, the total cost of items taken off the market would have been over £80,000. The trading standards team worked in conjuction with West

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Warren Lomax. “Each year our exhibitors manage to go several steps further in terms

of originality, imagination and quality and this year’s offering really has to be seen to be believed!” In addition to exploring all the very latest card trends, visitors will also be able to relax and enjoy the famous PG Live hospitality, with a complementary lunch, endless refreshments (courtesy of Fedrigoni) and a free drinks party on the first night (courtesy of GF Smith). Party buyers and retailers interested in attending PG Live 2018 should register for their free tickets now at www. progressivegreetingslive. com in order to ensure they are part of the celebrations.

Yorkshire Police and Brand Protection Officers from Rubie’s Masquerade to execute the warrant at the eBay trader’s home address in order to seize the counterfeit and unsafe kids’ costumes. “I am grateful to West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service and West Yorkshire Police for

the action taken today,” said Mike O’Connell, global head of antipiracy at Rubie’s Masquerade. “We will continue to support authorities to take action against traders who commit such crimes.” Anyone with concerns about counterfeit product can call the Citizens Advice helpline on +44 (0) 3454 040506.



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PG Live is always a must on our calendar of events, bringing together a wonderful collection of established publishers and up-andcoming talent. We have not missed a single show since it started! Peter & Jelena Whiteman of Dzodzo, Woodbridge

PG Live 2018 Tuesday 5 - Wednesday 6 June Business Design Centre, London +44 (0) 1635 297070 @PGLiveLondon

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The Greatest Collection Of Greeting Cards In The World Order your free PG Live 2018 Show Preview now and start planning your visit to the the largest collection of greeting card publishers in the world. PG Live 2018 will be celebrating ten years of showcasing design excellence this year, with an inspiring display of original design from more than 250 of the industry’s most creative publishers.

Be InspIred Book Your Tickets Now

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Fifth World Balloon Convention Is Huge Success Over 850 people from 52 countries descended upon San Diego, California from 14 – 18 March to take part in a four day extravaganza of exclusive balloon education, epic competitions, grand events and more from the Pioneer and Qualatex team. Over 30 leading instructors from all over the world came to join in the fun and inspire others with on-trend designs, help delegates develop their techniques and offer tried and tested business-building advice. More than 25 students passed their coveted Certified Balloon Artist (CBA) examination at the event. “We were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of the delegates,” said Ted A. Vlamis,

Amscan Takes On Sempertex Distribution Balloon and party company Amscan has been named as the sole distributor of Sempertex balloons for the UK and Ireland. The globally-established latex balloon brand will be available in an extensive choice of textures, finishes and formats, with over 600 products on offer across a palette of 57 spectacular colours and in several sizes ranging from 5” to 36”. “Innovation is a key factor to product development at Sempertex,” says Amscan’s marketing manager Charlotte Cox. “We are delighted to be able to introduce a whole programme of new designs, sizes and colour options in line with the latest trends for the celebration market. We can’t wait to see how decorators use the Sempertex balloons to bring their ideas to life!” Below: Amscan’s stand at Spring Fair made the most of the Sempertex line.

president of Pioneer Balloon Company. “There is no other industry where the people have the same degree of passion for what they do. We believe that the delegates’ investment in this educational experience will be returned many times over.” Delegates also had the opportunity to volunteer to participate in the construction of many of the large installations at gala events, for further handson experience, working with leading balloon artists to create stunning décor for the lobby and networking events. “Even seasoned balloon professionals were wowed by the displays, as the large scale installations were incredibly impactful,” said Julie Dommett,

head of marketing for Pioneer Europe. “Everyone agreed this year’s WBC was another amazing event.” The quality of the competition entries was once again outstanding, with many winners receiving a standing ovation from the gathered audience of their peers on Saturday’s Gala Night. See page 35 for BAPIA’s report on the show.

Party Hall Gets Activity Area At Spielwarenmesse 2019 Celebrating its 70th anniversary next year, Spielwarenmesse is making some major changes to Toy Fair, which will be taking place from 30 January to 3 February 2019 in Nuremberg. A number of product groups will be restructured, with groundbreaking developments in the pipeline for the Festive Articles, Carnival and Fireworks sector. Initial consultations took place at this year’s event and as a result, Hall 9 – which traditionally houses the party exhibitors – will be undergoing some considerable changes. Most notable is the exciting new space which will be added to Hall 8 – a dedicated Activity Area, which will

give exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their portfolio via fashion shows and product demonstrations for maximum exposure. According to ceo Ernst Kick, this is an important and essential step that will initially require some patience from retailers and buyers: “At first, it may take a little getting used to as some exhibitors will be in new locations,” said Ernst, commenting on the changes. “We’ll do everything we can to ensure that our new signage and navigation are as clear as possible.” “These steps are necessary if we are to respond to the changing market and reflect the needs of buyers and retailers,” he added.

Tesco Pulls Fox-Hunting Costume From Sale Supermarket giant Tesco has removed a children’s fox hunting dress-up costume from sale following a number of customer complaints from concerned shoppers. Anti-hunt campaigners said it was “encouraging children to become animal abusers” and was not an appropriate costume for children to dress up in. The fancy dress costume itself was marketed as a ‘red fox hunter jacket’, and was available for children aged seven and older, on the supermarket’s website. Tesco quickly pulled the costume, which it said had been placed on the site by a third party vendor. A spokesman said: “We’ve listened to customers and have immediately removed this product from sale.” This is not the only fancy dress-related gaffe Tesco has been involved with in recent weeks; it was also left red-faced after it labelled a child’s fancy dress costume as Dark Panther instead of Black Panther. Tesco said it was ‘extremely sorry’ after the mistake was highlighted on Twitter.

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Inset: This stunning organic decor for the beachfront cocktail party held on Saturday 17 March was created in Chris Adamo’s class.

Qualatex WBC 2018 Winners Revealed Winners of the sculpture, decor and twisting competitions held at the bi-annual Qualatex World Balloon Convention, the balloon industry’s premier international event, were announced during the Grand Gala on the final day. “It was my privilege to be part of the judging panel again this WBC,” said Sue Bowler CBA, leading Qualatex instructor and writer of ‘The Very Best Balloon Blog’. “The quality of the competitor’s work was outstanding. Each WBC, you cannot believe that the previous achievements can be bettered, but they are, every time.” This year’s coveted Master Designer Award was given to Masako Nomura, CBA, from Japan, while full details of all the winners in each category are available on www.

Average Cost Of Children’s Birthday Parties Rises To Almost £500 In a survey of 1,000 British parents with children aged eight or under, it was revealed the average parent will spend more than £400 (an average of £433.39) on parties for their children – every year. According to the research, which was conducted by Barclays, parents across the UK spend almost £5,000 (£4,886.28) on their children’s birthdays throughout their primary school years (between the ages of four and 11). “As a parent, it’s easy to understand why people spend so much money on children’s birthdays,” said Clare Francis, savings and investments director at Barclays. “But the money spent on presents and parties all adds up!”



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Balloon Bans Remain High On Agenda

The global movement to cut down on single-use plastics continues to throw balloons and other disposable partyware into the limelight, despite the best efforts of US-based trade body The Balloon Council and its European counterpart, EBPC. Balloon releases are now subject to bans by almost 70 local councils in the UK, a growing number of states in America and Australia and a number of other towns and cities around the world. The focus on both latex and foil balloons is gaining pace, with towns and councils continuing to press forward with proposals banning the sale and use of balloons in all contexts. At least

US Balloon Council Fights Back A series of new adverts supporting the ‘smart’ use of balloons have been attracting attention on Facebook, thanks to The Balloon Council’s ‘Balloons Lift Up’ initiative. The pro-balloon campaign has responded to the proposal to ban the use and sale of all balloons on Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island, Washington) with a series of adverts and a call to action. The adverts feature a provocative tagline; ‘Block Island has bigger problems’ — as well as a hashtag, #BeBalloonSmart and a link to the website for the group, Below: The adverts feature children in various states of dismay.

Left: Environmentalists are clashing with the balloon industry, which advocates education over legislation.

four councils in Melbourne, Australia are currently in the process of outlawing all disposable plastics, including latex and foil balloons. The bans will come into effect over the next two years,

Calvin Klein Recreates Warhol Balloon Art Fashion label Calvin Klein has paid tribute to one of Andy Warhol’s most iconic installations by turning its Madison Avenue flagship store into a balloon-filled free-for-all. The interactive New York installation was part of an ongoing partnership between Calvin Klein and the Andy Warhol Foundation. It features hundreds of silver mylar balloons printed with some of Warhol’s most iconic paintings including macabre imagery from his Death and Disaster series.

New Layout For Christmasworld 2019

Fun Shack Prepares For Halloween Fun Shack’s Halloween 2018 collection is now available and will be ready to pre-order by Friday 20 April. The complete Halloween range which is packed with new and existing lines for adults and children can be found within the company’s main 2018/19 catalogue.

The world’s leading trade fair for festive and seasonal decoration has announced a new hall plan and layout for the 2019 show. The show, which will be taking place from 25 – 29 January 2019, will see a number of product groups being restructured as the show moves forward to embrace new opportunities. The ‘Christmas and Seasonal Decoration’ sector of the show will move into the newly created Hall 12, including spring, Easter, autumn and Halloween decorations. The 2018 event hosted 1,047 exhibitors from 43 countries and was visited by over 43,400 trade buyers from 129 different countries. More information can be found at www.christmasworld.

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after which time businesses and residents will be unable to sell or purchase balloons and other plastics such as disposable food containers and cups. Ray Stewart, the president of

Australia’s Balloon Artists and Suppliers Association, argued that latex balloons should not be included in the ban. “To push balloons in with their plastic bans … it’s just dishonest, it doesn’t give the issue of latex balloons the attention it deserves,” he said. Over in the US, Block Island – located off the coast of Rhode Island – is also targeting the sale and use of balloons specifically, after the authorities successfully banned the sale of plastic bags from retailers on the island. See our Industry Issue feature on page 23 for more information.

Costumes Need Specs Appeal A call for more inclusive children’s fancy dress has hit the press as a concerned parent launches a campaign to ask supermarkets and toy shops to make fancy dress costumes more accessible for children who wear glasses. Kelly Hughes, who is spearheading the campaign, realised there was a ‘gap in the market’ when her five-yearold son Alfie struggled to find

costumes with masks which fit over the glasses he has worn since he was three. “It is coming to a point where parties are quite popular, especially superhero parties,” said Kelly, who has already contacted a number of shops and brands to see what can be done. “We buy the outfits from highstreet brands and a lot of them come with a mask, but they aren’t made to wear with glasses.”

Rubie’s Celebrates Toy Of The Year Win Costume company Rubie’s celebrated winning Innovative Toy Of The Year at the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards for its inflatable T-Rex costume with an attention-grabbing flash mob featuring the popular dinosaur dress-up. Rubie’s executive vice president Howie Beige took to the stage at the awards, which are known as the ‘Oscars’ of the toy industry and held on the evening of 16 February after the first day of New York Toy Fair, to accept the accolade in person, before the flash mob took place, cementing the costume’s place as a deserving winner. “It’s the first time that a costume has ever been nominated let alone won the category,” said Chris Isitt, vice president, EMEA and Australia for Rubie’s Masquerade. “It’s fantastic that the costume has been recognized after launching just over two years ago.”

Jollyjesters Receives Customer Boost A fancy dress retailer’s social media ‘rant’ about the rise of online shopping grabbed the attention of customers, resulting in a flood of positive feedback. The facebook post by Kate Moore, owner of Jollyjesters in Swanwick, Derbyshire, spoke about the difficulties faced by retailers on the UK high street at the moment. In it, Kate acknowledges the lure of the online shop but closed with a plea to consumers to visit local shops if they want to keep them up and running. Feedback from consumers was almost instantaneous, with dozens of customers chiming in to sing the praises of Jollyjesters, local independent retailers and small businesses in general. “I’ve never had so many positive comments and shares to a post,” said Kate. “I am totally overwhelmed by people’s comments, and even though it’s resulted in such a love-fest for Jollyjesters, it really was about supporting all proper shops, especially the independents.”



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Party City Shares Rise Following Acquisition North American party product retailer Party City acquired a master franchise group representing 11 of its franchise stores in the Maryland market last month. The news came at the same time as the party supplies retailer reported fiscal Q4 and full-year 2017 earnings which, while weak, still beat analyst estimates. This resulted in a 15% rise in share prices. Same store sales, which were down by 1.4%, also outperformed analysts’ estimates. Before this most recent acquisition – which had a purchase price of approximately $14million – Party City’s retail operations totalled 803 company-owned Party City stores and 148 franchise stores. The franchise operator has reported sales of approximately $26 million in 2017. “The acquisition of this franchise group solidifies

our position in this highly attractive market, where we now have a total of 21 company-owned stores,” said ceo James M. Harrison. “We look forward to continuing to evaluate opportunities for accretive franchise acquisitions in the future, as a part of our strategy to improve brand integrity and operational efficiency, while enhancing the

Morph Costumes Launches Disney Princess Pony Range Morph Costumes has added a range of official Disney Princess Pony costumes to its everexpanding portfolio of products, which currently includes the classic Morphsuits, novelty piggyback costumes and oversized inflatable costumes. The official Disney Princess Pony costumes are the latest additions to Morph Costumes range of fun children’s costumes. They feature a plush horse with dress attached and are currently available in two styles – Rapunzel on Maximus and Belle on Philippe. “We are really excited by the launch of our Disney Princess Pony costumes,” said co-founder Fraser Smeaton. “Initial sales and reviews have been really strong. The concept brings a whole new dimension to role play in the massive Disney Princess category and builds on the current trend for ride-on costumes.” More Disney Princesses  – and their steeds – are expected to follow the initial launch later in the year.

Below: During 2017, Party City opened 16 new stores, acquired 36 franchise stores and eight independent stores and closed seven stores.

overall customer shopping experience and growing value for our shareholders.” He also commented on the Q4 performance, saying that results were ‘in line with expectations’. For 2018, the company expects to post a total revenue of between $2.44 and $2.49 billion, with a brand comparable sales growth of approximately 1%.

Palmer Agencies Strengthens Scottish Sales Force Fancy dress and Halloween expert Palmer Agencies has bolstered its sales force with the appointment of Darran McBride as its new agent for Scotland. Darran and his team at have a fantastic reputation and extensive customer relationships in the garden centre and gift trade throughout Scotland, making the company the perfect choice to represent Palmer Agencies throughout the region. “I look forward to working with the Palmer Agencies’ team in Belfast and our customers in Scotland,” said Darran. “Halloween is a growing season and Palmer Agencies’ reputation within the trade and the quality of their products made this a very easy decision.”

Creative Party Strengthens Team Partyware and balloon company Creative Party (and sister company Anniversary House) has announced two key board level appointments to further strengthen its longterm growth plans, while also bringing two new faces on board to bolster the sales team. Holly Forder has been promoted to product and marketing director, while Susan Russell will be taking the reins as sales director. Chairman Mike Forder commended both appointments, saying; “Both Holly and Susan have made significant contributions to the development of the company over many years and look forward to working with them both on the future strategic direction of the company and our brands.” Meanwhile Gabriel Stampfli has joined the team as a supply chain analyst while Ellie Murrel will be strengthening the customer service team as a customer service and sales order administrator, strengthening the team across the supply chain and customer services roles.

Amscan Launches New One Stop Halloween Book Available now, Amscan’s 2018 Halloween Book will feature the latest product trends in partyware, costumes and balloons. New additions to the catalogue include the Halloween Friends range, while the popular Day of the Dead costume collection has been expanded with fantastic new designs. The catalogue is available to view online at

In Memory Of Party Legend Dennis Payne Mark Brett, UK agent for ITI Balloons, looks back at the legacy left by party industry stalwart Dennis Payne, who sadly passed away on 6 February 2018. “The man who is often credited with being responsible for starting the UK party retail market also holds the record for longest service within the industry with an impressive 57 years. He has also been one of the most influential individuals in the industry, certainly within the UK.

Dennis first started working in the balloon trade in the 1960s, after the company he worked for was taken over by the London Rubber Co (LRC). He spent much of his time developing trade with the majors and was given the task of developing the balloon business in Europe. Dennis also started developing a range of retail party product, which was unheard of at the time. In 1982 LRC closed its balloon division and he became the UK agent for Mexican company Latex

For the latest news visit

News_PPE_March April 2018.indd 17

Occidental, the world’s largest balloon manufacturer. In 1999 Dennis set up an independent distribution centre and office in Colchester. That business continues to flourish and in 2017 ITI (UK) had its best year ever.” Dennis leaves behind a son, daughter, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. ITI (UK) will continue to be run by his son-in-law, Brendan Fahy. Right: Party stalwart Dennis Payne seen here in his heyday.



06/04/2018 16:58

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29/03/2018 11:13 05/04/2018 18:22

Guest Columnist

Charles Dulles is the head of international sales and business development at Italian fancy dress company Widmann.

The Word Otn ee r t s e th

The first in PPE’s new series of guest columnists, Charles Dulles is the head of international sales and business development at Italian fancy dress company Widmann. He has been with the fancy dress company for the last five years, after spending most of his career in the telecommunications industry. Keen to emphasise the importance of technology in the fancy dress and party industry, Charles explains why he believes a B2B website can be a powerful sales tools as well as invaluable for making the right buying decisions.

To Be, Or Not To Be... B2B Counts!

What do vampire fangs and steampunk tailcoats have to do with bits and bytes? At first glance, very little. From the back alleys and cobblestone streets of Waterford in Ireland to the sun-drenched plazas of Cadiz in Spain, traditional fancy dress shops are co-existing in a world that increasingly focuses on digital communication and media to carry out business. When was the last time you went a full day without accessing the internet? Whether on your phone, your computer, tablet or other device, we often turn to websites before ever initiating direct contact with human beings. The internet is not the exclusive domain of the online shops. There are currently over one billion websites out there and they exist for just about every purpose imaginable. With most of the attention given to B2C websites (aimed at consumers), B2B websites are often overlooked. But of all the things websites are asked to do, business applications might be the most common. For bricks and mortar retailers as well as online shops, the use of internet is fundamental, both for selling and for purchasing. B2B websites focus on different messages, functionality and targeting than B2C websites. From lead generation to e-commerce sales, B2B businesses must keep a focus on providing a goal-driven website for business growth and a great user-experience for potential clients.

As more wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers offer B2B e-commerce websites to allow their customers to place orders online 24/7, the ability to access high-quality, detailed content online is more important than ever.

Above: Avoid ‘hold music’ boredom with an efficient online ordering system.

In our industry, one area of major importance for retailers is the ability to quickly and simply search for relevant party items. Often, what sets apart the specialised fancy dress and party store or online shop from the large department stores or discount chains is the variety and breadth of the offering. But with so many suppliers out there, navigating the product catalogues can be overwhelming. This is where an effective B2B website can be a great help. Retailers often spend hours on the phone enquiring about the status of back orders and deliveries, especially when October 31, December 25, December 31, February 14 or March 17 are rapidly approaching.

They have questions about order history, product availability, sizing, packaging, appearance. How does this costume look like from all sides, front and back? Are there any complementary accessories? These questions can be answered by multiple phone calls, numerous emails, a lengthy showroom tour, a sales agent’s visit (dependant on their calendar) – or one quick look at a wellconstructed B2B website. For suppliers, a simple, intuitive B2B website becomes an online sales representative, your means of personalisation and one of the most effective ways to reach out to your customers. You want your customers to feel that you are reliable and efficient and that you are capable of delivering what they expect from you. You need to get your visitors to feel that you are offering a solution to their problem, rather than pushing or imposing your agenda. Many businesses consider their websites to be an online brochure to showcase their products and services. Websites shouldn’t just look pretty — they should simplify and

facilitate business relations. Suppliers need to place more emphasis on content quality and availability in order to improve the overall customer experience and to make their B2B website both the starting and the ending point for a rapidly growing number of purchases. For retailers, whether its ordering the entire new Halloween selection for the store, or just a simple character wig, purchases are more frequently taking place online. Even when a website doesn’t actually process the transaction, it’s an integral part of educating and connecting buyers to sellers. Don’t be afraid of technology. Take advantage of the benefits that a good B2B website can provide you while asking your suppliers for simplicity, speed and control over the search and selection process. Also, remember to provide feedback because technology - like fantasy - still needs some guidance!”

Inset: A comprehensive B2B online ordering system helps suppliers ensures that their retailers can offer consumers a more comprehensive service.


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06/04/2018 16:55

Celebrate birthdays in style New ranges for 2018

Confetti Fun

Chalkboard Birthday

Amscan International Limited Brudenell Drive, Brinklow Milton Keynes, MK10 0DA

22_PPE_March April 2018.indd 1

Fabulous Birthday

Tel: 01908 288500 Fax: 01908 288501 Web: Email:

05/04/2018 18:23

Industry Issue: Balloon Ban Inset: Images of beaches strewn with rubbish have been used as part of the campaign against balloons.


PLASTIC Calls for a crackdown on single-use plastics have been increasingly louder in recent months as campaigns from environmental groups have been gaining traction in the press – and balloons have been a particular focus. PPE takes a look at what we as an industry can do to help keep the focus on education rather than legislation.


lastic bags, straws, disposable coffee cups, food packaging, microbeads... There’s little doubt that as a society we rely too much on single-use plastics and few of us would argue that the damage it’s causing to the environment is worth a few minor inconveniences. But latex balloons – which, it must be noted, are fully biodegradeable – have become caught up in the global activism. Now, barely a week goes by without another call

EBPC Code Of Best Practise The EBPC Code of Best Practice has been devised to protect consumers and respect the environment. Environmental guidelines include: ■ Only sell helium-filled balloons with ribbon and weight attached. ■ Advise consumers to never release balloons into the atmosphere. ■ When you’re done – cut the end of the balloon with a pair of scissors and dispose of the spent balloon in the bin.

Left: The Ballons Lift Up campaign to keep ballons in Block Island.

for them to be restricted or banned entirely (see news story on page 7). Balloon releases have been under fire for some time and are no longer generally considered to be industry ‘best practise’ (see breakout box on EBPC guidelines). They are banned by almost 70 local councils in the UK, a growing number of states in America (currently California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia) and Australia and a number of other towns and cities around the world. However, the latest development in the balloon story has seen a complete ban on the sale or use of both foil and latex balloons in any context at all – from a large scale release to a child’s birthday party. This has been instated across number of states in Australia and, most recently, Block Island in the US. The Block Island ban saw the town council vote unanimously to eliminate the sale, distribution and use of balloons throughout

Bin It, Don’t Release It “Although balloons are made of natural rubber latex which biodegrades naturally, we wish to make it clear that the European Balloon and Party Council (EBPC) advises both its members and the public in general not to undertake releases due to the fact that it can create a littering issue. The EBPC actively promote a ‘bin it, don’t release balloons’ policy within its Best Practice guidelines. We have evidenced a steady decrease in balloon releases over the last few years across Europe in general. Consumers need education, not legislation, to tackle the global littering issue, which the EBPC started two years ago, with further campaigns and initiatives planned over the next year. To focus on banning balloons is a very small part of a much wider problem.” Suteesh Chumber, operations manager, EBPC the island ‘to protect the wildlife and coastal ecosystems of Block Island, the enjoyment of nature and the health, safety and welfare of Block Island’s residents and visitors.’ In January the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to eliminate all avoidable plastic within 25 years. Manchester, one of the UK’s largest cities, is currently the focus of a campaign calling for it to be completely plastic-free by 2020. This would involve banning party balloons, straws and single-use coffee cups as part of

Right: Balloons have become popular for styling photoshoots. MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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06/04/2018 16:59

Sempertex Advert PP 29_03.pdf





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Balloons Over 57 stunning colours in the range!





Bring your ideas to life with Sempertex; quality latex balloons to create exciting designs perfect for any occasion. Amscan are delighted to be the sole distributors throughout the UK and Ireland of the globally established brand of latex balloons.





Available at your local wholesaler

Amscan International Limited Brudenell Drive, Brinklow Milton Keynes MK10 0DA

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Tel: Fax: Web: Email:

01908 288500 01908 288501

05/04/2018 18:26

Industry Issue: Balloon Ban

Responsible Reactions “I think we all have a responsibility to protect the environment for future generations, but we also have a responsibility to protect our industry. As technology progresses, so does our ability to reduce waste, while still continuing to provide the products and services that bring enjoyment to so many people. The total balloon bans that we are seeing in different areas, are a classic example of a knee-jerk reaction to something that could be overcome if the issues were fully understood and discussed by all parties. While I think these issues will bring about some changes to our industry, I think it will continue to thrive and bring pleasure and fun as it has done for so long.” John Bowler, chief executive, BAPIA

Above: Under EBPC guidelines, consumers are advised not to release helium balloons.

a tough new approach as councillors look for ‘simple, easy and effective steps’ amid growing concerns about the effect of plastics on the environment. Meanwhile, Scottish city Glasgow is currently considering banning balloon releases and has pledged to end the use of plastic straws. The UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove has also previously suggested that plastic straws could be banned across the whole of Britain. “Plastic straws are a scourge,” he said. “They’re just one example of the ways in which we pollute the oceans and damage marine wildlife. I want to do everything we can to restrict their use. We’re exploring at the moment if we can ban them.” According to the campaign group, Refuse The Straw, plastic straws take over 200 years to break down, and a number of restaurants and pub chains including JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama and Pizza Express have already announced that they will be phased out entirely or only made available on request. “An increase in focus of how human behaviour affects the environment is clearly to be welcomed,” says Julie Dommett, head of marketing at Pioneer Europe, pointing out that as manufacturers of Qualatex balloons, Pioneer Balloon

Company is committed to protecting the planet and all its flora and fauna. “Latex balloons,” she continues, ‘are made of natural rubber latex, which is harvested from rubber trees, in a renewable manner. These trees consume CO2 (a greenhouse gas) – and for Qualatex balloons, the farm used is also Rainforest Alliance Certified. Latex biodegrades naturally in the environment at approximately the same rate of decay as an oak leaf.” Julie explains that Pioneer Europe subscribes to the policy actively promoted by the European Balloon and Party Council (of which it is a founding member), that balloons should not be released, as many people would perceive this as littering. “We also promote the so-called ‘California Law’ as best practise,” she adds. “This involves ensuring all helium filled balloons are attached directly and individually to a suitable balloon weight to prevent accidental release.” As a company, Pioneer Europe believes industry campaigns should strongly focus on education around responsible best practice. “Littering caused by balloons is a very small part of the global littering issue and so to implement blanket bans would have a strongly detrimental effect on our industry while having very limited effect on the overall littering problem.” “With regards to other single-use plastics, progressive companies will of course continue to develop product in line with demand from their customers,” reasons Julie. “As consumer and industry focus on this area continues to grow, so new products will be developed – and those that fully meet with customer approval are more likely to succeed.” As UK agent for both Boland Party and ITI Balloons, Mark Brett believes there is a clear distinction of the issues being discussed. “The plastic straw thing is one issue,” he says, “and I would suggest that most suppliers in Europe are looking at this seriously as this is a worldwide problem.” “For the humble balloon it is a completely different issue – although some would have you think not. They regrettably get mixed up with plastic bags which are completely different and do have serious environmental implications. This is a recurring misunderstanding by environmentalists over the last 20 years – some might even suggest they consider balloons to be easy pickings.” Mark goes on to make the point that latex balloons have far better environmental credentials than a huge variety of nonessential consumable product, but is quick to point out that; “This does not

Above: Paper straws are an ecologically sound alternative to the plastic straw. Below: Once deflated, latex balloons biodegrade at a similar rate to an oak leaf.

mean that the industry should mitigate any environmental damage that it may inadvertently incur. Through organisations such as the EBPC we should strives towards a more eco-friendly outlook, but what is happening in Melbourne at the moment is completely bonkers.” The final word goes to Julie, who calls for the industry to unite, saying simply; “continued clear focus on best practice education and away from sensationalist headlines will be key to the continued responsible growth of our industry.”

A Personal Decision “It’s probably more of a personal decision but we have chosen not to supply balloons for release. Obviously foils and bubbles are a big no-no, but even biodegradable latex causes littering to some extent. We might be in the minority within the industry, but I feel like we are making the right decision. I think that plastics are really going to be more and more in the media, and by association balloons. My wife recently painted for Sky Cinema and they have a single use plastic ban, I think that they are leading the clean seas campaign. To show a little commitment we joined www.peba. I think it will all come down to a moral choice, each to their own.” Lee Reilly, Jen’s Creations


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06/04/2018 17:00

© MARVEL © 2018 CPII

Call us on: 08453 070707

Browse the full range at 26_PPE_March April 2018.indd 1

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Progressive Party rounds up the latest licensed releases.



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■M  agic For Muggles Novelty suit company OppoSuits has launched an official Harry Potter-themed suit in collaboration with Warner Bros. The full suit comes with black trousers, an embroidered scarlet jacket (complete with Gryffindor lion emblem) and a scarlet and gold striped tie. If your customer has always wanted to be part of this Hogwarts house, this suit is perfect!

■B  ody Slam

■C  ollectible Craze

Star Cutouts is very excited to be working with WWE and has launched brand new life-sized cutout products in the UK. Previously only ever available from US retailers, Star Cutouts has started the launch with four great wrestlers; Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and Bayley. More big names are set to follow, including classic all stars The Rock and John Cena.

The latest party collection from Unique Party is L.O.L Surprise, the hugely popular girls collectible brand based around the unwrapping craze. The L.O.L Surprise range was the best-selling girls toy over Christmas 2017 and the extensive partyware, décor balloon and pinata collection is expected to be wellreceived both at retail and by its target audience; girls aged 5 – 9 years old.

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■D  isney Design Pioneer Europe’s new premium partyware collection features seven design-led, on-trend ranges featuring Disney’s Bambi, Princess, Mickie Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Little Mermaid, as well as Marvel’s Avengers and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars. Each range includes a variety of accessories including cupcake stands and photo props. Available in May.

■E  xpress Yourself Gemma International’s award-winning studio has been updating its popular emoji (official brand) card and wrap collection. The latest additions to this growing trend-driven range include these Unicorn and Mermaid designs as well as the more ‘traditional’ emoji faces and other popular expressions.

■A  ir Heads Amscan has expanded its licensed character balloon range with innovative new air-filled designs from Anagram. The range features much-loved properties such as Disney Minnie Mouse, Disney Mickey Mouse, Marvel Spider-Man and Star Wars, with formats including inflatable foil selfie frames, wearable accessory foils and sitter balloons. Available to pre-order now.


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06/04/2018 17:00

Gender Reveal

Boy or Girl? What will it be? Our beautiful, brand new additions for on-trend gender reveal parties definitely make it fun for everyone to find out what the new baby will be. From fun scratch cards for family and friends to cute decorations for your party venue, these items will make your party a success!

Free UK delivery ÂŁ100 minimum order Register today for a trade account at For more info contact our Sales team! Email:

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New for 2018 is a range of smaller-sized Fill n’ Away disposable balloon gas cylinders from Adams Gas. The canisters fill the same number of balloons (50 or 30) but high-pressured cylinders will allow the same amount of helium to be stored in smaller, recyclable canisters. Each box includes a helium canister, easy to use nozzle and an optional assortment of coloured balloons and ribbons.

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S ummer Of Fun

Tropical prints, mermaid outfits and unicorn accessories are all festival trends that keep coming back year after year, so Smiffys has created a new festivalinspired range for summer 2018 and beyond, featuring mermaids, unicorns, flamingos and more. The new collection comprises a range of fantastic costumes, novelties and accessories that are perfect for the upcoming summer season.

L  ittle Star

Ideal for first birthdays, Christenings and other baby-related celebrations, this Twinkle Twinkle partyware range from Unique Party is a sweet but stylish option. The unisex colours and classic design make it an ideal choice for family gatherings. The range includes plates, cups, napkins, banners, bunting and cake toppers.

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U  nder The Sea

Venture under the sea with Amscan’s new Be A Mermaid range. An on-trend collection featuring a pastel colour scheme and mermaid character, this themed product line includes party favours, tableware, decorations and invitations and is perfect for mermaid fans of all ages. The collection is completed with balloons including both latex and standard format foil options.




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The latest addition to the Simon Elvin Party Range is the new gold collection, a new and innovative design which has been created to give retailers the confidence to stock and carry popular captions. A strong generic colour and design, this latest range has been incorporated across a whole range of products, from balloons to banners, giving the security that only gold can give.

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W  hat Goes On Tour

Fun Shack’s new Stag Do range is launching this April, just in time for a summer full of pre-nuptial celebrations. With lots of new lines to choose from, from the classic (such as the runaway bride) to the innovative (like the brand new gimp costume), there’s a fancy dress option available to embarrass every stag out there!


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16/04/2018 11:41

Stock Up on your stag season essentials sales team: +44(0)117 972 4012


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05/04/2018 18:28

What’s New?

What’s New In Europe?

Looking for something a bit different? Then it’s time for an international shopping spree!

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That’s Magic

The brand new magic streamer from Folat is an exciting addition to the comany’s confetti collection and made a big impact at the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg. Put the Magic Streamer on as a ring, open up, throw and surprise the people. Easy to clean confetti and a fabulous effect without a mess to clean up – it’s every party host’s dream!


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Mermaid Magic

Each year, costume and dress-up company Leg Avenue brings some of the most widely- anticipated new costumes to to the party and dress-up market. The 2018/2019 collection was officially released at Nuremberg Toy Fair and featured costumes such as this outstanding Seashell Mermaid line, a unique new design for a mermaid-inspired outfit.

Super Squid

Following on from its previous popular balloon kits, Globos Payaso has now added the new Octopus Kit. Each attractive pack includes easy to follow instructions and balloons to make your own eight-armed fun creature from the deep! This great new addition to the balloon kit range will be available from the end of May.

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Hey Baby!

Embracing the wonderful world of children’s birthday parties is Givi Italia, with this stunning ‘1st Birthday’ collection. Ideally suited for a chic and stylish party, this pastel pink tableware range – which includes everything from essential plates and cups to fun photo props – has been completed with ontrend chevrons and gold foiling.

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Tally Ho!

Costume expert Widmann has seen a rise in the popularity of comedy costumes and accessories. Animal costumes have always done well and this fun Explorer on Ostrich costume is one of the new additions to the range for 2018, combining both the ride-on and inflatable trends which are sweeping the costume market at the moment.

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This fab costume from Nines D’Onil – which has more than 13 years experience in its national market – is one of the new range of innovative new designs from the quirky fancy dress company. Featuring a larger-than-life take on the novelty costume market, the clever costume takes inspiration from the classy little black dress – with a twist!


06/04/2018 17:07

Talking To: Great Lakes Party & Gifts



Despite describing Great Lakes Party & Gifts as a ‘small independent company’, owner Greg Keller runs two permanent stores and six temporary pop-up temporary outlets as well as the company’s online presence. PPE finds out where he gets the time.


reat Lakes Party and Gifts – now Party Giant and Halloween Superstores – first came into existence sixteen years ago, when Greg moved to Northern Michigan and struck out on his own, opening the first ever Halloween USA franchise. He had previously been working in Detroit as the merchandise manager for a 28-store party chain which also operated 90 Halloween pop-up stores (Halloween USA). However, the franchise operations did not last more than three years and the operation was eventually sold to Party City and Amscan. When this happened, Greg changed his store’s name to Party Giant. “For the first three years we merchandised the Halloween items inside Party Giant and operated two pop-up stores – which we called Halloween Superstores – in nearby cities,” he explained. “But we soon outgrew that! The following year – just our fourth in business – we opened a third pop-up store in our own town as well. From then on we did not look back.” Greg’s unwavering enthusiasm for the industry is what keeps him going. “I Below: Clear signage makes it easy for customers to choose their costumes and accessories. Below right: Balloons are an important part of the Party Giant business model.


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absolutely love running a party store and coming to work everyday,” he said. “For the past eight years, I have brought Sassy my dog to work with me most days. She does tricks for children and has quite a following! You cannot find that in a corporate, large company-owned party store.” Greg believes one of the secrets to the company’s strength is its balloon business. “The helium business has had its ups and downs (pun intended) here in the US, as shortages have had an effect on pricing and we are using more air-filled balloons and centerpieces. Our assortment has grown over the years as we have kept up with recent trends such as polka dot latex, mylar

Pop-Up Problems “Our biggest problem is locating empty retail buildings that are affordable. With the economy being on an upswing, finding empty buildings has become more difficult in the small towns that we like to go to. For now, we plan to maintain a smaller amount of pop-ups until Halloween falls on a weekend again.”

Top and above: Although separate stores, Party Giant and Halloween Superstores are joined within.

letters and numbers – and now the new chrome latex balloons which are hot!” Party Giant itself is a brightly lit and well decorated 4,000 sq ft party store, while the year-round Halloween Superstore tops even that, coming in at 8,000 sq ft. Originally used a holding space for all the product for the pop-ups, it soon became clear that there was a year-round demand. A recent relocation saw Party Giant moving next door to the Halloween store when the adjacent unit became available last year. “We have now created a passageway between the two businesses,” said Greg. “While sales are slower on the Halloween side at this time of year, there are always people mulling around!” Greg believes it is important that customers have an enjoyable shopping experience, and as a veteran of retailing (46 years and counting!) he emphasises that to be successful, stores need to offer something different. “There are so many retailers that your customer can go to,” he said. “When they come into our Halloween Superstores, they are given the full experience. Halloween-themed music is playing, staff are dressed up and decorations, props and animatronics are on display everywhere they look!” Before the Halloween season gets underway, Greg holds a meeting in the main Halloween store, where the team will sit down together to review new policies, paperwork and thoughts. “We then walk the stores together to discuss


06/04/2018 17:08

Talking To: Great Lakes Party & Gifts

new products, new themes, display methods and make-up techniques – it’s essential they understand how all the product is used.” Last year Halloween Superstore employed 90 temporary members of staff and more than 50% of these associates were returnees. “I love that we get the same team back year after year,” said Greg. “All but one of our returning management team has been with us in the past as well!” As an independent retailer, Greg and his team are able to make decisions quickly and be responsive to new trends and fashions, particularly where balloon décor is concerned. Party Giant’s balloon department is one of the most important parts of the business, with balloons accounting for around 25% of total sales. “We always listen to our customers and take their lead,” Greg explained. “Customers have been asking for tassel garlands and letter and number mylar balloons from examples they have seen on Pinterest. It’s a big boost for us.”

Top: Greg has been running Party Giant and Halloween Superstores for the last 16 years. Above: A big store means plenty of wall space to create organised, easy-to-use displays. Above right: Seasonal business is key to trade, with Greg making the most of any party opportunities.

Children’s parties, over the hill parties and luau parties are the most common, but gender reveal parties are also very popular now. “We were able to expand our selection right away and dedicate more store space to the product,” added Greg, who particularly enjoys the seasonal party side of the business. “We dedicated 32 feet of store space to New Year’s Eve items, then turned that over to St Patrick’s Day party supplies. While all this was going on, we also worked on Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, Academy Awards, Easter and Cinco De Mayo!” For dress-up, Party Giant’s bestselling lines across all categories are the licensed costumes, which sell well online and in-store.

The Online Offering “I will be the first to admit that we are very weak on social media. That is on top of my wish list to improve! We have got our foot in the door of online sales thanks to eBay, where offering free shipping has had a huge impact on our sales. We hope to be on Amazon shortly and then we will look at other platforms. Selling online gives me a very early look into trends for the upcoming season. We purchased six masks recently and had sold 280 by the end of the season!” “Licensed products are extremely important to our mix,” said Greg. “However, over the years, we learned that with licensed product we need to be competitive in the brick and mortar store and very competitive online! So the margins are not there for us, compared to the non-licensed products. We do keep up with any new movie release products – Black Panther is very hot right

now. We are looking forward to the new movie Infinity Wars, that will feature 16 superheroes as well as the release of the Incredibles 2 and the new Mary Poppins movie.” With such a vested interest in superhero costumes it comes as no surprise when Greg says his main supplier is Rubie’s Costumes, followed by Forum Products (owned by Rubie’s) and InDisguise.

Pet Peeve “More of our suppliers are making us sign a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policy. I have very mixed feelings on this. It does help the smaller retailer against the big conglomerates but is also price fixing, which is no good when suppliers are selling directly online for less. To help counteract that, we price match to what consumers can find online, within reason!”

Above: Halloween props and décor help create a fun in-store atmosphere.

“I am very fortunate to have three outstanding representatives with these firms, that are very knowledgeable and attentive,” he says, emphasising the importance of keeping up-to-date with the latest products to hit the market. Another way he does is this is with a Party Club of America (PCA) membership, which offers a lot of new product information for its members. It also helps retailers find new suppliers, as Greg explained. “About two years ago PCA set up a sort of speed-dating meeting. We got to sit down with 80 different vendors, some that we had done business with, but most that we had not. As a result of that event we added many new products into our mix. It was a great way to meet new suppliers.” Greg and his team also attended the H&P Expo show in New Orleans earlier this year, making the most of the threeday show. “Our first day is intentionally left open to view new vendors and new products, while the rest of the time is filled with appointments to view new products with existing vendors.” In a prime position to monitor the change in the US party market, Greg notes that there is more competition from online sources and predicts that there will continue to be a decline in business due to online sales. “If you are an independent party retailer, you need to be part of a party club,” he asserts. “This will help with everything from pricing to product knowledge.” For Greg, the future looks rosy. While undertaking a big push to focus on the online business, he is also reworking the main Halloween Superstore, updating and renewing displays to create a fresh look for the upcoming season. But it’s not all fun and games; “We also have to replace an outdated POS system, which will be costly and time-consuming. Ugggh!” MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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06/04/2018 17:08

2018 Catalogue available Now

 +44 (0) 28 9064 7119

+44 (0) 28 9064 5655 @palmeragencies

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05/04/2018 18:29





John Bowler has been part of the party industry for more years than he cares to remember! John currently runs the Balloon And Party Industry Alliance (or BAPIA) and can be contacted on

CONVENTIONS AND COMPETITIONS In his latest column John Bowler looks back at the recent World Balloon Convention, held in San Diego, California... It’s a hard life!


was very fortunate to be able to attend the Qualatex WBC this year. It is no small investment to attend an event such as this, but history and experience shows me that it is certainly a worthwhile investment and one that can reap big returns. The WBC is a professional event that is planned over a couple of years and is a huge investment for the organisers. I have heard it said on many occasions that it is nothing but a marketing event for the company that organises it. While it is probably quite true that they invest in organising the event with the aim of creating greater awareness and loyalty to their brand, they also ensure that those who attend have the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques, network with other professionals, work on large scale décor for the parties and compete in one of the many competitions that take place. This year, BAPIA helped to sponsor a UK team who entered the medium sculpture competition. They all did a fantastic job and the sculpture looked fantastic! Samuel Stamp-Dod of VIP Balloons has written a blog about his experience at and has allowed us to publish the following abridged extract.”

Right: Team GB looking tired “It had always been but pleased with their finished a dream of mine to sculpture! (l-r) Mike, Alison, attend the WBC and Lucy, Debbie and Samuel. Below: Nemo was the star of the show! meet balloon artists from across the world that I had admired. Plans started back in 2016 when I met with Mike Hurst of Reds, a balloon shop in Brackley, who had just returned from WBC 2016. I made a vow then that I would attend the 2018 event in San Diego! I decided early on that I wanted to compete in some of the competitions to stretch myself and entered four competitions; Medium Sculpture, Photo Frame, Column and Table Centrepiece. The first was a team effort, the next two to be completed as a pair with only the centrepiece as a solo entry. Mike was my natural choice for the Photo Frame and Column entries and then Debbie O’Neill from Wow Balloons in Benfleet, Lucy Hennessey from Balloon Power in Leighon-Sea and Alison Galley from Celebration Balloons of Rothwell all joined us to form Team GB for the sculpture entry. With the generous sponsorship of BAPIA and Balloon Market we set to work on creating our designs. As a team, we chose to make our sculpture based on the popular ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Finding Dory’ films with each

What Is BAPIA? The Balloon And Party Industry Alliance, or BAPIA as it’s more commonly known, is designed to work for the party industry to promote the benefits of using industry professionals and to bring significant benefits to our members. BAPIA is a member of the European Balloon and Party Council (EBPC) and keeps members updated on the latest news, including the most recent initiative – the Code Of Best Practice for balloon retailers and professionals. You can read more about this in BAPIA’s latest quarterly newsletter. Mailed directly to members, John is happy to send a copy of the latest edition to interested parties – simply email him at

team member taking sections of the sculpture to work on. As ‘King of Quicklinks’, Mike worked on the shell of the design. Debbie spent hours and hours and several balloons to create Hank the octopus, Alison created Dory while I designed Nemo and Lucy worked on the coral to form the base of the design. As we are spread far and wide across the UK, we only actually met in person once prior to the build, with the rest of the discussions made via phone and messaging services. When the day of the build came, we all felt underprepared and nervous. The build had a strict 12-hour time limit, starting at midday and ending at midnight (although as our flight had only landed a few hours before, it felt like starting at 7pm and working through the night!). We were not allowed to do any preparation prior to the start time, balloons had to remain in their bags and no framing could be prepared. The hours whizzed by as we all worked on the different areas of the design and, inevitably, tempers got shorter as we all grew more and more tired. Fortunately, Mike Harris, of For Every Occasion in Rhyl, who had competed before, came by and gave us the best bit of advice that we needed: take a break! So we did, and after a short meal break we were back, feeling much better, reinvigorated and ready to complete our task. I’m pleased to say that the design was completed within the time limit and, even though we were all shattered at the end, the design was fantastic and so much more than any of us had expected. It was a week before we found out that we had been awarded a Bronze for our efforts. The target had been met!”


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06/04/2018 17:09

Talking To: Grabo

Balloon Business The

Left: David Pike, group director of Calendar Club and Halloween HQ. Above: The first Halloween HQ of the 2017 season opened in September in Dundrum, Ireland.

An Italian company which specialises in foil balloons of all shapes and sizes, Grabo International has seen its business undergo a number of changes over the last few years. The company puts this growth down to its unique philosophy: happiness! PPE spoke to overseas manager Jonathan Grassi to find out more.


Above: Masha and the talian company Grabo International Bear is just one of Grabo’s has been making high-quality foil popular licenses. Right: balloons for the last 37 years. The Grabo stand at this years Spielwarenmesse. Already well-known across much of Far right: Overseas mainland Europe, the family company manager Jonathan Grassi. has recently been making strides into the UK market after becoming the main first began and UK distributor for Betallic balloons this closeness in 2017, adding the popular lines to the business into its already packed portfolio. ensures the very With a wide range of product available, high quality standards for which Grabo Grabo specialises in street balloons, jumbo is known. “We are also extremely flexible shapes and minishapes as well as licensed with our clients,” and generic everyday he continued. “We designs. From its have great teamwork modest start at the Business has been and co-operation beginning of the with colleagues and 80s – when founder outstanding. Our distributors, the solid Giorgio Grassi was exponential yearly growth and sound respect of the first to produce shows that customers are the market and its foil balloons in mechanisms, as well Europe – Grabo happy with the job that is as devotion to the now employs more being done. Taking on the product – and joy!” than 200 people Betallic distributorship The sheer size of around the world. its catalogue allows “Grabo has was a strategic move Grabo’s products been distinguished which has strongly to suit over the years for enhanced our position the taste the quality of our of all the products and the within the party sector. countries promptness of Jonathan Grassi it works our service,” said in. Offering Jonathan, explaining in the region why the company of 3,000 balloons, the catalogue has been so successful. “Our business offers an incredible range of deco is also supported by an outstanding balloons, digits, 9”, 18”, 36”, warehouse and logistics mechanism, the engineering of our innovations and the beauty of our designs.” Right: B-Pad balloons allow customers to add their The balloons themselves have been own messages – again and again! Far right: Grabo 40” made entirely in Italy since the company Superloons are available in an assortment of colours.

everyday and seasonal shapes, 3-D and 4-D balloons, custom balloons and more. This wide and varied portfolio allows Grabo to operate easily and effecteively across the markets in Europe, South America, the Middle-East, Northern and Eastern Africa, Taiwan and Russia. “Some of our most significant and popular lines are the numbers and letters shapes,” said Jonathan. “We have the vastest range of these, offering four different sizes and innumerous colours. The Betallic line, which we took on last year, has


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06/04/2018 17:11

Talking To: Grabo

Above: All Grabo product is made in Italy at the company’s HQ. Right: President Gioncarlo Grassi oversees the family business.

“Our innovative and

revolutionary inflatable products are made out of mylar and foil, are filled with helium and air and are successful all over the world!” Jonathan Grassi now been uniquely distributed by Grabo all over continental Europe and the United Kingdom.” The last 12 months have been a whirlwind of activity for Grabo. It was the year Grabo bought in the Betallic line and became the only distributor for the US brand throughout continental Europe and the strongest in the United Kingdom. “Business has been outstanding,” testifies Jonathan. “Our exponential yearly growth shows that customers are happy with the job that is being done. Taking on the Betallic distributorship was a strategic move which has strongly enhanced our position within the party sector. It has added variety to our line, with additional numbers, letters, Wonderloons and solid colour balloons.” As both supplier and wholesaler, Grabo operates on a number of different levels. Across most of the global market, Grabo Above right: Multi-sided Maxiloon ballons from Grabo can be combined to great effect. Right: Grabo’s Wonderloons collection includes a number of oversized supershapes.

Balloons are an essential part of the European party market and as such it is a particularly competitive area of the industry, with new designs and innovations being launched to market almost constantly. How does Grabo keep up? “We are able to stay competitive because of our constant research into new products (thanks to our engineers and chemists) and our constant research into new ideas and inventions (thanks to our marketing department),” said Jonathan. “Of course, being in close collaboration with our primary resource: the clients, helps a lot as well!” So design and innovation is important to Grabo? “It’s essential that we are able

Betallic’s European

only works with distributors Partnership and wholesalers, with whom it “Having more than 30 years of experience has established firm friendship creating our business on both sides of the ocean bonds over the years. and leading foil balloon production into a new “In Europe you can find era, Grabo and Betallic are pleased to officially our products in all the main announce the launch of the European partnership. distributing houses in all the With this new partnership agreement, the countries,” said Jonathan, newly formed Grabo International will transform “from the bigger ones right the European scenario with over 2,000 new though to the smaller ones.” balloon designs, the collaboration of creative, The UK market has been imaginative minds, and tremendous potential for organised a little differently future growth. though and following the We are thankful for the network and relevant market trends Grabo relationships we have created and built together. adopted a double policy: dealing Your support has allowed us to diversify and grow with retailers both directly internationally. And, with your continued support, and through distributors. we are committed to offer innovative, unique and “UK retailers will either find fun quality balloons. our product at We want to thank everybody, both old friends distributors and new, who supports our magnificent journey around the country or from our early years and well into the future!” on our direct Giancarlo Grassi, president, Grabo International b2b shop www.graboto innovate,” agreed Jonathan. “Over balloons. the last few years the balloon market has com,” explained changed significantly, but adaptability is Jonathan. New customers one of the core elements of our strength. need to request access We are flexible and experienced but credentials but once the order very responsive, so we have managed to is placed, will be able cope very well with these changes and to receive the products made a stunning job!” He continued; in a matter of days. “What we look for when designing “In the United Kingdom new balloons goes beyond licenses and retailers are fundamental to trends. While of course we hold some Grabo: they draw our path fantastic licenses and have a cuttingso it is very important for edge artistic department that follows the us to follow their ideas and latest fashions, we look for beauty and implement them the best way difference. That is our edge: to think we can,” he added. “We believe out of the box and deliver something in teamwork different. That is why we are loved.” and that is why So what new lines are in store for we pay visits to the rest of 2018 and the 2019 season? our retailers, we “We are always working on new lines, exhibit at trade looking for that beauty and difference fairs wherever and following trends – and it will we can and we all be revealed in good time. I can’t constantly keep give much information now, but just in touch with wait for our 2019 line and prepare customers by to use only one word: Wow!” phone.” MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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CALL: +44 (0)113 200 1050 E-MAIL: VISIT: 38_PPE_March April 2018.indd 1

fun_shack @Fun_Shack Fun Shack (UK) Ltd 05/04/2018 18:30

Comedy and Novelty Costumes


Fashion Inset: Comedy costumes are big news at festivals and summer events.

Fancy dress is always an attention-grabber, but partygoers looking to really raise a smile now have more comedy and novelty costumes to choose from now than ever before. PPE takes a walk on the funny side.


omedy costumes have always been in demand for stag dos or group nights out, but a recent rise in innovative styles has seen that popularity rise. Consumers are able to choose from the classics – bananas, Morphsuits and ‘fat’ suits as well as the new foam styles, oversized inflatables and novelty ride-ons. “The reality,” says Mark Brett, UK agent for Boland Party, “is that all fancy dress outfits are comic or novelty. Whether you dress up as a banana or a medieval warrior, it is going to be a novelty and someone will think you look comic!” He continues; “The entire market is about creating alter-egos, dreams, heroes and the unattainable – but above all fun and laughter. The great thing about this industry is that despite every effort from suppliers to develop new ideas most come from the imagination of the consumer. My advice is to keep a close eye on stuff like Pinterest and Instagram. Despite what we suppliers try to tell you this is where you will find what is happening and you can react quicker than a supplier by being creative with product that is already available!” Right: Food-inspired costumes are an increasingly popular choice, with options including taco (Amscan), chilli pepper (Bristol Novelty) and pineapple (Smiffys).

According to Bristol Novelty’s joint managing director Chris Bater, comedy and novelty fancy dress products are one of the areas where Bristol Novelty has excelled the past ten years. “The desire to be seen in amusing and eye-catching costumes is on the increase,” he states. “While we can focus on the very obviously amusing or risqué costume, there is nothing funnier than watching a group of monks chasing a nun at a Headingly test match! All costumes have the potential to be amusing, especially when worn in big groups.”

Food For Thought

Food is a popular dress-up theme at the moment, with a number of companies focusing on novelty food and drink costumes, especially for couples. Folat has as assortment of foam food suits, such as a red pepper and a carrot suit as well as hamburgers, pizza and french fries foam suits for adults and children, so the whole family can dress up together. The ‘Bacon and Eggs Couple’ from Rasta Imposta is a fun way for couples to team up, while the ‘Get Real Cheeseburger’ and ‘Popcorn Dress’ are great, silly costumes forAbove anyand occasion. right: The H&PFun Expo attracts over 2,500 buyersespecially from all around the world. Shack food costumes, those suitable for couples – such as the cheese burger and fries – have been successful. Smiffys always updates its foodinspired collection and one of the latest additions is a fun pineapple costume. Meanwhile, new 2018 lines from Amscan include new foodthemed styles such as a taco tunic, pizza slice and a great new peanut butter and jam option for couples. Chris also believes that social media has helped to raise the profile of this type of attention-grabbing costume. “The success of the piggyback costumes, which we first showed at Spring Fair 2015, was very much a Facebook sensation,” he MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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05/04/2018 18:31

Comedy and Novelty Costumes

Family Fun

“We’ve expanded our humour fancy dress offering this year to include some hilarious new additions for both children and adults to enjoy. Humour costumes are great for any fancy dress event and appeal to all ages, so for children we have an inflatable Tears of Laughter emoticon costume and Heart Eyes for You emoticon style.” Charlotte Cox, marketing manager, Amscan added. “And we will continue to introduce new costumes to give even better choice in our selection.” Also advising retailers to stay abreast of online trends is Emma Angel, director of Angels Fancy Dress. “Keep an eye on Pinterest and Instagram for costume ideas, as this is often where people first start sharing new ideas and trends. Novelty costumes are no different. Make sure to stock anything that looks like it’s going to be very popular.” Angels is the UK distributor for Rasta Imposta, one of the most well-known pioneers of the novelty fancy dress market, and so is well-placed to give an overview of the market as the costumes are extremely important to its portfolio. “Comedy and novelty products have always been very popular, but there’s definitely been a rise in customers purchasing them,” adds Emma. “For example, Rasta Imposa’s ‘Shark Attack’ and ‘Chilli Pepper’ were both best sellers for Halloween 2017.” As to what’s popular, Emma says the classic banana is always a bestseller while the stag range is expected to do well this year. “These lightweight costumes can




Above left: Gimp from Fun Shack is part of the new stag do range and is sure to raise a smile (if nothing else)! Above middle: Female costumes reimagined for men are becoming increasingly popular for Henbrandt’s comedy lines. Above right: Amscan’s new Oktoberfest themed addition to its Ride-On collection of costumes is sure to give people a giggle perfect for any Oktoberfest celebrations. Left: Folat’s novelty children’s costumes means that the whole family can dress up together!

easily be packed away for a weekend abroad, making them perfect for the party season, and they’re brilliant fun!” Over the last couple of years Angels has expanded its Rasta Imposta lines to include novelty costumes such as the oversized Hoopster range,which include a huge lightweight hoop around the waist, ensuring wearers really stand out from the crowd. Fun Shack has also noticed the trend for novelty costumes rising in popularity in recent times and has developed a whole new range of novelty costumes in response. “We have found that costumes which are easy to put on over the top of normal clothes are the most popular options,” said Alice Knight, who looks after sales and marketing for Fun Shack. “As a result, all of our novelty lines are all-in-one pull-on costumes or tabards.” Fun Shack has also expanded its animals range with the addition of an


Left (l to r): 1 Bristol Novelty has a wide range of comedy costumes to appeal to all types of events such as stag nights, hen nights, sporting events and rugby tours. 2 Animal costumes from Rasta Imposta such as Flamingo and Deluxe Parrot are high impact, and will go down brilliantly at any party. 3 Piggyback costumes from Smiffys are perfect for anyone looking for unique and totally hilarious outfits. Different styles are available for every occasion, such as Bavarian Piggyback costumes for Oktoberfest and a range of animals. 4 Widmann’s plush animal costumes continue to do well with outfits including a cheeky sexy cow costume and raging bull.

octopus and a lobster. “Our Lift Me Ups are selling well,” Alice continued, “and we have added an assortment of Halloween themed costumes to this range.” Fun Shack has also introduced a new ‘Stag Do’ range for 2018 in response to demand from its customers. “The overriding theme of embarrassing the groom inspired this range,” said Alice, “which includes the Kiss of Life Guard, Gimp, Cheers Leader and many more options that will guarantee a laugh!” Comedy and novelty fancy dress is also continuing to gain traction in Henbrandt’s range, according to marketing executive George Morgan. “The dress-up, silly or comedy element in our product has always sold well and continues to do so,” he said. “Most of our novelty costumes are for men but we are looking at increasing the number of female ones as these are also becoming more popular.” “A number of the lines included in this category – such as female costumes for men – are becoming more popular,” George added. “We have recently bought in new comedy costumes as these never let us down.” With comedy costumes performing well across the board, there will be plenty of new items launched throughout the coming months to make your customers smile. Below left: These new novelty foam wigs and hats from Palmer Agencies are oversized, colourful, outstanding, loud and above all fun! Almost 20 styles of fun products are available. Right: Being creative with our reindeer tiara and some makeup , is a very simple but effective way instant fantasy - Boland Party

Animal Magic

“We have definitely seen a rise in the popularity of costumes and accessories with a comedy element, so many items in our new range will focus on this area in particular. Customers are veering more towards something to put a smiles on the faces of others, which can only be a good thing! Our plush animal costumes have always done and continue to well with costumes including our cheeky sexy cow costume and raging bull. New to the range last year we added the fun explorer on ostrich costume and ride-on dinosaur.” Anna Solly, UK distributor, Widmann


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11/04/2018 14:30

FEEDBACK TALKING ABOUT TRADE SHOWS Some things just can’t be done over the internet. It’s ideal for placing orders, checking stock levels and sending off invoices but not so good for trying on a new mask, getting hands-on with the latest designs or bonding over a well-deserved drink at the end of a long day. Trade shows are an essential part of any retail business, so we asked the party trade to share their experiences of this year’s H&P Expo, Spielwarenmesse and Spring Fair. Here’s what they had to say. POSITIVE ATMOSPHERE “Both Nuremberg and Spring Fair were very good for Boland Party. We were somewhat concerned about the move to Hall 5, but despite the paucity of party suppliers I think most exhibitors within the party section were pleased with the final result. It certainly seemed a more positive atmosphere compared to the last couple of years. But we must remember that that we were all moved out of Hall 5 a few years ago which created that very indifferent feeling in the first place. The Spring Fair organisers need to keep their wits about them as more UK visitors are going to Nuremberg, which is expanding its party section next year.” MARK BRETT, UK agent, Boland Party

Inset: A central location in Hall 5 for the bright and welcoming ITI UK stand.


ONLINE TRENDS “We had an excellent Spring Fair this year, probably one of the best for several years. This was partly due to the change of hall but also due to the large number of new products. We know that in tough and uncertain economic situations balloons tend to buck the trend and we believe that is very much the case in the current climate. It is the humble balloon that keeps many a party retailer ‘afloat’ (pun intended).

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Trends in our market are much determined by social media on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. In 2018 we have a few home-grown events which will have their own impact, such as the Royal Wedding and the World Cup (that could be interesting!). Thanks to social media, trends can occur overnight, while it used to take a year or so to influence the consumer. Now it can happen within 24 hours.” BRENDAN FAHY, sales and marketing, ITI UK

Right: Creative Party was part of the Cardgains village in Spring Fair’s Hall 3.

SHOW SUCCESS “Pioneer Europe exhibited at both Spielwarenmesse and Spring Fair. Both shows were busy, with a constant stream of visitors. At Spring Fair, customers seemed happy with the new location in Hall 5, while at Spielwarenmesse there was talk about how to make more space available to the party industry. Both shows were very successful for us. Chrome balloons stole the show at Below: The chrome balloon décor on Pioneer’s stand made a big impact. both events and we were delighted with the tremendous reaction to the product itself and our stand décor. In terms of design trends, the unicorn theme was still very strong and mermaids are obviously in ascendance as a trend. Colour-wise, rose gold and gold glitter were key themes and the new Qualatex wedding balloons received a lot of attention too.” JULIE DOMMETT, head of marketing, Pioneer Europe


Below: Boland created a fun surf shack stand at both shows, which showcased its lines perfectly.

GREAT NETWORKING “We had a fantastic time setting up our temporary home in the Cardgains Village this year. The show, as always, brings great networking opportunities and we were thrilled to catch up with old faces and build relationships with new. There was a great buzz surrounding our new launches, especially the self-inflating Balloon Toppers and the new Pink Chic range. The feedback was invaluable and really cemented our belief that we are moving in the right direction when bringing fresh and innovative items to the market. We are very excited about the future.” HOLLY FORDER, product and marketing manager, Creative Party


06/04/2018 17:14



Inset: The Spring Fair catwalk helped create a buzzy atmosphere for Rubie’s Masquerade.

EXCITING ATMOSPHERE “Spring Fair 2018 proved to be a hit with Rubie’s Masquerade customers, it was amazing to see so many of our customers, both existing and new, enjoy the stand and the show. The buzz in Hall 5 created such an exciting atmosphere at the Rubie’s stand. We are so lucky to work with such amazing licenses and to see them be brought to life on the catwalk, it always delights our customers and partners.” TRACEY DEVINE, head of licensing and marketing EMEA, Rubie’s Masquerade TALKING PRODUCT “We had a hugely successful round of trade shows this year, both at H&P Expo and in Spielwarenmesse. We wrote more orders than previous shows as retailers dusted off the cobwebs from Halloween 2017 and bought confidently. It was nice to see a lot of store owners bringing along the staff who actually work the shop floor and handle the day-to-day running of the business. We enjoyed talking product and giving the sales and operations managers an extra string to their bow.” ADNAN RASOOL, ceo, Splashes & Spills Below: A selection of the Splashes & Spills highlights from H&P Expo and Spielwarenmesse.

Right: The Delights Direct stand at Spielwarenmesse made the most of its space.

VARIED VISITORS “Once again, we found the footfall was very good in Hall 9 at Spielwarenmesse and we met a decent number of potential new customers. We were impressed by the spectrum of visitors; we had the opportunity to talk to a wide range of retailers and buyers, from large multiples to small independents.” STUART WHEELER, account manager, Delights Direct

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK “Although we felt that the Spring Fair footfall was down, most of our current customers visited us. The show is a very time-effective way to get feedback from customers and for our sales team to bring up points for us to react to. Listening to our customers has always been top priority for us. Our customers see us as a onestop supplier, so having a presence at the shows allows us to display our very popular co-ordinated themes and feature matching design selections across our products.” EDWARD WILLIAMS, general manager, Simon Elvin


“In general, Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair

was well organised and there were a lot of visitors who were interested in party products. The trend we saw a lot of focus on was circus – we had a lot of that on the Folat stand as well, with new pink circus costumes and accessories. For Folat the fair was very successful. We had a lot of visitors from all over the world and the sales team was busy the whole time with existing and new customers. We also showed a lot of new products, such as the new confetti balloons and solid colour tableware as well as new wedding, flamingo and toucan lines.” ANGELA REIJENGA, marketing, Folat

Below: From carnival to Halloween, Amscan’s Spring Fair stand had something for everyone.

Above: The big, bold colourful Folat stand attracted a lot of attention in Spielwarenmesse.

KEY SHOW “Amscan exhibited at Spring Fair, which we see as being a key show in the calendar for the industry. We launched our new Sempertex collection of decorator latex balloons which received a very positive response, with demonstrations by Chris Horne throughout the week. The stand also featured an extensive mix of fancy dress product from everyday themes to Halloween and licensed lines, which all proved popular. The unicorn trend remains noticeable and the mermaid theme seems to be growing. Our key trends for this summer are pineapples, llamas and cactuses.” CHARLOTTE COX, marketing manager, Amscan

CUSTOMER SERVICE “The annual trade shows are still important for us. We exhibited at both Spring Fair and Spielwarenmesse this year and we are studying the possibility of exhibiting in some other ones in the future. Trade shows are not what they used to be, in terms of people giving you orders there, but it is always good for us to keep showing our new items, meeting our customers and seeing the direction the market is heading in. It’s always good to meet with our existing customers as well, to see what else we can offer them.” GEORGE MORGAN, marketing, Henbrandt NEW BUSINESS “Fun Shack enjoyed its third year showing at Spielwarenmesse this February. Once again it was a successful show for us as we met new customers and had a chance to catch up with existing contacts. We met with a range of potential customers this year, from across Europe and beyond, including many new businesses just starting out. This was also a great opportunity for us to debut our multiple new ranges we have developed for 2018. Our stag do and novelty ranges got a lot of attention and interest from a range of new customers.” ALICE KNIGHT, sales and marketing, Fun Shack MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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NEW CATALOGUE OUT NOW! Featuring: - 7 new Premium Partyware licensed ranges - New PAW Patrol™ licensed partyware - All your favourite licenses, now with even larger ranges - Exclusive Rachel Ellen partyware ranges - QualatexŽ Retail latex balloons for all occasions. - Banners, badges, candles and much much more!

Request your new Party Collection Catalogue today! Contact Pioneer Europe by calling +44 (0)1279 501090 or emailing Visit our NEW website at

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06/04/2018 15:17

Focus On: Balloon Trends

Making A


hanks to some clever styling and a range of fresh colour palettes, balloons are being hailed as one of the big décor trends of 2018. Modern versions of the party classics are being used for everything from backdrops to statement walls and dramatic centrepieces, while being mixed with colourful flowers, dramatic foliage or paper tassels means that there’s a whole world of possibilities out there for the creative balloon artist. As a more affordable choice than many other large-scale décor options, the increasingly inventive ways of using balloons continue to make them a desirable addition to many modern events. A service as well as a product, balloons and balloon décor are also mostly immune to the online

Below: An example of the popular organic styling from Amscan. Middle: New to the market from Creative Party are these selfinflating balloon cake toppers. Right: Brand new to Folat’s offering is the confetti balloon, a 12” latex which is available in eight different colours, two shapes, and comes with confetti already pre-loaded.

competition which poses a threat to much of the rest of the party and costume industry. It’s vital that balloon artists and buyers are able to stay on top of the trends and fashions which their customers will be asking for. In addition to YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest – which are overflowing with images of oversized round balloons, organic designs and wedding décor and are the modern-day inspiration source for artists of all persuasions – trade shows are a great way to discover new designs and see new techniques first-hand. This year’s key shows for balloons were Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair and Birmingham’s Spring Fair; both allowed balloon suppliers to showcase their latest creations and inspire visitors with their dramatic stand décor. Last year’s key balloon trends – script balloons, organic clustered designs, pink, rose gold, glitter and confetti as well as unicorns, mermaids, flamingos and pineapples – were still very much in evidence. New trends for 2018 were primarily building on these, while a special mention has to go to the Qualatex chrome balloons which set the tone for the metallic shades and foil stamping

As one of the cornerstones of the party industry, balloons are currently having something of a moment. Whether it’s for a baby shower, wedding or birthday party, PPE takes a look at the latest balloon trends. Left: The metallic sheen of Amscan’s Satin Luxe balloons makes them on trend for 2018.

which are starting to make their mark on this year. “Balloons are a key part of our business and an essential for any celebration,” says Amscan’s Charlotte Cox. “The rose gold colour trend remains hugely popular and translates well across our foil letters and numbers, Left: The 46” pink flamingo shape, which launched this spring, is a new addition to the Qualatex Microfoil range. Right: Balloon artist Ruth Lederman sells a lot of confetti-filled deco Bubbles.

Artist Talk

“I am currently a level 3 student at Capel Manor which is the only college in the country offering Balloon Artistry. It is a great way to keep informed of new trends and exchange ideas with others, which is often difficult if you works on your own. I work from home so I find that I am less obviously influenced by current trends such as unicorns or under the sea for example. I sell a lot of personalised deco Bubbles such as confetti and Orbz for events such as bar and barmitzvah’s or birthdays etc. Trend-wise, I think pastel colours look great when they are filled with shredded confetti and I am looking forward to incorporating aqua-coloured balloons into my offering. Surprisingly I have only had requests for rose gold twice. I must admit I cannot stand tulle covered balloons though!” Ruth Lederman, owner, Ruth’s Balloons

standard and jumbo shapes plus UltraShapes including the Orbz, which continues to be a bestseller.” She continues; “Metallic shades are also popular and our Satin Luxe balloons fit this trend perfectly. We have recently added five spectacular new colours to the range which can add MARCH/APRIL 2018 PROGRESSIVE PARTY EUROPE

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06/04/2018 17:15

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05/04/2018 18:31

Focus On: Balloon Trends

a classy touch to any occasion.” Amscan has also found that the unicorn trend is showing no signs of slowing down and its extended range of balloons have been in great demand. “In particular the unicorn AirWalker makes a stunning party statement that unicorn fans love,” adds Charlotte, who also highlights the new mermaidthemed balloons Amscan has launched for 2018, including a fabulous seahorse SuperShape. As the new sole distributor of Sempertex latex balloons for the UK and Ireland, Amscan is also encouraging decorators to bring their ideas to life using the collection. “The Sempertex collection includes 57 stunning colour options

Balloon Boost

“Balloons have been a new addition to our stores over the last two years and certain lines have been very popular. Numbers have always sold well and we sell them in a few different colours, so they’re appropriate for anyone’s birthday. We believe that trends will remain fairly similar throughout 2018, with bubble balloons and numbers being our bestsellers for the year. Licensed balloons do well for children’s parties, especially lines such as Frozen and Star Wars. Superhero balloons are likely to be strong too, as so many superhero films are being released throughout the year. Our retail staff are all professionally trained to create elaborate balloon bouquets for events, and we’ll be selling these throughout the year at our North London store. In our central London store, the focus is on birthday numbers, bubble balloons and high quality foil balloons. Retailers and decorators should display balloons around the shop, either as a large balloon wall display, or with a couple of balloon bouquets to really show what you can do.” Emma Angel, director, Angels Fancy Dress

available in four different textures; fashion colours, crystal colours, satin colours and metallic colours,” Charlotte explains. “They’re perfect for creating endless exciting designs.” The new chrome balloon range from Qualatex was launched earlier this year at the trade shows. While made of latex, the balloons are ‘rich, reflective and radiant’ and are available in a range of six different colours; mauve, green, blue, purple, silver and gold. “Popular themes in balloon decoration at the moment include organic-style décor,” explains Julie Dommett, head

Inset: Giant latex balloons from Unique Party, complete with tassels!

Above: The new Qualatex Chrome balloons have taken the metallic trend one step further. Right: Confetti-filled balloons are making a difference to Henbrandt’s balloon business.

of marketing for Pioneer Europe. “It involves different balloons being inflated to a variety of sizes and combined, often with accent elements such as flowers, greenery or tissue.” As dedicated balloon enthusiasts, Qualatex runs a full education programme and the spring/summer timetable includes a number of Wedding Trend Masterclasses that teach both this popular technique and a number of other designs. “The tropical theme is still strong,” Julie adds, “with a focus on flowers, palm trees and exotic birds such as flamingos.” Creative Party has also developed its range this year to include some fantastic new innovative products, with selfinflating a particular highlight. “Balloons are the bread and butter of the party industry and we always pay special attention to new designs and trends,” says marketing assistant Lyndsey Witts. “Self-inflating technology was an area we were very excited to explore and we have added a great selection of balloon cake toppers which are brand new to the market.” Creative Party has also embraced the foil letter trend, with a brand new Below: Delights Direct has added over 400 new latex items from the Sempertex range including these stylish mixed colour age balloons.

balloon banner range from age 30 to 100 in gold as well as a fabulous rainbow-coloured happy birthday banner. “We haven’t forgotten the beloved rose gold theme either,” she continues. “That still remains a popular colour choice among trendsetters and we have introduced a new balloon weight to match perfectly.” Although not a balloon specialist in the strictest sense, party supplier Henbrandt has also noticed that balloons are becoming increasingly important to its overall offering. “We have found that people keep looking for different balloons items, such as confettifilled or printed balloons,” explained marketing executive George Morgan. “As a part of the business balloons and other party accessories do seem to be more popular than dress-up at the moment, so we are developing key ranges to complement our existing lines.” What is clear from this is that staying on top of current trends and embracing new ways of working is essential for balloon artists looking to maximise their business. It looks like the organic trend is here to stay for the next year or so, so if you haven’t tried it yet; grab your pump, get rid of your balloon sizer, throw all the rules out of the window and have some fun!

Spoilt For Choice

“I think it is going to be an exciting year for balloon décor and it’s an important section for us. Exciting new additions to our range such as Sempertex and Qualatex Chrome mean that the walls are bulging, but it’s great to be able to offer such a wide variety of products!” Stuart Wheeler, account manager, Delights Direct


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16/04/2018 11:43

is the new online news website for the global party and costume industry. Launched by the leading publisher to the worldwide party sector, Progressive Party Europe, the website will serve as an essential online resource for the global costume, party and balloon market. «T  wice-weekly newsletter landing in over 8,000 inboxes « Industry jobs / agents board « Resource section with industry analysis «D  igital editions of Progressive Party Europe « F ully supported by industry associations and key trade shows

“We know our retail buyers trust and rely on Progressive Party Europe for their news, product information and seasonal focuses the launch of an online service reaching their inboxes will help retailers even more, which is something all suppliers can support.” Tracey Devine, head of marketing and licensing EMEA, Rubie’s Masquerade.

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11/04/2018 11:14

To sign up for the newsletter please visit

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11/04/2018 11:14

Best sellers Kate Moore CAT E G O R Y

As we move into spring, PPE asks a selection of retailers what’s been selling well for Q1 2018

Jollyjesters Fancy Dress M A N UFACTURE RS/RANGES


Fancy dress retail and hire shop with thousands of quality costumes to choose from.


Adult Fancy Dress

Pirate costumes from Smiffys and Wicked Costume

There has been no real pattern since Christmas which is unusual. We have seen a total range from cavemen and lifeguards to the decades and tarts and vicars – pirates are as popular as ever. One thing we have noticed is some of the usual themes have dropped away, for example saloon girl, cancan and camouflage outfits.

Children’s Fancy Dress

Rubie’s, Smiffy’s and Wicked Costumes - Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr Fox, Willie Wonka, pirates, Vikings, Roman girls.

The supermarkets had a bit of a monopoly on David Walliams characters for World Book Day but we sold lots of Harry Potter and Roald Dahl-themed costumes. Harry Potter was the full range of characters and the kids were very specific with how they wanted their costumes to look! Pirates are still popular for boys and girls.


Wigs from Wicked Costumes and neon pieces from Wicked and Smiffys

There’s still a lot of 80s and 90s dress up and people are accessorising their own clothes as a base for this mainly, so they often buy neon beads, bangles, leg warmer, tutus, gloves or maybe hot pants or a ra-ra skirt. We don’t really compete with the chains for St. Patrick’s Day but as it was a Saturday there were more structured events so we did do a few deely boppers and hats.

Face Paints

Snazaroo, PaintGlow

We mainly sell make-up by Snazaroo and PaintGlow, and people are doing lots of full face in colour so blue for Smurfs, green the The Hulk, orange for Oompa Loompas, etc.

Anything Else?

Funeral fancy dress

We mainly cater for birthday parties or wedding anniversaries but occasionally get a totally unique request. We recently dressed a man as a parrot for his friend’s funeral and another funeral the whole congregation dressed in 50s rock n roll. is the new online news website for the global party and costume industry. Launched by the leading publisher to the worldwide party sector, Progressive Party Europe, the website serves as an essential online resource for the global costume, party and balloon market.


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Wicked Costumes


For sponsorship and commercial enquiries please contact Rob Willis on For news submissions and content enquiries, please immediately get in touch with Jacqui Parr on


06/04/2018 17:18

Best sellers


Mike Hurst CAT E G O R Y

Party With Reds

Based on a busy high street, Reds specialises in providing balloons and party supplies across Northamptonshire.




Foil Balloons

Birthday and licensed from Qualatex

We are a Qualatex Balloon Boutique and are selling lots of pink and blue sparkle for birthdays, as well as Disney licensed balloons.

Latex Balloons

Qualatex Bubbles

Mostly plain latex displays are selling well although Bubbles are still the biggest seller. There have been lots of birthday requests. It’s all been about birthdays this month!

Licensed Balloons

Disney and Marvel from Qualatex

The biggest themes we’re seeing people ask for are Disney Princesses and the Avengers and with the new film out soon we’re expecting this to continue doing well.

Balloon Décor

Qualatex Quick Links

Decor will always be a huge part of our business, and Quick Links are a constant feature in most of our work.

Fashion Balloons

Mermaids and unicorns from Qualatex

Mermaids are selling well – the new Qualatex especially. As are the rose gold 34-inch numbers, all for birthdays right now. 16-inch Northstar numbers have also been popular.

Rebecca Lee-Allen CAT E G O R Y

Adult Costumes

Frog Orange Party


Magic by Freddys




Two stores in Oxford, one specialising in fancy dress and one a successful balloon decorating and event business.


Historic hire costumes are doing really well and being a university town there are lots of themed nights so we hire out lots of Henry VIII, Edwardian and Medieval outfits.

Children’s Costumes

Historical and licensed lines from Smiffys, Rubie’s and Bristol Novelty

Again the historic school themes result in lots of requests for Victorian, Tudor and Egyptian costumes. World Book Day saw a lot of Gangsta Grannies, Gryffindors and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Plus the usual Harrys and Hermiones, Where’s Wallys, Hobbits, Gandalphs and Katniss Evergreens.


Wigs and 80s lines from Smiffys

This market is doing well and birthday themes of 70s and 80s are still bringing in lots of people looking for accessories to customise their own outfit. We also get a lot of Mad Hatters and Alice in Wonderland theme requests.


Rose gold numbers, unicorns, mermaids and flamingos from Qualetex and Amscan

Rose gold is huge at the moment. Anything rose gold is doing well but particularly the big numbers (34-inch). Supershape rainbows, unicorns and flamingos are also selling well. Personalisation is still big and we can print foils in-house now with Silhouette Cameo.


Rose gold lines from Unique Party and Creative Party

Any tableware in rose gold is doing very well, it’s the colour of the moment for 2018. Talking Tables also do a great range of unicorn and birthday tableware, which is really popular.

Anything Else?

Jonathan’s Fireworks gender reveal

Even outside of fireworks season we sell fireworks each week. Very popular at the moment is the Jonathan’s Fireworks gender reveal which shoots up either all blue or all pink fireworks!


Unique Party


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06/04/2018 17:18

where halloween, haunt & party come alive The Halloween & Party Expo, co-located with HAuNTcon, is where you’ll discover fascinating new products from over 350 exhibitors, network with seasoned veterans, receive free education and obtain tips and tricks for advancing your business. Be part of a world-class show experience at Halloween & Party Expo.




Stay In The Know • OBC_PPE_March April 2018.indd 1

05/04/2018 18:38

Progressive Party Europe - March/April 2018  
Progressive Party Europe - March/April 2018