This is a guestpost by Alison Baker, designer of spectacular sustainable knitwear brand, Ally Bee. For the holiday season tradeshows for her brand she decorated by upcycling and repurposing her decor to reduce the waste produced by tradeshows. 

‘Retail extravaganza’ and ‘sustainable consumption’. Hmm, two modern concepts tricky to reconcile. As the owner of knitwear brand Ally Bee, now in its third retail year, I decided to take a risky leap into a one week-retail-selling-whirlwind amongst 700 stalls of tinsel, pom poms and Christmas 2016 ‘must-haves’ to showcase and sell my sustainably sourced knitwear. With visual merchandising props courtesy of my love of up-cycling,  re-purposing, jumble sale-ing and verge busting, I brought a tiny touch of a different way to set up a portable retail outlet at Spirit of Christmas at Kensington Olympia exhibition centre in London. And if I do say so myself, it looked pretty damn good.

My enthusiastic erection of up-cycled visual merchandising was but the tiniest drop in an ocean of temporary facades, fittings and flooring all destined for fast-track landfill. We each carve our small space in the world with the things we value, and if a more sustainable agenda floats your boat and you’re setting up temporary shop, here’s some tips on doing it with a less abrasive mark on the planet:
  1. Jumble sales - With nothing but ‘Retail pop-up visual merchandising’ on the brain, head to a few jumble sales. I did this in the months leading up to the show and, pleased as punch, got myself  vintage hanging rails and an odd assortment of fittings. Best of all was a 50p wooden bar stool. Once sanded down and reupholstered using a staple gun borrowed from Streetbank, discarded packaging foam & an off-cut from a weaving project, it looked to the unobserving eye like a 2016 ‘must have’ for a Pinterest-worthy stylish interior.
  2. ‘Verge busting’ (as they say in Australia) - when ‘visual merchandising’ is at the forefront of your mind, bless the random finds on the street verge! The universe shall hear your call. A shabby chic picture frame and a floating shelf miraculously presented themselves on a street near me in the weeks preceding the event, and were put to good use.
  3. Wallpaper with a second life in mind - the wallpaper I picked out for my event was fabulous and intended to have longevity. Alas, we used the wrong paste to get a perfect unblemished removal off the walls, but certainly good enough to re-decorate the next pop-up incarnation. Note to self - use staples next time.
  4. Make do - I took along a beautiful wooden vanity cabinet to display my wares.  A keepsake and conversation piece, it did the trick of catching many a customer’s eye.
  5. Bags & tags - if you are reading this, I am already preaching to the converted, so it goes without saying that you will be giving your customers recycled paper bags, with swing tags following suit.
  6. Bring your own ‘Keep Cup’ and cutlery - of course.
  7. Bring a good friend - they are organic, durable and not just for Christmas.
  8. Don’t leave a box of your best stock behind at the end of the show. Ouch, it really does hurt and is a thoroughly unsustainable business practice on many levels.
Lastly, take a supply of chocolate, wine and good humour. You will need these things by the re-usable bucketful!

You can check out Alison's creations on her website HERE.