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Introducing Zoë Bonser, Portfolio Director

Introduce yourself…
Hello! My name is Zoë Bonser and I am the new Portfolio Director on Clarion Events’ Retail portfolio, which includes January and Manchester Furniture Show. I’m originally from North Yorkshire and have lived in London for the last 20 years. I have been working in the events industry for over 15 years now, and can’t wait to get stuck into the Furniture Shows.

What experience are you bringing to the position?
I have spent most of my career working in events – I have experience in B2B and B2C and a wide range of industries, most recently transforming Clarion Events’ The Baby Show. Prior to that I was the Portfolio Director of Spring and Autumn Fair, which I know a lot of our customers will be familiar with. My experience has taught me a lot of what works, and what doesn’t, as well as the importance of getting close to your customers and understanding what it is they really want. I’m passionate about developing relationships, market research and making decisions based on real industry data.

Why furniture and retail?
I loved working with retailers during my time at Spring and Autumn Fair, and am excited that I get the opportunity to do so again. The Furniture Shows are an integral part of Clarion’s Retail Portfolio, meaning that we are able to cater to almost every sector and need of the retail market. Over the last 10 or so months our homes have become our offices, classrooms, gyms and more; furniture has never been more important to consumers, so I am excited to see where we can take the shows over the next few years.

What are you most excited about for the future of the Furniture Shows?
The Furniture Shows are a huge opportunity as well as a huge challenge, and not just because of their physical size. The pandemic has been a chaotic catalyst for change – we are seeing consumers buying differently, retail footfall down, online sales up, supply chain issues and everything else in between that comes with a global shutdown. From this, there is an opportunity for the shows to lead the way and be at the forefront of new ways of doing business. That said, I can’t wait for the day when we will all be onsite once again at the NEC!

How have your first 3 weeks been?
In a word: busy! As well as the Furniture Shows, I am also leading our Home and Gift Shows, and this week we are running the first virtual show of the year, Top Drawer On Demand. Top Drawer encompasses design-led gift, craft and homewares, so furniture and interiors buyers will definitely find it interesting. Meeting people for the first time over Zoom is sometimes a challenge (“you’re on mute!”), so I am really looking forward to meeting the team, exhibitors, visitors and our stakeholders in person, when the time is right.

And for fun… what is your favourite piece of furniture and why?
My favourite piece of furniture is the pink velvet armchair in my study, which I’ve had for years and years. The chair was an investment and felt very expensive to me at the time, but as we all know, quality lasts. It’s my sanctuary, a place to get some peace and quiet away from the kids, and really think about how I want to shape the shows. 
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