On 24 April, the Forest of Arden Hotel once again hosted the AIS Annual Conference.

The conference offered a very strong line-up of speakers and the supplier exhibition in the marquee had a wide range of excellent exhibitors. The theme of Stronger Together is the essence of AIS in appreciating the individuality of members but recognising that collectively we have more presence, leverage and overall strength in the market.

The Menswear trade show delivering major exhibitors under one roof, INDX returns to Cranmore Park in Solihull in July. Having just announced its newly extended three-day event which includes Sunday opening and quite possibly the best lunch in the business, there are plenty of reasons for retailers looking for Spring Summer 18 Menswear to make the trip.

Don't miss an extended and expanded SS18 edition of the INDX Intimate Apparel show...

Wednesday 21st of September saw AIS's second Retail and Marketing Show, held at Cranmore Park, Solihull exclusively for AIS, Flooring One, INTERSPORT and Playroom members and suppliers.

On 25th April 2016, AIS once again held their Annual Conference at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club.

The AIS team organised a very strong programme to encompass this year’s theme ‘Looking Forward, Not Back’. A simple theme that is not always easy to put into practice but, with the knowledge and expertise of today’s speakers, delegates were sure to be inspired to look to the future and embrace change.

The Retail & Marketing Show, held in December last year, brought together an exciting mix of retailers, exhibitors and speakers at Cranmore Park for a day of ideas and inspiration to keep ahead of an ever changing and competitive market.

Click below to view the AIS Corporate video.

Classical elegance never goes out of fashion and, with a heritage going back to 1914, Stag Furniture has long been a byword for quality. As owners of the Brand, working with production partners, we are able to continue to offer furniture in traditional styles and shapes synonymous with Stag yet brought up to date with innovative contemporary touches to make it an appealing consumer Brand today.

Created in 2008 to support members’ toy buying, plaY-room has achieved year-on-year growth and posted £18m at cost in its sixth full year.

"… reaching a new profile of customer"

Juniper is an exciting new and exclusive AIS Brand launched this Spring/Summer in 32 member stores. Its presence on the floor is the culmination of a long period of planning that has only been possible to bring to fruition with the support of those members.

"… a new brand with broad appeal"

Haworth has taken some of the British heritage and design credentials from James Aubrey but included them within a range with much broader customer appeal positioned at more competitive market price points.

"… Rich in heritage – young in outlook"

Since the re-launch of our core First Avenue Brand in 2012 into a more segmented and targeted offer the derivations of "First Avenue Classic" and "Collection by First Avenue" have flourished.

Dreamworld goes from strength to strength and receives excellent positive feedback from stocking members. The collection comprises 25 beds at core volume price points from £199 to £999. These price points are highly competitive in their respective categories and carry strong margin potential because of the protection from Brand discounting. As a range overall it does a great job within its market positioning and acts as a very strong platform from which members can trade up.

The AIS 2015 Conference recently took place at the Forest of Arden Hotel with an exceptionally strong line-up of speakers as well as a bigger and better supplier exhibition.

The interview was published in the trade magazine Toy News in their April edition. The piece offers an insight into what to expect at this year’s show, including first time exhibitors and the variety of events planned for during the show.

AIS members have featured prominently in Housewares Magazine awards with Bradbeers in Romsey winning Best Independent Department Store Cookshop in 2014 and they are challenging for honours again this year in the company of others such as Barrett’s of St. Neots, Creasey’s, Ely’s and Jarrold.

Playroom were pleased to have two of our members nominated in different categories in the 2014 Toy Retailer of The Year Awards. We were delighted that The Morley Group was announced as overall winner in the General Multiple Toy Retailer category beating both Harrods and Argos. Furthermore, The Morley Group has recently acquired Camp Hopson in Newbury where plans are in place to add a toy department.

The latest Independent Kids Show at Cranmore Park has been hailed a success, with exhibitors and buyers alike enjoying the two-day event.

The show, which took place on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th July, provided a unique opportunity for independent retail childrenswear buyers to attend a childrenswear trade show in the centre of the country.

Garden Centres in recent years have been great at spreading the business risk away from weather dependent key seasonal times such as Easter and May Bank Holidays by diversifying from core horticulture related areas into other categories or services.

On the 28 April 2014, AIS help their Annual Conference at the Forest of Arden Hotel.

The theme of the conference was 'Looking to the Future', which is essential unless a business is to stagnate and that has to encompass all channels and ways in which customers want to transact with you.

Our own brand bed range, Dreamworld, continues to build on its success since its re-launch a couple of years ago.

Through analysing performance, striving for higher margins from the best suppliers and feedback from members, the range has been continually refined and improved.

It currently comprises 24 competitive models across price points from £199 to £999 from leading names such as Sealy, Relyon and Staples and features within the range the fastest selling AIS bed in 2013 – the Myers Elara.

There is a growing demand from customers wanting to design their own sofa shape and fabric with the flexibility that offers to fit into any room and style of décor. At the January furniture show we launched three upholstery bases from Primavera, each of which can be made in any combination of chair, sofa, sofa-bed and corner unit with options on seat and back type and around 200 fabric choices. One is based on a wing arm frame and the other is more angular, both are high quality construction and exclusive to AIS members and come with generic literature that members can name as they wish to avoid direct comparison. The layout combinations are almost endless from a mix of 40 different pieces and can be personalised with a choice of feet colour, footstools and accent cushions.

We announced last year a tie up with Packshot/Fashot as our preferred photography provider and there is a discount deal of 20% off standard studio costs for AIS members already in place.

Since then they have undertaken several cut out and lifestyle roomset shoots for us on fashion, flooring, furniture and beds and many examples of their work can be seen in this brochure as well as having been offered out to members for marketing and website use.

The multiples’ discounting mania and the popularity of value clothing makes it ever more difficult for small retailers to compete with the high street, but buying group Associated Independent Stores (AIS) is hoping to increase their chances.

AIS, which was set up more than 30 years ago by the merger of two separate buying groups, Associated Department Stores (ADS) and Independent Stores Association (ISA), offers indies in the UK and Republic of Ireland a buying service, has its own brands and hosts regular mainstream trade shows.

James Aubrey is a recent addition to British menswear. Proudly boasting strong British design and Made in Britain credentials the Brand offers high quality menswear at very competitive prices.

We are very excited to be welcoming INDX Menswear to our show stable! The show will be showcasing leading brands across apparel, underwear and accessories.

The SS14 show takes place from 30th July to 1st August and this year's line up includes Esprit, Gagliardi, Old Guys Rule and Weirdfish to name but a few!

On-line registration is now open, don't miss out!!

The Association of Independent Stores (AIS) has been praised for the transformation of its own label for spring 14, with stockists upping their orders by as much as 100%. AIS debuted its First Avenue Classic and Collection ranges at its Indx womenswear show, which took place from August 7 to 9 in Solihull.

AIS recently hosted a Furniture and Furnishing Accessories Show earlier this month and the early feedback has been very positive. We would also like to say a huge congratulations to all of our 2013 award winners.

"I am delighted that AIS have won the Interiors Monthly Best Furniture Buying Group award, which confirms our position as the leading furniture and home buying group in the UK and Republic of Ireland. We always strive to give our members utmost satisfaction with our services," says Peter Mallinson, AIS merchandise director – home.

AIS offer its members more than just the core buying group benefits that would naturally be expected of it. Procurement across many non-retail areas, including insurance and utilities, and container importing through its Freight Club are just two of the other services that add value to membership that altogether generates positive endorsements such as these.

The AIS Conference theme for 2013 - "Necessity is the mother of re-invention", is a re-working of a quote attributed to Plato from around 400BC and encapsulates that in difficult times businesses have to change and re-invent themselves in areas such as merchandising, range diversification, services and channels, if they are to make themselves relevant and compelling places to visit and shop in. All the speakers picked up on this theme and gave thought provoking presentations to members with valuable take outs and ideas they could go away and implement.

We have had for some time a highly successful and recognisable brand for menswear trade shows – AIMEX, which has given those shows an identity and allowed us to generate awareness in the trade particularly when targeting non-members.

However, we hold far more fashion shows in other sectors and these were not benefitting from a cohesive umbrella for marketing and PR purposes or a strong visual presence online and at the shows.

From early 2013, Independent fashion retailers from all across the UK and Ireland will have a new and exciting choice of Trade Exhibitions to visit to help with their buying and ranging decisions.

The exhibitions will all be held at Cranmore Park, Solihull, just minutes from the NEC, and are organised by Associated Independent Stores (AIS) not only for their own members but also for the benefit of all Independent buyers.

Last January, Associated Independent Stores (AIS) extended a welcome to its traditional members only furniture show to retailers who weren't AIS buying group members. The new show format was a great success and will be repeated again in January 2013. In practice that means that the first two days remain exclusive to AIS members but there are a further 3 days open to all of the trade.

Alstons, Nolte & Harrisons win supply categories

Devon retailer Barrow Clark Complete Furnishers and Suffolk based Glasswells were named retailers of the year by buying group AIS at its September furniture and beds shows.

AIS were awarded the title of "Best Furniture Buying Group 2012" by Interiors Monthly magazine. This is voted for by the industry and is a reflection on the quality of service that AIS provides to its members and its positive relationships with suppliers.

Rob Templeman, Chairman of the British Retail Consortium, delivered a keynote speech at the AIS Annual Conference in April 2012. He closed the Conference with a look back at his varied retail career and private equity experience. His insights into turning around Homebase, Halfords and Debenhams made for fascinating listening and demonstrated the clarity of thinking, analysis, management of change and single minded purpose required in such cases.

JAMES AUBREY MENSWEAR – A new menswear Brand launch

James Aubrey is a new menswear Brand available exclusively in the UK and Ireland to members of the AIS buying group. It is one of the most exciting developments this year and offers their members a high quality, yet competitively priced, range of menswear that more than holds its own against established mid-market names and helps independent Department Store and fashion retailers to compete with multiples. When first exhibited at the AIS show at the end of January it was extremely well received and September will see the A/W 12 product on sale in 82 stores.

“Quietly growing a diverse business”

AIS are probably one of the best kept secrets in the Midlands. They don’t have an end consumer profile or Brand awareness but for hundreds of retail members they provide an invaluable and profit enhancing service as the leading buying group in their sector supporting department stores, furniture retailers, toys and other non-food specialists. AIS has been headed by Sheila Cooper for more than 20 years and, in that time, has grown its core business from purely a retail oriented buying group to one with a diverse range of activities.

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