The show is great if you’re looking for a quieter Christmas shopping experience in the evening, or just looking to buy treats for yourself! One for the diary next year.
On Thursday night, I was delighted to be invited to the Ideal Home Show’s first Christmas ‘After Dark’ event at Olympia London. Typically, the show lasts for five days, but this year, they decided to put on an extra one-off evening for those who might like to pop down after work. For just £5, we were able to peruse the stalls and live entertainment from 5pm to 9pm. I’ve always been a fan of visiting shows later in the day, as it means you can avoid the main crowds and queues that you tend to get earlier on, and can therefore browse the shopping stalls at your leisure.
The exhibitor staff gave off a slightly weary air (as I’m sure I would in their shoes!), but still managed to put on a cheery sales pitch when required. There was certainly no shortage of exhibitors, with 650 stalls selling everything from luxury hot-tubs to homemade preserves, not to mention drones and blenders. I was slightly surprised by the number of stalls selling festive cleaning appliances…
Hoovers are for life, ladies and gentlemen – not just for Christmas.
My sister and I started off by exploring the food hall. When we arrived, we caught the end of an interactive wine tasting demonstration at the Christmas Food and Drink Theatre, and elsewhere, visitors were merrily sharing wooden benches to sit down for a bite of German sausage.
To lap up the Christmas spirit, we stopped for a mulled wine and cider, but I managed to persuade my sister to let me buy her a box of 12 mince pies for £2 from Tesco, rather than pay £2.50 for a single mince pie at the Ideal Home Show. Thankfully, she was happy to accept my offer!
The show itself is huge – we felt lost a couple of times, not realising that the event filled two halls, so you probably do need to purchase the Show Guide if you want to be able to get anywhere at speed.
We wandered by The Gregg Wallace Christmas Restaurant which had lots of photographs of Gregg smiling down at us from the walls. They were fully booked for their Bottomless Prosecco offer (£25 per person for two hours), so you’ll need to pre-book this if you’re keen for next year!
That said, there were plenty of other drinking holes, ranging from the Christmas Champagne Bar where you could enjoy a 2 for 1 cocktail ‘hour’ from 6-8pm, or £10 off all bottles of champagne, or you could head to The Duke’s Head Pub for traditional pub grub and board games.
The exhibitors themselves were very varied – the show encompassed everything from high-end Lexus showrooms, to Cat’s Protection stalls. My sister and I did muse whether some people came in for a free Virgin Entertainment candy cane, and ended up going home with a Lexus on the tube.
Taking place just a month before Christmas, the show was suitably festive as you might expect, with a white blanket of glittery snow carpet throughout, and lots of snow-covered Christmas trees dotted around. Amongst the twinkly lights and glühwein huts, we spotted a few singing trios at the grandstands, belting out catchy seasonal tunes to get you in the festive spirit.
All in all, my sister and I rated the show 10 out of 10 for Christmas trees (not so many that you felt lost in a forest, but enough that you felt like you might be in a forest), and 10 out of 10 for fake snow. We also gave 10 out of 10 for twinkly lights.
Review by Shelley George, who also blogs at Shelley Makes.