One of the great Victorian rituals is going to the Royal Melbourne Show every year.
Amy Antonello used to love it as a child, and she was keen to take her sons Bailey, 7, and Taylor, 5, this year.
Amy Antonello is one of thousands of people ordering showbags online this year to keep up the tradition for her children Bailey, 7, and Taylor, 5.Credit:Joe Armao
She remembers seeing the animals, the truck shows and the "overwhelming" music and lights on the rides.
"It was like a really big adventure," she said.
She is disappointed the family won't be going this year. The show, due to start on September 19, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, to give the boys a taste of the excitement, Ms Antonello paid $65 to buy three showbags online.
The top-selling showbags for Bensons Trading (Bluey, Harry Potter and Barbie) and for Chicane Showbags (Bertie Beetle, The Australian Women’s Weekly and My Kitchen Rules).
Top showbag producers faced disaster when more than 200 shows across the country were cancelled this year, but they've saved their skins by going online.
Most of the familiar showbags, including Harry Potter, Bertie Beetle and Freddo, can be clicked for delivery.
Ms Antonello, of Werribee South, bought the Nickelodeon Slime showbag for the boys to share. She bought the Ninja bag for Taylor, which has a plastic mask, swords and daggers, and Hot Wheels for Bailey, including miniature cars, a backpack and a drink bottle.
She said it was a nice break from doing schoolwork at home.
"They were really excited. It's a nice surprise, a nice way to remind them that things are sort of normal when they’re not normal."
Before the pandemic, showbag companies were old-school, selling almost all their stock at stalls at shows (most of them now cancelled) across the country.
Samantha Atkinson, retail and product development manager for her family’s 70-year old Melbourne showbag company, Bensons Trading, said the business usually sold up to 500,000 bags at eight stalls at Royal Melbourne Show.
This time last year, Bensons was selling 10 showbags per day through its website showbags.com.au. It is now selling 500. Ms Atkinson expects this year Bensons will sell nowhere near its normal 500,000 showbags, "but there’s still enough numbers to continue in business".
Emily Williams, director of Sydney-based Chicane Showbags, said her company sold more than 1.1 million bags at shows last year, including about 150,000 at Royal Melbourne Show. Its online sales at showbagshop.com.au have soared from 3600 last year to 220,000 so far this year.
It offers 70 brands including Bertie Beetle, Australian Women’s Weekly, KitKat and Smarties.
Ms Williams said for customers, buying showbags was something normal in an abnormal year.
"I think there’s a nostalgia with showbags. It brings them a little bit of happiness, in a year that is so stressful," she said. "Our message has been, you can’t attend the show this year, there’s so many things you can’t do, but fortunately you can get your showbags delivered."
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