BIGGA kicked off the year in grand style at BTME 2011. Pulling out all the stops, they delivered a successful exhibition and education programme despite the tough times the industry is enduring. As reported on the last day of the show, overall numbers were up 2.3% on the 2010 event - a year when the bi-annual exhibitors last took part.
BTME is part of BIGGA's Harrogate Week that sees educational workshops and seminars rub shoulders with the trade turf management exhibition; numerous social gatherings, and the organisation's AGM.
Attendance to the exhibition was split 50% from the North of England; 21% from Wales/Midlands and East Anglia and 17% from the South. Scotland and Northern Ireland accounted for 7% with overseas visitors making up the rest. In all over 6000 interested Grounds Professionals toured the exhibition stands over 3 days showing a diversity of equipment and services - all under cover.
Exhibitor numbers were interesting in that 121 took part this year compared to 2010 when there were 135, if we exclude the bi-annual exhibitors. A strong number of new companies exhibited, including Bunker Plug whose Technical Sales Executive Jeremy Parkman commented, "We exceeded our expectations by generating in excess of 125 firm enquiries, which we are now busy following up". Soil fertility company Organic Soil Systems used the show to launch their company into the UK. Chairman Ronald Gilchrist said: "BTME is widely regarded as Europe's leading showcase for turf and grounds care professionals.
This was exactly the right forum for us to hold the official launch." Established exhibitors, such as The Grass Group Ltd, were also making good contacts as Tim Merrell explained, "I believe BIGGA can rightly claim that the 2011 show was a great success. Late morning Wednesday they were still in two queues going out the door trying to get in!"
Registration data shows that of the 6000+ visitors both Greenkeepers and Groundsmen were evenly represented. 788 golf clubs, 45 football clubs and 48 local authorities were included in the numbers, with the furthest guest coming from Australia. David Hannam of Wetherby Golf Club commented, "There was certainly enough in the exhibition to command my attention, and 'The Continue To Learn section' stood out on all fronts." At a time when Grounds Professionals see increased pressure on their time BIGGA was delighted to have attracted such high profile visitors.
Harrogate Weeks' 'Continue to Learn' programme kicked off on Sunday 16th and continued over five days taking in 54 educational Workshops and Seminars. Fringe Seminar presentations from exhibiting companies were also running alongside the main programme. Most of these activities were free and attracted more than 2000 delegates, up almost 25% on 2010, and contributed to the overall 'feel good' factor that prevailed throughout the halls.
2011 BIGGA Chairman Andrew Mellon was in much demand throughout the 'Week' but did manage to host an Exhibitor meeting on the last morning of BTME. "I felt the Board should interact directly with our Exhibitors and hear at first hand their concerns and ideas for the way forward", he commentated. "My fellow board members and I took away some very useful comments, which we intend to digest and incorporate all that we can for 2012", he concluded.
BIGGA is an active participant in the 'Turf Sector Industry Shows Steering Group' who is researching the number, location and format of future trade exhibitions. However, whilst that issue is being sensibly addressed, BIGGA wants to assure interested parties that it's "business as usual" in 2012 for Harrogate Week until such time as the Groups' outcome is known.
Business as usual, but with a new Loyalty Reward Scheme for BTME. It is an example of the Association listening to the trade, as those exhibitors that choose to exhibit year on year had felt some financial recognition was due. The scheme is such that even exhibiting a second year in a row has been recognised with a 3% discount; up to a maximum of 10% for three years. This is unprecedented within the Turf Care industry, and extremely rare in any other.