6 Clear and present danger

OVER the course of the next couple of months, customers and potential customers of the industry trade shows will each receive an independent questionnaire regarding the proposal for a single industry show.

As many of you will know, Pitchcare has been lobbying for a review for some time, and we sent out our own survey just over fourteen months ago. Of the considerable numbers that responded, over 90% of both the trade, i.e. manufacturers and suppliers, and our members said they wanted one show.

Our reasons for carrying out the survey were due to the feedback we were receiving from our members and the trade, and the obvious decline of the two current industry shows - IOG Saltex and BIGGA's Harrogate Week. The results were made available to the industry, including both associations, and we now find ourselves making steady progress.

Of course, it was entirely understandable that both associations would have reservations. After all, their respective shows are a huge income stream for them.

Let's look at the current state of play.

The recent Saltex exhibition saw visitor numbers drop below 9,000 for the first time. That's 33% down on 2009 (13,402) and 40% down on the 2005 attendance figures (15,139). These are ABC/IOG quoted figures.

Fast forward to Harrogate Week and the story is very similar. The January 2010 exhibition welcomed back the 'big boys' from their one year sabbatical, and yet, due to exhibitor numbers being down, BIGGA had to drop Hall Q.

With just 75 days before Harrogate Week 2011 is due to open its doors, just over 60% of stand space has been sold. According to the Harrogate Week website, not only does Hall Q remain out of the equation, but a third of Hall B has been sectioned off along with the top end of Hall C.

Throw the recent resignation of the BIGGA Chief Executive into the mix and what message does all this send to exhibitors and visitors alike?

I am not particularly bashing either of the associations here or, indeed, their respective shows which, ten years ago, were vibrant and relevant. But, times have changed, as have the needs of our industry.

So, what does the future hold?

Certainly, the major manufacturers and suppliers have already voted with their wallets, and an increasing number of smaller companies are following suit.

My big concern is, and it's a clear and present danger that, without a united industry effort, the two exhibitions will wither and die, to be replaced by what?

In the case of the Agricultural industry - remember the Royal Show and Royal Smithfields - nothing, other than a smattering of regional shows, some of which were already in existence. Now, the only true international Ag show is in Europe. With the UK being the biggest European market for the turfcare industry, it makes perfect sense to have an 'international' show on our patch.

Some manufacturers - Kubota, Toro, Syngenta, Campeys, to name a few - have introduced 'roadshows' or 'tours', travelling the country peddling their wares. They have, in the main, proved very successful. Small regional shows have sprung up, only to disappear again as quickly as they came.

Some have suggested a biennial show. Many want an annual show that moves around the country - Manchester, Birmingham, London have been muted as stop off points.

I wish I had a crystal ball, but I am no Mystic Meg! However, you, yes YOU the reader, can make a difference. I urge you all to complete the questionnaire when it arrives on your doormat or inbox. I urge you to seriously consider what you want from your industry, and your associations and organisations - and that includes Pitchcare.

65% of the adult population voted in this year's General Election, the other 35% have an opinion about what the Coalition Government is doing wrong! Sorry, if you didn't vote, don't complain!

You can, and will, make a difference.

Dave Saltman

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