The IOG's announcement of a 'new Saltex, new venue and new date', just days ahead of what turned out to be the final outdoor show at Windsor, took the majority in the industry by surprise.
So, it was with interest that the turfcare press turned up on the Wednesday morning of the show to learn more about the seemingly rushed decision to up sticks to the NEC in Birmingham next November. A similar presentation had been given to exhibitors the previous evening.
As you might expect, a positive spin was put on the decision, and included a twenty minute presentation by a representative from the NEC about transport links, catering, accommodation et al.
Through a survey of our members and industry companies during the 'One Show' debate a few years ago, the NEC in October/November was identified as the best venue and timing, so full marks to the IOG for heeding this advice, albeit belatedly. Interestingly, however, a little over thirty months ago, the independent chair of the steering committee, David Gwyther, commented that there was "no appetite for an industry show at the NEC". When asked at the meeting what had changed in the interim period, the question was skirted around.
That is now irrelevant and it's a done deal. Windsor will be no more and a three year contract has been signed with the NEC to use halls 6 and 7, with an option on one further hall, as required.
Car parking will be free for IOG members and £5 per day for all others.
The show will be reduced to two days (4th-5th November) and the layout of stands currently remains flexible. Early bird discounts, starting at £118 per m2, are being offered up until the end of January 2015, rising to £148 per m2 after that, compared to c£35 per m2 for stand space at Windsor.
It is that hike in costs that concerns many of the smaller exhibitors - those offering niche products which are the lifeblood of our industry. It was suggested that exhibitors should take smaller stands to reduce costs - hardly helpful for companies such as BLEC or The Grass Group, for example, with a wealth of machinery to exhibit and demonstrate.
Equally, there was concern over the new date's proximity to BIGGA's Harrogate show just ten weeks later.
The IOG hold great store in trying to offer a show for groundsmen, one which is meant to be 'very different' from a show for greenkeepers. However, with many of the suppliers offering products into both sectors, surely it still remains true that 'one show for all' is the way forward.
Saltex has been on a downward spiral for the past ten years, with falling exhibitor and visitor numbers, and this year's show was, without doubt, its lowest point. By comparison, BIGGA has been providing an increasingly vibrant exhibition, with an excellent training and seminar programme.
What is clear is that Saltex had to change; however, deciding to go head to head with BTME may not be the wisest of decisions made by the IOG hierarchy.
Comments from members on this article or the decision to move the show are welcomed.