0 Saltex 2012

IMG 2983This was always going to be a difficult year for the IOG Saltex exhibition at Windsor.

The organisers had a number of significant external factors to contend with. The Olympic and Paralympic rowing venue at nearby Eton Dorney resulted in the far side of the racecourse being out of bounds to exhibitors, which saw a return to using the grass areas just over the bridge to the right and behind the grandstand. This was also the 'opt out' year for the major suppliers - Ransomes Jacobsen, John Deere, Toro et al. And, of course, the current economic climate is having a major impact on our industry.

There are some positive headlines which could be used; Fine weather welcomes visitors; Quality not quantity as exhibitors attract enquiries; New products launched at industry showcase.

All the above would be true, and I guess it is likely that the organisers will want to use something equally positive. However, the show catalogue listed 271 exhibitors, a significant decrease on 2011's stated 430 exhibitors of around 40%.

IMG 2861And, what of the all important visitor numbers? No official figures were distributed this year; but I reckon Tuesday's total was around 1500. Wednesday was better, as you might expect but, on Thursday, visitor numbers fell sharply again. In the absence of any official statistics, my guestimate would be c6,000 over the three days.

So, where does that leave this year's show? The first thing that any exhibition must do is present a representative overview of the industry's diverse range of companies and products. Secondly, it must attract visitors to view these products and services. On both counts, this year's Saltex struggled.

And, before you start thinking "here goes Pitchcare having a pop again", this is simply not true. We are charged with providing our members with an honest overview, not putting on a populist spin.

What is the one thing that this industry exists for? To tend sports and amenity grass, pure and simple. Yet, amongst the exhibitor list, were none of the major seed suppliers. Similarly, only one of the major turf suppliers was in attendance, and they were stand sharing! And, if you wanted to talk about growth retardants, fertilisers, chemicals or turf disease products then, sorry, but none of the main industry suppliers were there to help you either.

IMG 3085Wanted to buy a new tractor? Again, only one of the majors was on display - the boys in blue, New Holland. To their credit, they did use the show to launch new products, as did a few others, but 'significant announcements' from other exhibitors were put on hold.

Of course, there was still quite a bit to see, with industry stalwarts such as Dennis/Sisis, Lloyds, Charterhouse, Campeys and BLEC holding the fort. There were some new exhibitors, but there was no arb display and the demonstration area was unusually quiet.

The buzzwords were 'quality not quantity', and I have no doubt that many exhibitors did good business, but it is clear that the current economic climate is making companies and visitors think twice about how they spend their cash.

BIGGA's Harrogate Week faces similar issues for their up and coming exhibition as it is the Big Boys' opt out year. However, their highly successful seminar programme will always remain a draw for visitors, as will the timing of the show and the Harrogate nightlife.

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