An Interview with the Chief Executive of the IOG.
Well it has been a hectic few weeks for the Industry. With shows coming thick and fast manufacturers and dealers are fast forgetting what day of the week it is. We at Pitchcare are no different, following the response we had at IOG Saltex, time has been at a premium, trying to catch up on the business.
So it was nice to take time out and drive up to Aintree for the regional IOG Groundex show. This show although much smaller had many of the local dealers and was far more personal and cosy than the hustle and bustle of Windsor. Set in and alongside the main grandstand about seventy stands were set out displaying their wares, Dealers, Groundsmen and Greenkeepers chatted, catching up with old friends and doing business.
It gave me a chance to visit the IOG stand and meet up with Pat Gosset, the Chief Executive.
While at IOG Saltex, I had the chance to meet a great many people who were keen to air their views on the show, I put some of these views to Pat who was more than happy to explain the inner workings of the show. I asked him about the timing of the show, the number of exhibitors and visitors and the diversity of products, the shows layout and even the venue itself. This is what Pat had to say:
"There are many issues involved in running a show the size of IOG Saltex. The timing of the show is governed by many factors, the first of them is having to tie in with our host and the racing season calendar, although the show only runs for three days we have the race course booked for setting up and breaking down two weeks prior to and a week after the show.
There are also a large number of shows during the year both in the UK and abroad and it is important for the Industry as a whole that the shows don't overlap. The IOG Saltex dates therefore have little flexibility although in the past we have sought advice and discussed at length with many in the Industry to find a happy medium. It must be remembered that an outdoor venue is also subject to the weather conditions, the summer would probably be the best time, but as July/August is the holiday season this would restrict many exhibitors and visitors from attending the show.
The show has diversified over the years as many more fringe products and associated industries are now being exhibited. In many respects the Industry has changed; Groundsmen have greater responsibilities these days. Parks and Grounds Maintenance managers are more involved in the decision making as a whole, even down to the street furniture, litter bins and play facilities; therefore the show entertains, indeed represents, much more than solely the seed, fertiliser and machine manufacturers. The show becomes larger each year, with more exhibitors wishing to show their products, if somebody wishes to exhibit at the show because they feel that it will be of benefit, then are we in a position to refuse?
The number of visitors has increased again this year, but because of the show size, visitors are spread out over a larger area which also helps people to visit and talk to customers and exhibitors alike. The traffic problems that have occurred during the three days of the show in previous years has to some degree been resolved, we spent a long time in dialogue with the Environmental Agency with respect to getting a second access across the river. We have now been able to install bridges and roadways to the top of the show site and certainly this year we have made much more use of the car parking in the fields of area 'D'. In fact, the statistics show that 55% of the visitors entered via the top entrance. With the addition of more car parking space in a separate area, we have been able to encourage visitors in at a faster rate, easing the queues and satisfying the local police worries.
The layout of the show has been questioned on many occasions and is a difficult subject to satisfy. Exhibitors have the option to rebook their same stand within the first month after Saltex. If this option is not taken, then that plot is thrown open to other exhibitors. Some exhibitors have spent many years moving up to what they regard as the best plots at the show. It would seem unfair that the IOG change the layout after such a lengthy process.
With respect to Windsor itself as a venue, we again are governed by many factors. Windsor is very close to the major motorways and provides quick and easy access. There is a good local base of hotels and hostelries for both exhibitors and visitors to stay, and the racecourse itself provides us with the space and the facilities for a show of this size. The venue is close to London including the airports, and it must be said that a proportion of visitors to the show come from all over the world. Coupled with the timing of the show the south of England also gives a better chance of fine weather. We have in the past moved the show to an alternative venue at the East of England Showground, Peterborough. The problems that occurred are well documented. Windsor is a tried and tested venue, we are always reviewing the shows successes and failures and implementing wherever possible, new methods of improvement.
The IOG is the representative body for the Industry, there are few shows to my knowledge in any Industry that are arranged by the members of their trade. Most trade shows are organised by the manufacturers and dealers".