Just over three years ago, a meeting was held at the NEC, organised by Pitchcare, to discuss the merits of 'The One Show', a single trade show for the sports turf industry. It was attended by around sixty industry companies as well as representatives from both BIGGA and IOG.
The meeting was convened after many years of discussions about the issue, and also as a result of an extensive Pitchcare initiated survey of companies and end users. The survey resulted in more than 1,000 completed responses, with an overwhelming 90% in favour of a single trade show to be held in the centre of the country.
A number of further meetings took place with the CEOs and Chairmen of both BIGGA and the IOG and trade delegates, including the AEA. The then CEO of the HTA, David Gwyther (nominated for the position by the IOG), chaired the meetings and concluded shortly afterwards that there was "no appetite for any change". He subsequently retired to France.
I give this as background because it was, with some interest, that I heard the announcement that the IOG, as from November 2015, will be exhibiting under the roof of the NEC, just a matter of ten weeks before BIGGA's own trade show at Harrogate.
The decision is not unsurprising because Saltex has been a diminishing show for many years. Visitor and exhibitor numbers were declining, with the consequential reduction in a formerly lucrative revenue stream for the IOG.
Something had to be done.
It now throws up a renewed debate as to where our Industry is going. The IOG's decision has left the trade with a clear dilemma and, as it stands, is likely to create further division instead of the unity that is needed.
The NEC, as a venue, costs approximately 10% more than the Harrogate International Centre, so exhibitors are being asked to stump up two lots of expensive fees in the space of two and a half months. At a time when everyone wants to reduce costs, this seems to be a lot to ask.
Of course, the best case scenario is that BIGGA announce that they will be co-hosting the show next year and, let's be honest, that's what most companies have wanted for a very long time. If that were to happen, then I'm certain Pitchcare would wholeheartedly support the event.
However, the Board at BIGGA have a huge decision to make. They either abandon Harrogate, which is still a comparatively successful show, and join forces with the IOG; or they do nothing, sit tight and wait to see if the IOG's 'make or break' gamble pays off.
Given the consolidation that has taken place at Harrogate, with a smaller but lively show, bolstered by an excellent educational platform, it is relatively easy to see why any decision made by BIGGA would be extremely difficult.
BIGGA also need to consider what their position would be should the NEC show be successful; the future of Harrogate would then be in question, as the trade would be forced to choose between one or the other - both being costly, almost identical indoor shows, just ten weeks apart.
There is no other industry in the UK - including many much bigger than ours - which supports two shows per annum. Many have canned their trade shows altogether. Given the size and niche nature of our industry, why does anyone believe that we can be different?
So, I sincerely hope that common sense prevails, that the people involved can get together and make the right decision, because now the die are rolling.
If the status quo remains, there can only be one winner, with the loser perhaps struggling to survive.
Our survey of industry companies, following the IOG's announcement of the move to the NEC, indicates that over 70% are in favour of a single trade show. The details of the survey are as follows:
The NEC/IOG debate - just what do the exhibitors want?
There is no doubt the IOG's announcement that their Saltex exhibition is to relocate to the NEC Birmingham in 2015 took a lot of people by surprise, including some companies/exhibitors on the Saltex Steering Committee, apparently.
Perhaps, in hindsight, the IOG may have gone about things somewhat differently, but the deal is now done and, from November 2015, the show is to be held at the Midlands venue.
So, what does this mean for the industry? How will the move affect BIGGA's Harrogate show, scheduled for just ten weeks later? And what, actually, do the exhibitors think?
To find out, Pitchcare canvassed the opinions of just over 100 exhibitors through an online survey.
Six straightforward, multiple choice questions were asked:
Do you agree with the IOG decision to move Saltex to the NEC?
Will you be exhibiting at the show?
Do you support the decision to stage the show 10 weeks before the BIGGA show at Harrogate?
Are you planning to exhibit at both the IOG and BIGGA shows?
Are you in favour of a single industry show?
What would your preferred venue be?
Close to 50% of recipients responded to the survey.
Clearly, from the responses received, it remains a split decision as to whether the NEC move is a positive one for the industry. However, the timing of the show is of concern to many.
Whilst the 'one show' option remains a clear preference for exhibitors, we were surprised to find that, since our last survey on the matter, there is a strong preference for the exhibition to move around the country on an annual basis.
Here is a selection of some of the individual comments:
"The IOG format at Windsor had to change to meet customer demand for a more stable venue. The date change is sensible and should not impact on the BTME show."
"Dislike of the NEC as a venue is down to costs and being the most miserable, boring venue possible. Warwickshire showground would have been better."
"Want somewhere to demonstrate and which has visitors!"
"We want one show per year, if they do not have a single show. Golf one year, Saltex next. Exhibiting at NEC is too expensive and no demo areas."
"The industry needs one show, each can keep its identity. If the industry moved quickly to one show it could perhaps gain international recognition. However, the politics involved mean none or slow progress, by which time Galabau and other Europe based shows will take over."
"Disgusted at organisers. We were not consulted before the announcement and, interestingly, we've not been contacted to book for next year. Strange bunch of people!"
"This can only be a good move if it leads to one show for the 'turfcare' industry. In the interim period, the damage it may do could be irreparable."
"November is too late in the year - it means that any customer interest for demonstrations will not be followed up until the spring which will slow cash flow for dealers and distributors in the Autumn period. There is also no provision for demonstrating equipment at either show."
"An indoor show may suit the larger exhibitor or manufacturer but not the hard working smaller company. The success of the shows such as the APF is built around the value, the space and the buzz of a working show. Not something either BTME or NEC can offer."
"I think this issue should be handled by the IOG and BIGGA and their respective memberships, not by Pitchcare."
We hope you found this information of interest.