Sunday, March 16

NEC Outdoor Show - Final Thoughts

Reflecting on the 2007 show I felt that whilst it tried, there were some basic improvements to work on. To be fair some of these have been addressed for 2008, ones directly relating to the show organisation.

But yet again the true measure of the show, its actual content, felt even more diluted. Where were the likes of 2007 retail walking outlets such as Mountain Warehouse & Hike Lite?

For this major UK Outdoor Activity Show there is a difficulty in continuing to attract the public through the doors if content remains largely based on celebrity appearance and exhibitors who, on the whole, see it as a marketing exercise.

Several times I stood outside the main entrance watching visitors as they departed from all the NEC shows in that area.

Those from the 'Go Fishing' Show typically were carrying armfuls of gear - I'd guess averaging around £100+ spend per person. In comparison the Outdoors Show visitors seemed largely empty handed except for the occasional sight of a Kayak wandering by, a pair of legs poking out from underneath.

On the service bus back to the car park I chatted with a 'Go Fishing' exhibitor, who whilst generally happy with his experience to date, was mildly critical at what he saw as the high attendance cost. He quoted around £1,000 for a 4m x 2m stand (around £125 per sq m) I'm sure I spotted somewhere in my pre-research that the OS exhibitor paid £200+ per sq m. That's 60% higher.

From a commercial aspect any potential exhibitor will consider the balance of stand size versus revenue generation, and I suspect that is why the number of actual retailers once again seems to have reduced. The generalist nature of the show, trying to be all things to the outdoor public can confuse the show's key message. And as a result for many, who have the budget, it becomes a pure marketing opportunity.

Either way how will that influence the 2008 visitor to return in future years? After previous attendances I wasn't hugely expectant that backpacking/camping interests would be very well represented. But continued dilution of the content, alongside reduced retail opportunities for the general public cannot continue to draw in the repeat visit that such an affair will need to continue into the future.

A quote from the 'Go Fishing' show organiser 'We listened to your feedback from last year's show and as a result this year for the first time ever you can buy all the top brands from our retail stands at the show.There's no limit to the brands you can buy which means you will be able to get your hands on all the latest gear ........'

A lesson for the OS possibly, based on this observer's subjective observations and listening to those I bumped into over the two days I was there.
Can I see those products that interest me? And can I then get my hands on them at a reasonable price?

(And if there are any of the OS organisers who read this and want a more direct discussion - please feel free to contact me)

Outdoor Show- 4/10 needs to try harder.
Entertainment value - 8/10 (despite the hard work and long days)

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