Sunday, March 29

NEC Outdoors Show 2009 - Roundup

What is the purpose of the NEC Outdoors Show?

A perennial query regularly raised after recent shows, and based on feedback across various outdoor forums then this year is no exception.

As a regular attendee of recent years 2009's offering felt slightly more constrained in its aspiration. The celebs were less household names, more specialists of their niche outdoor area. Advertising appeared lower key.

Once again the main focus of the show was split between gear stands, have-a-go activity areas, and the ubiquitous tourism stands, these smaller and less gaudy this time.

One of my sources indicated the visitor forecast was for 26,000 visitors compared to 35,000 in 2008. Along with current economic woes the organisers needed to offer a balanced but varied content to attract in the punters. With a format that would persuade the vendors to pay the NEC's high stand rates for a three day attendance. A wicked circle to square. Wrong content, insufficient numbers, or inappropriate types of company in attendance and the show's reputation falls away rather quickly.

When it works, it works well – you only had to watch a busy Alpkit stand with a limited gear range, but a dependable no frills value-for-money reputation, to see how successful it can be. Other stands seemed hard pressed to get any customers, and in one of two cases were bare of stand staff.

Back to the name - its the NEC OUTDOOR SHOW, and as such its brief encompasses all those things included within the UK Outdoor industry. Its a showcase. Or at least thats what many of the stands appeared to think with their stance of a marketing, rather than a sales, opportunity.

But therein lies the problem. Where's the focus of the show for you as a potential attendee? Why pay the admission fee when your own interest is represented by only a small part of what is on offer. That really calls into question whether its worth you shelling out the entry fee.

The 'Try Me' activitiy based approach of recent years has been pitching more and more towards a family market. But the cost of travel to the show, car parking & the admission charges quickly mounts up to a substantial sum for a few hours wander along with the rest of the crowds all thinking the same way. Especially for those like me including the rising cost of a return trip/overnight stay from outside the Midlands area.

Possbily all the Outdoors Show is, and could ever be, is a day out. Period.

Perhaps its time for a different venue, away from such costly venues as the NEC? Maybe a number of smaller better focused shows, throughout the year, rather than one big affair, is the way to go in the future?

I enjoyed this year's show. But that is all down to my well practised eye looking for replacement kit at bargaint prices. On that score I was successful.

But when looking at the long trip in 2010 I'll be considering the speed with which I visited all the stands, noth inside and out (1.5 hrs); the quality of speakers on topics that actually cover my interest area; and the opportunity to do what I've done at similar events such as the Motorcyle Show.

See product (especially new gear). Buy product. Save money. Go home happy. Return next year.

Regrettably the show format remains largely unchanging and lacks that real wow factor that would automatically make me want to return. Without some serious thought beforehand.

Time for a rethink?


Hi there, did you notice the Tick Alert stand at the Show?

This week (6th - 12th April) is Tick Prevention Week. See

Perhaps you could have a look and stick a blog entry about it?

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