Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  24 Jan 2010

MARKETING: It's Not Just About The Soccer Cup


Recent Western Cape Business News

WHILE there are indications that the recession may officially be over, it would be foolish to think that everything is back to normal. In fact, far from it. “There is still a way to go before people start spending, banks start lending money and things return to normal. Too many people have suffered job losses, retrenchment, dug into their savings and have had to do by whatever means just to survive. The exhibition industry is no exception,” says Cape show organiser Johnny Malherbe.

From an exhibition industry perspective the second half of 2010 and beyond does look a lot more positive, he says.

Last year was an extremely tough year for the exhibition industry says Malherbe, of Impact Exhibitions, who have five shows in various market segments planned for 2010. Nearly all exhibitions throughout the country and in the rest of the world were down on net floor space sales, some down by as much as 30%.

Malherbe, who is responsible for The Cape Town International Boat Show (Cape Town’s largest exhibition in terms of floor space and South Africa’s largest boat show) says that “whilst we did not lose that many exhibitors, the fact was that exhibitors took less space, thereby making the show smaller”. This was seen on nearly all the other shows, whether they were ‘business to business’ or ‘business to consumer’ the result was the same.

The danger of course is that when exhibitor numbers go down there is a direct correlation with visitor numbers, which also decrease. The temptation for organisers is to either discount space or go for non aligned exhibitors - and sometimes both - just to get the show off the ground. This is a big mistake, says Malherbe, because the credibility of the organiser is then questioned by exhibitors and visitors alike. “Visitors to the Boat Show want to see boats and their related products and so on. Every non aligned product dilutes that particular show”.

Many companies still have very tight budgets and unfortunately these are unlikely to change before the second half of 2010, making growth very difficult. “I wish one could tell prospective exhibitors exactly when the market will turn. If I could do that then I would probably be an economist and not a show organiser,” Malherbe says. He points out that by exhibiting on shows and being there companies give themselves the best chance of getting potential deals when visitors see their products on display and are ready to buy. Some companies need to take a more positive look, and explore the many marketing opportunities available.

Although everyone is excited about 2010 World Soccer coming to South Africa, it will have an unusual effect on the exhibition industry. Nearly all of the major venues throughout South Africa have been fully booked for non exhibition events for approximately 5 – 7 weeks. Although the tournament is only four weeks long from about the 11 June to 11 July, one has to allow for build up and breakdown. The problem with this is that all exhibitions planned for June/July will have to move to either before or after those dates, putting a huge strain on existing bookings. This will create a compounded problem in that there will be almost one exhibition per week in all of the venues, putting a huge strain on visitors who are the backbone of the exhibition industry.

Other factors are that ‘new’ exhibitions will struggle to get dates, and if they are lucky enough to get them, organisers may have to take any dates that are available, even if they are not necessarily ideal.

Exhibition organisers will have to be mindful of these factors and because of the ‘glut’ of exhibitions over a short space of time they will certainly have to offer visitors something more if they want to stay in the game,” says Malherbe. The problem of course is that onc0e you lose visitors to an exhibition it is very difficult to get them back, especially on consumer shows where one does not know exactly who the visitors are.

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