20 May 2024, 10:38
By Furniture News Sept 13, 2023

Troubled launch for exhibition matchmaking system

The closing day of this year’s Autumn Fair, which took place at the NEC Birmingham from 3rd-6th September, saw numerous exhibitors take to the aisle at the front of Hall 20 to voice their displeasure at the performance of new business-matching system Connect, launched at the event.

The Connect system – a compulsory element of the exhibitor package – was designed to enable visiting buyers to pre-book meetings with exhibitors before and during the show, as well as sharing special offers, discounts and announcements with those signed up.

Show organiser Hyve Group described Connect as "a transformational new approach to buying, designed to revolutionise the traditional trade show model by connecting retailers and brands on a scale never achieved before". However, despite some evidence of success, on this occasion the platform failed to impress a sizeable number of exhibitors, who were frustrated by the perceived lack of uptake, meetings and results it generated at launch. Their protest coincided with pressure to rebook stands for the coming year’s event.

Confronted by the unrest, Hyve quickly arranged to meet with a large group of those concerned, listened to their complaints, and attempted to find solutions – including a temporary extension of the on-site rebooking incentives.

Nicola Meadows, divisional MD at Hyve (pictured), said: “I really appreciated speaking to the group of exhibitors who shared their thoughts and feelings about the on-site experience, the delivery, and outcomes of Connect and the general feel across the show floor.

“We have listened and were able to have a constructive conversation and would like to reassure all our exhibitors that while we evaluate the overall show, gain further feedback, and follow up with each of them, their location and rates will not change. In the meantime, will not be increasing rates, and the on-site offer will be frozen for the next 28 days.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our exhibitors for persevering with us and continuing to provide feedback. We know how important these shows are to the industry and want to continue to listen to feedback and experiences to make the show the best it can be going forward.”

Sarah Ward, CEO of The Giftware Association, comments: “As a membership association supporting our industry and members, I have listened and have been actively relaying the narrative of Autumn Fair to the show organisers. I have been talking to key exhibitors to understand better the frustrations to reach a positive outcome for all.

“Autumn Fair has been a staple to the autumn show calendar for our members who rely on its success for their brands and own journey, and understanding how we work through this together is key to its further success.”

Amanda Fergusson, CEO of the Greetings Card Association, adds: “If you've got gift buyers coming here, you need cards, so we really want the show to succeed, we want to see more exhibitors here, but most importantly we want the buyers to come flooding through the door – that's important to all of us, they are what makes it a successful show.

“I'm thrilled that [Hyve is] listening to the exhibitors, and I'm really pleased that you're going to take time to go away and reflect on all the feedback from the show and look at how we can improve and move forward.”

Hyve has promised to respond to the trade in due course.

Autumn Fair is a one-stop marketplace for home, gift and fashion buying. Its seasonal counterpart, Spring Fair, will take place on 4-7th February 2024.

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