27 May 2024, 14:25
By Gavin Boden Feb 07, 2020

Shows, shows, everywhere …

I’ve been in the industry since I left school, which is about a million years ago (well, it feels like it). Is it me, or are there now far more industry exhibitions in the UK than ever before?

There’s Top Drawer, January Furniture Show, AIS Furniture Show, North Point, Spring Fair, London Fabric Show, Irish Interiors, South West Bed Show, AIS’ Bed Show, Spring Long Point, Pulse, Minerva’s show, London Design Week, The Linens Show, AIS (again!), New Designers, SOLEX, Home and Gift, Manchester Furniture Show, the Irish Furniture and Homewares Show, Autumn Fair, Top Drawer (number two), Glee, the South West Furniture Show, London Design Festival, the NBF Bed Show, Autumn Long Point, Minerva’s Autumn Furniture Show, Decorex, Young Furniture Makers, another Linens Show …

I’m no mathematician, but that’s more than 30 separate events (I know that not all of them are exclusively about furniture, but if you just count those, there’s 20).

Twenty furniture exhibitions! Wow. If a manufacturer wanted to exhibit at 50% of these shows at, let’s say, £20,000 per exhibition, it’s going to cost them a cool £200,000 (and I think that’s an economical estimate). Can you imagine how many orders the manufacturer has to take to make that money back, let alone make a profit? 

I think this was probably the last straw for Hull bedroom manufacturer Kingstown Furniture, who heavily exhibited at the NEC last year and then in March closed their doors and made 380 people redundant.

But let’s talk about this from the retailer’s point of view. If they were to visit just 10 of the shows it would cost them travelling and hotel expenses, plus time out of the business (which they cannot afford to take), and they would feel pressured into ordering something they probably didn’t want. 

In my opinion, more than 80% of the serious retail buyers wouldn’t attend more than four shows in the UK because of the cost, and the fact that they’d see the same products over and over again (after all, manufacturers, whether based in the UK or from Europe, cannot keep designing new ranges for every show).

We are living in times of austerity and uncertainty – times in which we should be evolving to meet the demands of the world around us. And we’re simply not doing that. 

This leads me on to exhibition costs. I have a friend in the industry (I know, just the one!) who is also an MD. He had a mediocre-sized stand at a show earlier this year which was really expensive, then he paid extra for lighting (crazy expensive), a sink (about £300), the carpet (which was awful), and somebody to come and check it was all within the exhibition’s guidelines and regulations.

Overall, including product, staff, hotels, food, stand build and takedown, transportation costs, marketing and advertising, it cost him over £35,000! While the show was on, the company took orders worth approximately £45,000, and afterwards they pulled in another £10,000. Considering his margins, he actually lost £25,000. 

But even after all that, he told me that because he has a brand, he has to be there – otherwise customers might think he has financial issues.

The answer? I understand that manufacturers must show retailers their products – but might it be more economical for them to buy a purpose-built showvan and take it round to their customers? 

If not, perhaps we should have four main shows a year – either regional events, or ones which only offer a certain product category. 

At the very least, I’d like a group of industry professionals to sit round a table and find a solution to the crazy world of over-exhibiting we’ve fallen into.

Gavin Boden is BDM at Rhenus Home Delivery.

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