We are fast approaching the season for exhibitions and next month we have two big ones to consider – Ecobuild in London and fensterbau in Nuremburg, Germany.
While the former was seen as a ‘green’ Interbuild with increasingly flexible criteria, the German show has kept focused and has grown impressively. With the demise of Glassex and Interbuild, it was regarded as a destination for UK fabricators and installers, eager to see the latest developments in one space.
Ecobuild, on the other hand, appeared to take a backward step in 2013, recording disappointing attendance figures and the tell tale signs of a desperate organiser; big gaps. Some of this couldn’t be all blamed on organiser, UBM. The decision by the government to reduce the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) dealt a savage blow for the solar industry.
This year, a look at the glass and glazing contingent reveals a disappointing representation at Ecobuild. We have Synseal and the Epwin Group but where are all the others that have previously attended? According to the exhibitor list, no serious trade association in our sector is bothering to attend.
However, there is one exhibition, not previously mentioned, that has muscled its way into the event calendar and that is FIT. When it was first launched, there was much guffawing in the trade press at the very notion…and in Telford! Well, we got it wrong and the organisers made us look very sheepish as the visitors flocked to it and the exhibitors rose to the challenge.
So, we appear to have a show for the trade that has no pretensions and, dare one say, does what it says on the tin. Last week at Telford, there was a meeting for exhibitors for the event which will be held in June and will be a biannual event thereafter. I caught up with joint organiser, Paul Godwin and asked him a few questions:
Editor: The FIT Show last year surprised many people (if not you) by delivering what it said it would. What do you put this down to?
Godwin: I am not sure that there were that many sceptics. What we had from exhibitors from very early on was commitment – they expressed their belief by booking more than £500,000 worth of stands, even before the event was formally launched – and it continued until we sold every metre. Any doubts did not come from the exhibitors and in due course, none from visitors either. Having said that, our hearts were in our mouths until visitors began turning up; one can never really guarantee these things, no matter how well prepared. We were never over-confident but that is the way it worked out.
Editor: Will this year be a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, or do you feel an exhibition shouldn’t stand still?
Godwin: We have followed a similar format; it was successful in most respects. We have, therefore, fine tuned, changed and improved things that could have been better of course. There is substantially more car parking, for example, for exhibitors and visitors, the FIT for Business seminars have been refined, visitor entrances and registration procedures tweaked. As we go forward, we will always review as a matter of course, make it more fun and provide a better return for exhibitors and visitors. For 2014, I hope that the people that could not attend last year will now have got the buzz from those that did. We are pulling all the stops out to make sure everyone knows about The FIT Show this year. There will be a gap of almost two years until the next FIT Show in 2016 and of course, we will review everything after this year’s event, and make changes where necessary to make sure it’s fresh.
Editor: As you have just said, you have decided that FIT will be two-yearly. Is this a case that you don’t want to be seen as greedy like the organiser was with Glassex and Interbuild, or a realistic assessment that a UK show for this industry isn’t viable as an annual event?
Godwin: It is nothing to do with anything other than what the industry has told us. Exhibitors were quite clear overall that they wanted biennial, although visitor research was slightly in favour of annual. We have put shows back to back for 2013/14 by demand also, with demand to do so coming from companies that wanted to exhibit last year but were unable to make it, for one reason or another. Of course, many others wanted to come back again after having such a great show last year. But thereafter, biennial is the right idea.
Editor: I gather you’re launching a more general building show? If so, what are going to be the main reasons and objectives and where will it be?
Godwin: Yes we are. We are launching The Build Show which will take place at the NEC on 28-30 of April 2015. We have contracted Halls 3, 3a and 4 and are presently pre-selling, checking the pulse of the big brands in the building and construction sector and are receiving not only a positive reception, but contracts too. The building and construction industries were devastated by the recession but now demand is growing rapidly, the market is very positive. We hope that The Build Show, just like The FIT Show, will be the ‘right thing at the right time’. It looks that way.
No matter what the fortunes of these three shows this year, one thing is certain. Those Cassandras who talked about the death of exhibitions in the internet age, have got it wrong. People still see events like these as the most direct and human way of keeping in touch with the market they serve. There is no substitute for bumping into people you haven’t seen for a while and finding out there still are aspects and interests to share; let alone meeting new faces and concepts.
Ecobuild: 4-6 March 2014, ExCel, London
fensterbau: 26-29 March 2014, Nuremberg, Germany www.frontale.de
FIT Show: 10-12 June, Telford International Centre www.fitshow.co.uk