Both visitors and exhibitors need to be aware of extended registering times, and increased administration as organisers try to ensure safety and minimise queues
Like dating again it was hard to think about leaving the comfort of our sofas to get out there again to meet new people. However we needn’t have worried because being at a trade show was fabulous. It was absolutely wonderful to meet people again, and to talk product to customers new and old. It’s easy to forget the energy you get from being surrounded by people, but Harrogate Home and Gift gave it in spades.
In the end the synergy between retailer and manufacturer is core to the success of both and it would take more than a pandemic to change this.
So how was Harrogate Home and Gift different to previous years?
As we move into 2022 the big shift will be that manufacturers will have to make a conscious choice to exhibit rather than using the investment made 2 years ago and this is going to be a challenge for the show organisers
Firstly, there is a lot more administration. Both visitors and exhibitors need to be aware of extended registering times, and increased administration as organisers try to ensure safety and minimise queues.
That aside, the biggest change is the construction of the shows. It is a lot harder for larger companies to exhibit in the time of Covid. They need more staff, and the risk of taking back Covid to the office is a lot higher.
They also need a high traffic flow to ensure they make back their investment in the stand cost. Their costs are a lot higher so their risk is greater. There were noticeably less bigger wholesalers at Harrogate than normal.
For smaller traders who are by nature more agile the resumption of trade shows is a good opportunity to test, learn and adapt. They can highlight trends and accelerate evolution.
The other noticeable thing was the sheer quantity of wholesalers who simply didn’t turn up. Most stands were bought and paid for back in 2019 so the cost has been forgotten a long time ago. Digital B2B platforms have boomed during the pandemic so the trade shows have become less significant as a way of generating new business.
When faced with more avenues to market and increased uncertainty, plus the chance of Covid in the company, sometimes the trade show simply feels too much to manage, and companies decided not to attend at the last minute.
Finally, both the number of exhibitors and visitors were significantly reduced. From an exhibitor’s point of view the visitors were less diluted than normal. The visitors we saw were there because they had thriving shops and they really had to source new products. They were very focussed on ensuring they went back to their shops with a clutch of new ranges.
For a visitor expect a lot less exhibitors and expect the ones to be there to be smaller companies than normal. You should also expect the exhibitors not to match the ones on the trade show website.
As we move into 2022 the big shift will be that manufacturers will have to make a conscious choice to exhibit rather than using the investment made 2 years ago and this is going to be a challenge for the show organisers.
For larger companies who have sales teams and agents the trade shows are integral to their sales plan. They have the staff and the stands and to move away from regularly exhibiting at trade shows would take an entirely different sales strategy.
Conversely the small companies do not have the same overheads and trade shows have always been more ad hoc. It will be interesting to see if the trend in 2022 is for trade shows to be dominated by larger and more established brands. This would be a shame as the mix between innovation and established best sellers is what makes trade shows such a great resource.
The unspoken but every present effect of Brexit will surely become more obvious in 2022 as exporting into the UK market becomes less profitable for European brands. In addition the administration barriers to exhibiting in the UK (and trust me the paperwork to exhibit in Europe now is mind boggling) may make even the biggest brands decide to stay away.
Before the pandemic we had already seen a move towards more focussed trade shows with our niche shows being more successful than the large, multinational shows such as the Spring Fair, and we think this trend may have accelerated over the last two years.
There is still no better way to source new products and partners than attending a trade show but in 2022 we think that there will be more competition for attention from digital platforms, more barriers to entry for exhibitors and less appetite for spending days in recycled days.
What this means for trade show organisers will be very interesting to see.