I have decided to write my account of what happened at Spring Fair in a series of blogs over the next few weeks - partly because it is distressing to do it all as a oner, but also that there were so many things that contributed to the problems that it would be easy to descend into ranting "and another thing" . . .
Therefore I shall be basing my posts on the points raised in a letter written jointly by 29 of the stands in the Spotlight area and delivered to the Event Director, Sarah Charlton, on the 10th February. The Event Director has since told me that standholders were co-erced into signing the letter, but that certainly wasn't my experience.
So here goes.
1. Location. I am paranoid about location at Trade shows, I spend ages talking to organisers before selecting stands. I am a right pain. This is because it is the single most important thing that can make a difference to how a show goes.
It is very important to be on the buyers' route, especially at a big Fair where buyers may not deviate much from main traffic routes.
The marketing email for the Spotlight area read
"Within the Design Led section we have a feature called Spotlight, which is designed for new and smaller companies to the show. This section is positioned in and around bigger and more established companies, so you can feed off their customer base. I have included some further information below:
Positioned at the front of Hall 9, close to the entrance of Hall 8 which holds 'the Summerhouse' who are an edited high end collection of companies"
I am a cautious person so I followed this up with 4 phonecalls in September last year exploring this and was repeatedly re-assured that the Spotlight area was on a main route from the Entrance of Hall 9 to Hall 8.
It obviously wasn't enough.
Here is a photo of Kit pointing to where Spotlight actually was on the plan of halls.
Not at the front - not en-route to hall 8 unless you were lost, certainly not in the traffic flow. Right at the back left hand part of the hall, en-route to absolutely nothing.
So was it mis-selling? Was it cynical mis-information? One of the Emap employees told me at the Fair that Spotlight was "technically at the front of the hall" - presumably a reference to the fact that it was next to the loading bay, so when you were unloading then it was at the front . . . . In past years, doors just to the left of the number 12 on the plan had been open as a route from a neighbouring hall but they weren't in use this year. I had charitably thought that perhaps the entrance changed between September and February and they forgot to let us know . . . but sadly not .
The result was that there was absolutely no general foot traffic in the area.
My view is that if you are creating a "Spotlight area" for new customers, ones which you recognise will need to "feed off the customer base" of more established brands, small businesses which you claim to be interested in helping develop - well then you actually do put them in a Spotlight, you put them at the front, or the centre. You make sure that buyers go past them.
You don't tuck them away at the back.