Well, that was different!
What might be the last annual show organised by IDEA was well-attended and upbeat. If I had to describe the event in one word it would be ‘loose’. But then I’d go on to say that’s a good thing. The noticeably broader aisles and the complete open door policy at the entrance seemed to make things, well looser, more relaxed, somehow.
I spoke to a good range and number of exhibitors and none had any particular grumbles – they were moderately to extremely happy. At the business end, exhibitors like IPS said they had been able to see all the people they wanted to, and had a good reception. The pro stands were busy with pro photographer-looking types. The bulk of the exhibitors who had come to speak to – and in some cases sell to – consumers were always busy, without any unpleasant crush. Perhaps there were a more folk simply out for an inexpensive afternoon’s diversion than last year – valuable ‘foot traffic’ nonetheless. But the staff on most stands sure didn’t have much spare time to chat to each other, the lens towers were usually crowded and the education sessions regularly filled out the 200-seat capacity.
The big camera companies had stylish and exciting stands, with lots on offer. From that point of view, Canon was a stand-out, even taking exhibition visitors on photo walking tours, and producing a slick magazine specifically for the show. Beyond the retailing issue – or perhaps as a factor of the retailing issue – it was an impressive effort.
The three key IDEA Board members, with Rob Gatto to the fore in the role as organiser, and marketing and sales support from James Murray and Marc Radatt, deserve great credit and respect for volunteering to pull the show together following former CEO Katherine Singson’s departure. It was a success. And of course, Eve Phillips from IDEA provided the invaluable corporate memory and day-to-day, hands-on management.
The whole selling-on-the-stands thing was a recurring topic of conversation. There were a range of differing approaches from not at all; through to only selling accessories and/or clearance items, though to big discounts off RRP. Adeal adopted a different approach altogether, inviting three retailers to sell on their stand, one for each day of the show.
Once one consumer-oriented exhibitor begins retailing from their stands there’s a strong compulsion for everyone to do so. There are the competitive pulls of course, but it actually becomes an issue of customer service. One argument goes that if the stand next door is selling, you can’t match them in customer gratification unless you sell as well.
But from an industry point of view, the local retailers don’t have much incentive to get behind the show if they are simply channelling their customers towards their suppliers’ cash registers and databases. Perhaps the changing nature of the show is part of the answer to why the PMA Conference, although excellent, was so poorly attended.