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Expos show the power of promotion

BUSINESSES across a range of industries are rapidly tuning in to the benefits available through participation in a trade show or expo.

This is reflected in the plethora of such industry events on the business calendar. There are home shows and building shows, auto expos and boat shows, an Every Woman Expo and even an Action Sports Expo.

The increasing number of industry expos and trade shows is having positive economic benefits for participants and organisers alike.

Among the beneficiaries are Strahan Consultants, the company which ran the recent Caravan and Camping show and the Holiday and Travel Expo, and Exhibit Exhibitions, which organises half a dozen shows in Perth, including the Ideal Home Show and the Every Woman Expo.

Many of the shows produced in Perth are run by exhibition companies on behalf of member-based industry representative organisations to create enough revenue to ensure the life of the organisations.

The recent Auto Expo, for example, is owned by Motorshow Management – a joint venture between The Chamber of Automotive Industries of WA (Inc.) and the Australian Automobile Dealers Association WA (which is incorporated within the Motor Trades Association of WA) – but was managed and marketed by OsMark, a marketing firm specialising in event management.

Auto Expo recorded 60,000 visitors this year and claims annual sales of $8 million.

OsMark managing director Chris Osborne said the show not only provided much-needed revenue for the two motoring associations, but also was financially rewarding for his company, which requires both a retainer for running the event and a share of the end profits.

“The event is successful for the industry and it’s a worthwhile exercise for me,” he said.

Mr Osborne has been in the exhibitions industry for almost two decades and said things definitely had “heated up” in the expo arena in recent years.

“Both trade exhibitions and consumer exhibitions are in growth internationally because of the rising opportunity for customers and traders to meet face to face,” he said.

“There are five main reasons why exhibitions work. One: most of the products people are looking at are in one spot. Two: all the information that you want is there. There’s a competitive environment, so you can get a bargain. There’s entertainment and it is usually in an environment where people can see something they normally couldn’t – like a ‘Star Car’ or the latest model vehicle.”

Pat Strahan from Strahan Consultants said shows and expos also gave exhibitors an opportunity to talk shop with colleagues and to find out what the opposition was up to.

Ms Strahan estimates that, on the retail sales side, more than 70 per cent of trade show visitors intend to make a purchase, either at the show or in the near future.

But she said making a show a success was not a simple exercise.

“In order to be a success an expo must be properly marketed, properly presented and properly organised,” Ms Strahan said.

“An organiser must always keep in mind the main goal – from venue booking to stand selling, target markets to advertising and promotion.

“A successful expo encompasses the basic fundamentals of any business organisation.

“If any facets are neglected, then the expo suffers. The effects are instantaneous.”

The Boating Industry Association (BIA) is one member-based organisation to run its own shows.

BIA’s most successful and longest running show, The Boat, Dive and Fishing Show, recorded a profit of $150,000 this year.

BIA also holds the annual Hillarys Boat Show and the Bunbury Boat Show, with plans under way to launch a fourth (The Mid Boat Show) this November.

BIA project officer Deena Appleby said the popularity of the Boat, Dive and Fishing Show had gone from strength to strength since its inception in the early 1980s.

“Over the years it has grown tremendously. It is now the largest leisure show in WA,” Ms Appleby said.

“On average we get about 35,000 people attend each year.”

The BIA deliberately runs its shows in August, because winter months mean slow business in the boating industry.

“It’s a quiet time and they need the show to boost their sales,” Ms Appleby said.

“Most exhibitors say that, after the boat show, their sales increase quite considerably, about 50 per cent.

“It’s an opportunity for them to promote new product and get ready for their busy summer period.

“Funds raised from the BIA shows help us to run the association, with 50 per cent of revenue coming from ticket sales and 50 per cent coming from renting space to its 170 or so exhibitors.”

Exhibit Exhibitions represents the other side of the coin, with the Perth-based company owning and running seven of its own shows.

Exhibit Exhibitions bought-out the two largest exhibition companies in Perth – Corporate Events Group and Vision Events Management – 18 months ago, making it the big hitter in WA’s expo and trade show industry.

Exhibit Exhibitions managing director Peter Versluis said the division of show ownership into two groups – industry associations which own the shows but hire firms to run them, and those which own and operate their own shows – was the way of the future.

“The exhibition industry globally is amalgamating, it is becoming an industry dominated by some very large players,” he said.

“Right now we’ve got a retail exhibition business that pays the rent, allows us to support staff and infrastructure and allows us to develop expertise.

“Then we’re well positioned to take advantage of the convention centre when it arrives and add a whole heap of trade shows to the portfolio.”

And while exhibitions may be the bread and butter, Exhibit Exhibitions has plans for expansion.

“We see our business in coming on two ways.

“One where we create new events that require a decent venue and continuing the events we’ve started ourselves,” Mr Versluis said.

“Then there are also a lot of large events that travel the world and they work by bidding. We would bid them to run a show and bring it to Perth.”

Even if the domination of expos by larger companies becomes a reality, many smaller businesses are required to make up the infrastructure and personnel requirements.

The economic spin offs from show and expo organisation is not to be sneezed at, with the short-term nature of the events meaning big boosts to businesses leasing and hiring products.

And it’s not just the usual catering companies and security firms that stand to gain from the expo expansion.

Other businesses to benefit from involvement at the expos and trade shows would include audio visual equipment hire companies, cleaners, display companies, fork-lift hirebusinesses, furniture hire, indoor plant hire and party hire businesses.

Also included in this list would be the additional part-time staff as well as entertainers, presenters and models shipped in to add zest to the events.

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