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Are trade shows less important to retailers and suppliers?

As trade shows kick off in Australia for 2024, it’s a good time to contemplate the value of these events for suppliers and retailers.

I’ve already been to three trade shows overseas this year and several suppliers at two of these shows have told me that the trade shows are not what they used to be, that they have not bounced back post-Covid.

One supplier I spoke to earlier this week told me they were ending their 15-year commitment to the UK Spring Fair trade show. The A$10,000 stand cost and associated costs of A$4,000 plus the 4 days away were not generating sufficient return. This supplier has found plenty of new customers in other places thanks to tech innovation and change in how, where and when retailers purchase inventory.

I think how we discover new products for our shops and how we buy them has fundamentally changed for many of us. Whereas in the past getting to trade shows was the must do thing in the year, it is no longer the case.

For sure, there are some retailers who rely on and will continue to rely on trade shows. I think those less likely to are those chasing newer products, those chasing retail innovation.

As a supplier to several retail channels, I can share that in my own case the percentage of the marketing budget committed to trade shows in 2024 will be barely 10% of what it was in 2019 and new customer business will be considerably more than 2019. We, like so many suppliers, have found other ways to discover and connect with new customers.

From a retailer perspective it means we need to be engaged with other places where we can discover new suppliers. There are new online platforms. Smart marketing groups are pitching products in different ways. We are able to easily source more products from overseas than before.

For the newsagency channel, the value of trade shows has changed in part because of changes to our product mix.

I am not saying that trade shows are dead. Rather, the engagement of some suppliers and retailers with them has changed. No longer, for example, do we need 3 or 4 days at a Gift Fair. It can be a 1 or 2 day thing. Smart suppliers use the trade shows to showcase and back this with tech that enables easy purchasing online.

Trade shows are expensive for suppliers and for retailers. The cost of space has continued to rise while the foot traffic attracted has been flat, in decline or, at the very least, less commercially valuable than in the past.

I think the changes we are seeing here are reflective of changes we are seeing elsewhere in business. Ultimately, the changes are good, healthy, as they help us see changes we can make.

I spent two days at the huge Spring Fair in Birmingham UK and I am grateful to have connected with several new suppliers and to have met some Australian suppliers to talk with them about what they found and what we found. It is in this type of networking that one of the values of trade shows remains.

Are trade shows less important to retailers and suppliers? For some, yes, while for others, no. It’s worth contemplating the return on the investment.

Newsagency management

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