This week we have been exhibiting at Crufts. It’s our first show of the year, and the same is true for many other traders. The show world is a strange community of misfits and outcasts. I see the same faces each week in different muddy fields and exhibition halls up and down the country.
Crufts felt like the first day of a new school year. We are catching up with old friends, hearing the gossip and admiring new stand designs and product ranges. Discussing our winter holidays, the shows we have booked for this year and of course Brexit!
In previous years we have done more than 200 shows, on some weekends during Christmas we might have ten stands out across the country. However, this year is different. We are concentrating all our time and effort on one main show and backing it up with a big drive to grow online. Last year online represented 25% of our business. I hope to change that to 75% over the coming year or two.
So, this year our show calendar contains only about 50 shows. We have already had disappointed customers contact us asking why we are not at “such-and-such a show”. I thought I should explain some of our thinking behind the change.
Sales on the Highstreet have been decimated by online over the last decade. For a long time, the shows were unaffected by this pressure. However, we have seen a significant change over the last couple of years. More and more of people’s disposable spending is going online, and it leaves less and less to spend when visitors come to a show.
The show footfall is not down, so the organisers don’t see the change but the spend inside the show is dramatically down. When you combine this with ever higher prices for entry tickets and food, its little wonder that show visitors are doing less shopping.
As an exhibitor, our expenses continue to rise. There is a frightening amount of cost associated with attending a show. Let me give an illustration for a typical four-day show:
Stand – £1500 (This is an average figure, our cheapest stand is about £500, our most expensive one is £6500 for four days!)
Stand Electrics – £200
Wages – £1200 (3 people)
Hotel – £300
Staff Travel – £100
Caravan Pitch – £100
Food Allowance for staff as away from home – £360
Van – £100
Diesel – £70
Free Samples – £350 (At Crufts, we gave away 3000 hand cream samples at the cost of £600)
Total = £4270
Then we pay for the stock we sell and the VAT. As you can see, it’s tough to make money, and high sales are needed. It used to be an easy way to earn a good living, but times are changing.
The big, flagship shows still perform well. Although the stand costs are very high, it’s more than compensated for by the high footfall and more big spending customers. But the other shows are just not cost effective to trade. Of course, we could cut the costs, have less staff on the stand, give out less free samples and so on, but it doesn’t make enough of a difference.
Large companies with deep pockets will continue to use shows as a marketing platform for sampling and brand awareness. But trading companies, like ourselves who relied on shows for sales are increasingly finding them unprofitable.
We will always do shows. They are in my blood and at the heart of what Valentte is. But our presence is going to change. We will do fewer shows with larger stands and more staff on those stands. I anticipate we will increasingly use them as a platform to grow our online business, for brand building and awareness rather than to make money.
This seams a shame, but it is the way the world is going. Online is eating everything! We can either fight that or go with it. We are accepting the inevitable.
I’m incredibly excited about our push into online. One noticeable change on the website is you can now order free scent samples for anything in our range so you can test it at home. I hope you will take advantage of this to see what other products you might like.
Thanks as always for shopping with us and your continued support in our journey to become the UK’s number 1 Natural skincare and home fragrance company.