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Are trade events useful for your business?

This month, PCR asked its Retail Advisory Panel what they thought of trade shows – do they attend them and are they useful? What gets them out of the shop or office and what really works?

The tech channel is spoilt for choice when it comes to trade shows, from events in far flung places like CES in Vegas, to the Gadget Show Live Professional, EntaLive which is currently touring the country, VIP’s Evolution, or PCR’s own Boot Camp, taking place on Wednesday May 29th.

The Retail Advisory Panel is a 19-strong select group of retailers and retail organisations, representing the buyers and decision makers that help shape technology retail.

This advisory panel will form an important part of the magazine’s coverage of the PC and tech retail trade going forward, and help direct and address the issues which are important to retailers at store and head office level.

Simon Barry, Argos

Trade shows are useful to attend. They can be an opportunity for contacts to get together and discuss broad issues while getting a ‘super-concentrated’ view of the various industry directions.

Relationships are key in modern business and trade shows provide some space to discuss and hypothesise which helps suppliers and retailers alike.

Contrary to many people’s views, you work bloody hard at shows. Long days – sometimes like ‘corporate speed-dating’! Evenings are a good chance to have dinner and have more informal discussions as well.

Whilst Barcelona (MWC), Vegas (CES), Taipai (Computex) and Berlin (IFA) all sound very glamorous, it’s amazing that once in the ‘sheds’ you could be at the Birmingham NEC.

Duncan Rutherford, Dabs.com

For me trade shows are a vital part of the industry but they are in dire need of an image overhaul. Recent examples I have been to have either been poorly attended by the industry or badly run in terms of the stalls lacking compelling reasons to visit. Products on a trestle table aren’t really enough these days – vendors need to engage and interact with attendees in a dynamic way.

I’d go to a lot more if a) they were local and b) they were more targeted – often they are generic and catered to a one-size-fits-all model.

Gavin Holder, GHI Computers

I appreciate independent retailers like ourselves see the cost involved of attending before even considering what there is to gain from it – I used to be this person until I attended a show.

From shows, I take a picture of where our business needs to be in three-to-six months and ensure these products are on the shelves in time for when the demand comes from consumers. 

 Just last year I visited the VIP Evolution event where Windows 8 was showcased. Microsoft, arguably the biggest force in IT, was moving away from the desktop platform and so were the international vendors. This one fact alone gave me the confidence to follow their lead and ensure I embraced the tablet market in a big way. 

GHI as a company stocked over a dozen different tablet manufacturers from the smallest to the largest in time for Christmas of 2012 which led to over 1,000 tablet PCs being sold across three stores over the festive period.

C Kohli, Yoyotech

For the technology trade, the internet killed traditional shows and exhibitions. In the past, companies would line up launch events around a show and spend a fortune to attract press and customer interest. These days, companies launch to a worldwide audience whenever it suits them.

Without a doubt, the most important European channel event in the modern calendar is DISTREE EMEA – the trade-only show that takes place in Monte Carlo at the start of February each year. For 2013 it held over 6,000 B2B meetings in just a few days.

Also interesting is the sheer volume of people that attend IFA in Berlin and GamesCom in Cologne. Apart from the Gadget Show, the UK consumer seems ‘event shy’. As far as the local business calendar goes, we have just the one entry – PC Retail Boot Camp – which provides the perfect focal point for the UK channel.

Craig Hume, Utopia Computers

When I am struggling to find the time to take a trip away from Utopia, I remind myself of two things: 1) a problem shared is a problem halved, and 2) people do business with people so it is always worth the extra time and effort.

Trade show events for me are rarely about getting to see the latest products; instead, they are all about networking. When I come back from these events, my head is always filled with ideas and inspiration for what needs to be done to take Utopia to the next level.

Utopia recently became a member of the Network Group and while I have only attended one meeting, it was a tremendous success. I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly and open nature of the other members, and enjoyed sharing their knowledge and experience. If you want to grow your business, putting yourself out there is the way to go.

Lorelei Gibb, Dolphin Computer Upgrades

As a company we benefited from visiting PCR Boot Camp last year, by finding information, new suppliers and companies that we could partner with. And on a personal note, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

We have exhibited at a couple of trade shows ourselves, but have found this the least profitable marketing avenue. The meticulous pre-planning required, the expense of the marketing materials and the time physically spent at the shows all add up, and the rewards only just balanced out. And it’s hard work, standing all day long and being open and friendly even if you’re tired and desperate for a coffee.

However, if you have a specific product to sell and know that the trade show visitors are highly likely to be your target audience it can be a worthwhile experience, not purely in sales on the day, but in increasing brand awareness and building relationships after the event.

William Linard, CompTIA

As we all know, the IT industry changes at a rapid rate and it sometimes is difficult to keep up. Being successful in IT is all about being able to adapt to change and events provide you with an insight into the latest market offerings quickly, without the need for lengthy research or travel.

Jat Mann, PC PAL

There are lots of trade events up and down the country (even internationally) and one could spend their entire working life just at the events. But carefully choosing the ones applicable to your sector can prove a worthwhile use of time.

These can be community ones (like the Comptia UK Channel Community), the CompTIA EMEA or PCR Boot Camp where keynote speeches by industry leaders are a source of useful advice. I have also attended events by distributors where they aim educate the audience on new technologies or products. But often, meeting fellow attendees and building relationships with them is the biggest benefit. Oh, and a free lunch also goes down well.

Chris Butterworth, Synaxon

I do attend trade shows but am selective about the ones I attend. I could spend 50 per cent of my time attending shows if I was so inclined.

The most important thing for me for any show is to know exactly what I want to get out of it and who I want to meet at the show. The preparation is as important for me as the show itself. You rarely get more than 30 minutes with people at shows and so it’s absolutely imperative that I know the information I want to convey and what I want to get from the exhibitors. I particularly like the formats of the DISTREE and Levin events as I can have up to 30 structured and planned meetings over two days.

Phylip Morgan, Network Group

Many of our members (and I) attend shows. Mainly to connect and network with vendors and distributors but also to get a feel of whats going on in the market.

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