Nick Hardy: Niche is beautiful

22nd October 2007

There seems to be an understanding that successful exhibitions should grow – more exhibitors, more stands, more visitors and a larger venue, forever seeking a larger audience. However, history is littered with the remnants of shows that have grown to such a size that they cease to address their target market. Increasing the size and scope of shows contributes to their inevitable loss of focus and then they begin to falter.

So, what is the alternative?

Small, tightly focused shows – a select group of exhibitors, operating in a particular market, targeting the same group of prospects. Design Prima is such a show and it provides a good example. It challenges accepted wisdom by limiting the number of exhibitors to approximately 100, all of which are design led and bringing new and inspiring products to the interior and specifier market. Visitors are profiled and targeted carefully ensuring that the relevance of product to visitor is high.

Choice of venue is also critical. We so often read that visitor's experience of an exhibition or event is the most important element, but how can that be achieved in a huge, impersonal aircraft hangar. If the show can be accommodated in an inspiring venue and with more than just the same old shell scheme, then so much the better.

Design Prima is located in Old Billingsgate, which has a unique feel as well as presenting challenges for both design and logistics. The personality of this show was enhanced and communicated by the design of the show's interior, especially the shell scheme. It is not always necessary to create a shell scheme where all stands look uniform. Working with the organisers, we designed and built the shell scheme for Design Prima without fascia boards and with sides that enhance the open feeling of the venue, increasing the visibility of products on display.

Exhibitors are presented with a range of inclusive services such as space, floor covering, space demarcation, core stand lighting, power supply, stand cleaning, press promotion and publicity and catalogue entry, which are normally costly extras at most other shows. The aim has been to allow the exhibitors to focus on displaying their products rather than the logistics of being at the show.

Old Billingsgate is inspiring but, an old Victorian building presents logistical challenges despite recent modernisation. However, these challenges can be met because the show is being driven by the philosophy of quality not cost. This has allowed us to look at the most appropriate logistics solution rather than the cheapest. All aspects of the show follow this ethos, and while the show has a footprint of only 2500 square metres, it attracts around 5,000 carefully targeted visitors over the three days.

But the most important factor is that it is a true win-win event. The cost of a stand is not the cheapest, exhibitors are required to show only their latest and most innovative products and demand for stand space is such that there is a healthy waiting list and rebooking is very high. It is proof positive that small, niche shows can offer higher levels of service for the exhibitor and a valuable experience for the visitor.

Nick Hardy is director of Equniox Design

(Related categories of interest see Banner Stands, Bespoke Stand Design and Event Organisers.)