Hyve Group, organisers of the Autumn Fair is taking on board the deepfelt ill-feelings from exhibitors and the GCA and GA concerning its new Connect meetings initiative that officially launched at this week’s four day show, which ran until today at the NEC.
Having invested heavily in what was hailed as a “game changer” by the exhibition organiser, Connect’s premise promised to bring exhibitors and retail buyers together for mutually beneficial pre-arranged timed meetings. However, a combination of the compulsory imposed cost of Connect for exhibitors, the time-consuming preparation required by both exhibitors and retailers and unfortunately a poor level of retail buyers showing up for the arranged meetings resulted in exhibitors feeling increasingly disgruntled by the new initiative, which culminated in a protest by over 100 exhibitors in Hall 20 at the show this morning (September 6).
Recognising the strength of ill-feeling, following the protest members of the Autumn Fair team met with a group of exhibitors to not only listen to the concerns, but also to promise a 28-day freeze during which time the key issues will be considered.
Nicola Meadows, Hyve’s divisional managing director said: “I really appreciated speaking to the group of exhibitors this morning who shared their thoughts and feelings about the onsite experience, the delivery, and outcomes of Connect and the general feel across the show floor.
We have listened and were able to have a constructive conversation and would like to reassure all our exhibitors that while we evaluate the overall show, gain further feedback, and follow up with each of them, their location and rates will not change. In the meantime, will not be increasing rates and the onsite offer will be frozen for the next 28 days.”
Among the gift companies at the meeting with Nicola this morning were James Thomas of Forever England and Toby Powell of Powell Craft, who are hopeful that improvements can be made:
“It is good that the organisers have acknowledged that there are issues from both buyers and exhibitors with Connect. It has been constructive in that they are prepared to take on our feedback and we’re more hopeful today having met with met face to face, that we have been. If dialogue can stay open between exhibitors and representatives of Hyve to resolve this matter into something that works for the industry and for the buyers primarily, then this can hopefully be a good outcome. We’re grateful that they have frozen any bookings and re-bookings and that they’re going to go back and look into our grievances and most importantly that of the buyers.”
The Giftware Association has been active in relaying its members concerns over Connect. As Sarah Ward, ceo of the GA said: “As a membership association supporting our industry and members I have listened and have been actively relaying the narrative of Autumn Fair to the show organisers. I have been talking to key exhibitors to understand better the frustrations to reach a positive outcome for all.
Autumn Fair has been a staple to the autumn show calendar for our members who rely on its success for their brands and own journey and understanding how we work through this together is key to its further success.”