As you read here last week, the PGA of British Columbia buying show was recently cancelled after the Canadian Golf Industry Association decided not to support it, a fate that befell a similar show in Ontario last year to the tune of $45,000, according to association estimates.
You can read that story from just over a year ago here.
There wasn’t much the PGA of Ontario could do about it at the time, but it didn’t want to go another year without testing the interest of buyers and vendors in a future show, perhaps one that includes education and networking, along with a buying show component.
For the time being, the Ontario association will host what’s being called an industry expo, with a buying show concept, at Lionhead Golf and Country Club in Mississauga. Set-up will be on Monday, Nov. 5, followed by two show days Nov. 6-7.
With approximately 55 booths, the show will be a pipe-and-drape rep event and will again not be supported by the CGIA, although PGA of Ontario executive director Kevin Purcell says he would welcome any company rep to exhibit.
“I still truly believe, and I have believed for a long time, that there is a place for some sort of an industry event in the fall time of year for Ontario,” said Purcell.
“The current model was obviously fading fast. We knew it was broken and it wasn’t working and there needed to be some sort of change,” added Purcell of traditional complaints by vendors about attendance, lack of buying and not enough return on investment.
After taking over his current position at the beginning of this year, Purcell and the association board of directors began looking at different ways to engage their members and deal with the concerns of the vendors.
One of the alternatives considered was something similar to the Golf Business Canada Conference and Trade Show hosted each year by the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada.
“I don’t believe that we, as golf professionals, have ever done a good job of networking, not anywhere near like the managers do, the superintendents, the owners,” said Purcell.
“Of course, there’s a buying component, but we really look at the value from an association point of view of the networking and the getting together and sharing the successes and the failures and learning from each other bests practices and that sort of thing,” he added.
Purcell adds that the association looked at destinations such as Niagara Falls as possible venues to host such an event, but in discussions with CGIA executive director Keith Keindel, that association still wasn’t comfortable with the proposal.
“I respect that because we didn’t have a concrete plan in place. It was just an idea and a concept,” said Purcell. “Without the support of a lot of the major companies, we felt that was biting off more than we can chew.”
On the other hand, he said, the PGA of Ontario didn’t want to go a second year without a show.
“We felt that not having it again for a second year would make it much more difficult for us to try and launch anything in 2013,” he said.
“What we couldn’t ignore was the smaller vendors that maybe aren’t a member of (the CGIA) that can’t possibly cover the ground they need to in Ontario and are just looking for that opportunity to get in front of a number of our professionals at once,” said Purcell.
“They really, really were hurt by us canceling last year,” he added.
This year’s event will be similar to the association’s final show, which was scaled down to a pipe-and-drape affair.
One main difference, according to Purcell, is the intimate setting at Lionhead compared to the bigger International Centre in Mississauga, where it was previously held.
The show will make available five-by-10, seven-by-10 and 10-by-10 booths, with prices ranging from $750 to $1,250, with everything included.
“That’s less than half than they’ve ever paid for a space in Ontario,” said Purcell. “It doesn’t need to be a big revenue generator for us. If we can pull this off professionally and successfully and not lose money, that to me would classed a major success.”
A major success would move this year’s event closer to what the association pictured earlier this year when it was looking into a conference and trade show, but Purcell realizes there is dialogue ahead.
While there was disappointment following the CGIA’s decision last year, Purcell points out that companies do support PGA through sponsorships, equipment and other means.
He adds that he does understand their concerns about return on investment, but adds there are different ways to look at that subject.
He says that when he worked as a professional in the southwestern Ontario community of Sarnia, he and his staff would make the trek to Toronto to take in the show, where they would do their research, but make a considerable spring buy at a show in London a few weeks later.
“That was all because of the work and the effort that we put in at the (PGA of Ontario) show,” he said.
“I’ve said for years that the vendors need to look at the buying season as a snapshot, not just the two days of the show. You’re not being accurate if you don’t attach that buy that we made in London to what we did at the (PGA of Ontario) show,” added Purcell.
On the other hand, association members need to dedicate themselves to making this new initiative work and ease the concerns of the vendors.
“I’ve said it for many years, I think the apathy in our association is tremendous and one of my biggest initiatives when I took this chair was to re-engage our membership,” said Purcell, adding that communication is a key to that end.