There have been a number of potential solutions over the years to the ongoing saga of the fall Canadian buying shows, but they were always dismissed for various reasons.
From the exhibitors’ perspective, there were too many shows requiring too much expense, especially when the attendance by buyers was mediocre at best at some shows and many who did attend used them as viewing opportunities and social events instead of actually conducting business.
The return on investment concerns by the exhibitors were offset by the fact that the regional zones within the Canadian PGA relied on the annual events for revenue, so forget about them giving up their individual shows.
This standoff went on for years despite several ideas that were floated as possible solutions, the most popular being one big Canadian supershow that would allow exhibitors to set up at just one location for several days for buyers from across Canada.
There were other variations that would cut down on the number of shows, including one show each for Eastern and Western Canada and the combining of two or three existing shows into one. The idea was that each zone would receive money based on the number of its members it sent to these bigger shows.
None of these options turned into reality and it seemed the grumbling would go on forever with the occasional threat of a boycott at shows that just weren’t producing the desired results for exhibitors.
Just when you thought it would never end, an evolution begins.
With several changes the past few years in British Columbia and Quebec, most of the shows are now of the pipe-and-drape/rep/hotel variety, the one exception being Alberta, which has always been the jewel of the Canadian shows according to the majority of exhibitors.
“The members come out,” said Keith Keindel, executive director of the Canadian Golf Industry Association. “They really support the show. They buy at the show. It’s a very significant event for them. It’s just part of the culture in that province.”
The most recent show to undergo a transformation is Ontario, which became a potentially explosive situation last fall due to several issues, including attendance.
That situation has since been dealt with after meetings between the CGIA, Ontario PGA and Reed Exhibitions, which owns and operates the show with a percentage of proceeds going back to the association. The end result is that Ontario will also have more of a pipe-and-drape feel in 2009.
“The definition of pipe-and-drape for us is that our members will be taking a 10×10 space, either by brand or by the number of sales people that they have in the zone,” said Keindel.
“It will also mean that we won’t have head office personnel attending, so we’re saving the cost of head office personnel travel and we’re also saving on the cost of putting hard booths in place,” he said, adding that there had been concern that many companies wouldn’t exhibit when the show is held Oct. 28-29.
“It could have been a real problem and we feel, with the change, that most of the companies are going to attend the Toronto show. It will be much more of a rep show than it’s been in the past, but we think that it’s important to support the zones because we know, financially, running the shows is important to them, as well.”
The formula that will determine the size of a company’s booth will be based on the number of sales reps that will be working and the number of lines it distributes. The show has also been cut back by a day from the three-day format of last year, which began the process of discussion between the interested parties.
“After the last event we had in October of 2008, we sat down with the CGIA and they listed all the things we were doing right and all the things we were doing wrong, so we actually made a lot of really great changes going into 2009,” said John McGeary, the show manager and managing director for Reed Exhibitions Canada.
“It was long and it took some time to go through the thousand-plus (Ontario PGA) members and really look at the last couple of years and say, `Alright, who’s been going? Who’s been not going?’” said McGeary, adding that they targeted the people who weren’t attending.
“We had a focus group with these guys and we said, `What do you like about the show? What do you not like about the show? Why haven’t you been attending? What would make the event a place where you’d want to come year upon year, without any doubt?’”
McGeary adds that Reed was backed up in its efforts by Ontario PGA president Chris Miranda.
“What we’ve also been doing with the OPGA, and they’ve been great about this, is we’ve been sending out correspondence to the members, kind of just saying, `This is your event and your opportunity to participate in the event,’” said McGeary, adding that the financial benefits to the association was stressed to members.
Of course, exhibitors will have to resist the urge to one-up their competition with bigger booths and the presence of head office personnel in order for this plan to achieve its goals, but the main thing is that the two sides seem to be working together, not only in Ontario, but across the land.
It may be the spirit of cooperation between associations and organizations that seems to be at a peak these days in Canadian golf, or it could be because the economy is a reality and it’s difficult to argue that something had to be done.
“You’d always hoped that the shows would be viable and, by changing the format, we’re continuing to make it viable and, when I say viable, what I mean is it’s economical from the manufacturers’ point of view and it’s also economical from the pros’ point of view,” said Keindel.
“I think the combination of the economy, the times and what we’re facing, it’s been necessary to make changes and it’s evolving,” he added. “I think it’s evolved in a good way because we’re still supporting the pros and servicing them effectively. We’ve come to these conclusions together.”
“We’ve been working much more closely with the OPGA and CGIA to have the event reflect more of what’s going on in the industry at this point,” he said.
“This is actually the perfect year to allow that option due to the economy. What we want people to do is get their return on investment and allowing them to come on with pipe-and-drape is more in line with that, we feel.”