Keith Keindel, executive director of the Canadian Golf Industry Association, is hoping to get a jingle from the Ontario PGA sometime soon to discuss the future of its beleaguered fall buying show, which continued to evolve yesterday.
Reed Exhibitions, which has owned the show since 2001, announced that it was handing it back to the association and walking away, citing the need to focus on its PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando and its Fall Expo in Las Vegas.
However, Reed isn’t likely to just hand back a property that’s a big money maker and it’s no secret that attendees and exhibitors have been dropping over the past decade for a variety of reasons.
“I really don’t know what the reality is,” said Keindel of Reed’s announcement on Thursday.
”I’m assuming that the show’s gotten so small that it’s not worth their time to be involved in it. I’m guessing that’s what happened, but I don’t know that to be a fact. There were all sorts of rumours about different things happening, but it’s certainly not a surprise that they backed away from it,” he said.
Ontario has its own unique set of challenges for its show, including the fact that many company headquarters are located in the Toronto area and don’t exhibit because they have easier access to buyers in most of that province.
However, the traditional problems that come up in the annual debate about the Canadian buying shows have become more complex with an ever-changing landscape that continues to make all shows struggle for survival.
For example, the buying cycle has shifted with sales reps, particularly in apparel, starting to look for decisions in the late summer. Buyers can also preview through the Internet and potential show exhibitors are constantly looking to cut costs with the Canadian dollar at par and the economy still sluggish.
Those are just some of the latest challenges to the shows.
“Clearly, there’s a trend for the vast majority of shows, if not all of them, to have less pros attending and so, if that trend continues, there’s going to be less need for the shows,” said Keindel. “It’s not one factor. It’s sort of a complicated matrix of things.”
Keindel adds that you only have to look at the number of companies that have amalgamated or been taken over by others over the past 10 years to realize that the industry has contracted.
“The last couple of years have not been great years in the golf business. I think if you look at the ‘90s. almost everybody who entered the golf business was making money,” he said.
The climate has changed since then and potential exhibitors need to justify their expenses.
“The manufacturers are sensitive because they feel like they aren’t getting a reasonable return on the amount of money they’re spending and the zones are sensitive because obviously, there’s some significant money in their budget that’s attribute to (their shows),” said Keindel.
That’s why it would be wise for zones in all provinces to keep an eye on what’s happening in Ontario, where one of the possible solutions that has been mentioned is a change in dates, most likely to a summer slot, so the show jives with the buying cycle.
Although Ontario plans to talk with its members about possible solutions, one of the common complaints about summer dates is that golf professionals need to be focused on running their operations in peak season. One thing that is certain is that the future of Canadian shows is, at best, uncertain.
“It’s been in transition for years, but I’ve never seen it quite as contentious an issue as it is right now,” said Keindel of the need to meet with the Ontario zone and contribute some input.
“It’s up to them to decide how they want to proceed. I guess what I wouldn’t want to see is a situation where they proceed with something that the (CGIA) doesn’t like and then, all of a sudden, they’re committed to something and we’ve got another problem,” said Keindel.