Change was the name of the game at the 2002 Fall Expo. Change as it related to this year’s gathering and future gatherings, and change with regard to the largest piece of Reed Exhibitions’ golf portfolio, the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.
The early August meeting provided a forum from which Christopher McCabe, the Reed Exhibitions vice president who manages both events, announced the creation of two buying summits, one for golf equipment and one for apparel.
The most apparent difference to the Fall Expo was the time and place of its staging, with Reed moving up the show dates six weeks from previous meetings and setting up a Western site rotation that took it to Reno and will bring it to San Diego next August.
In addition, McCabe had organized an expanded education conference with 30 professional development programs that ran for two days prior to the Expo, as well as product demonstrations at Reno courses, where a dozen exhibitors showed their wares during the event.
“We were encouraged by the response we got, and that only reinforced our belief that the days when people came to a golf show just to buy equipment is past,” McCabe said. “It is clear they want more, and that means we continually need to try and increase the value of the events for participants in whatever ways we can.”
McCabe used the opening of the Reno show to announce a series of new events, customer programs and enhancements to its entire U.S. golf portfolio, some to take effect immediately.
For example, he outlined a series of changes to the 2003 PGA Merchandise Show, beginning with the creation of an invitation-only golf demo day at which 40 exhibitors will show their wares to 2,000 key buyers and PGA members at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge. McCabe also said that Reed Exhibitions also will present approximately 30 education programs at the Orange County Convention Center during the Show in partnership with the PGA of America, leading golf associations and publications. The idea, of course, is to bring in more on- and off-course buyers.
Other moves include the phased-in capping of booth space at 6,400 square feet in an effort to curb wild expansion that made the Show financially onerous for some major exhibitors. Details on that plan, which is expected to be fully implemented by 2005, were sketchy, though McCabe did say that companies with two distinct brands, such as TaylorMade-Adidas, could have a maximum of two booths of that size.
McCabe said Reed also will institute policies to ensure a higher quality of buyer for the Merchandise Show and the Fall Expo. That would entail a requirement of three industry references for those seeking buyer badges, a limit of guest badges to 2,000 and tougher qualifications for exhibitors wishing to rent space.
Finally, McCabe laid out plans for an Equipment Buying Summit, where 20 major exhibitors and perhaps 150 VIP buyers would meet for a couple of days in the fall, beginning next year. And the following spring, Reed will start an Apparel Buying Summit with approximately the same number of exhibitors and buyers. Sites have yet to be determined, and both events will be invitation only.
“Again, we are trying to do what is best for our customers,” McCabe said. “But the problem is, they sometimes want very different things. The majority of the equipment companies, for example, say that most of their selling, especially to the off-course retailers, is completed by the end of November. So that is when many of them would like the Merchandise Show to be held. But that does not work out well for the apparel companies, who would prefer the spring. There is no one silver bullet that will satisfy all involved, so we came up with these additional events, where the major buyers and sellers can get together at times that would be best for them.”
McCabe also announced that Reed was starting a Country Club Expo in 2004 to run concurrent with the Merchandise Show at an Orlando facility to be determined. Exhibitors will include companies of interior design, food services and banquet products, as well as tennis and swimming industry businesses.
San Diego also will serve as the venue for the 2004 and 2006 Fall Expos, McCabe said. The obvious attractions there, aside from the temperate climate and inviting beaches, are the Carlsbad-based equipment makers. Most of them have not been exhibiting in Reed’s second show, and by setting up in their backyard, McCabe hopes to entice companies such as Callaway to come back.
It is way too early to tell how all those changes will impact the golf shows, and their ability to attract – and retain – the game’s most prominent buyers and exhibitors.
“Both Orlando and Reno were very good for us in 2002, but it still comes down each year to your return on investment and the harder-to-quantify benefits you gain from being there,” said Chris Zimmerman, general manager for Nike Golf.