BTME Harrogate 2020 was again a very diverse and entertaining week for me, meeting up with so many industry professionals, manufacturers and end users.
Again, it took me a while to find my way around the new layout of the show, however the green, purple, red and blue carpets certainly helped me identify where I was going. As for attendance the numbers seemed the same as last year with certain parts of the show being busier than others depending on what time of the day it was.
This year’s BTME featured more than 150 exhibiting companies spread across four zones at the Harrogate Convention Centre. Alongside the exhibitors, the Green Room Podcast Live was hosted by Curtis Tyrrell MG CGCS, a Sustainability Zone in association with the Golf Environment Organisation was held and the STRI Group showcased science in action in a live turf laboratory. There was also the return of Golf Course Construction LIVE and the New Products Area.
The BIGGA Welcome Celebration was hosted by Naga Munchetty in the main auditorium, featuring two drinks receptions and celebrating all the finest achievements and milestones from the year.
On the second day, the free-to-attend BTME Breakfast Club took a look at “Cock-ups, Disasters and Calamities” out on the course, following the BTME Early Bird 5k Run sponsored by Syngenta helping to raise awareness of mental health.
As always, Continue to Learn kicked off the week, with the education programme suiting the needs of BIGGA members. Taking place from Sunday 19 to Wednesday 22 January, the association’s Learning & Development team put together its largest-ever package of education.
The Continue to Learn programme featured more than 250 hours of education delivered by over 90 speakers. Most companies, I spoke to seemed happy with the amount of business enquiries they received during the three days of the show.
As usual Harrogate’s restaurants, pubs and clubs offered plenty of choice for after-show engagement for the thousands of delegates attending.
We still heard some grumblings from certain stand holders in the Red hall, and in particular the Blue hall, that they weren't quite getting the footfall they would desire. Certainly, the Blue hall where STIHL, Iseki and Ernest Doe Hire were located, felt like the end of the natural route around the complex and therefore it was taking longer for the crowds to filter through.
The Purple hall upstairs conversely, which most visitors would've happened upon first, where Ransomes and Toro amongst others were situated, always felt busy and buzzy. That may have been helped by having a cafe area located in front of it which appeared to keep a good number of people hanging around.
But that said, I think the show organisers were happy that all the halls were seeing their aisles fill up quicker than they had in 2019. We don't know about actual figures yet, but my colleague Steve Gibbs, editor of Service Dealer, attended a BIGGA press conference on the morning of Day 2 of the show and reported, “BIGGA's Jim Croxton said that Tuesday's attendance was very close to what they'd had on the first day last year. He did also mention that stand space sales were about 7% down on the previous year.”
And there were some notable absentees this year, Husqvarna being an obvious one. Jim Croxton mentioned that some companies might be attending the show on a bi-annual basis from now on. It'll be interesting to see next January whether there are any returning names - or indeed if any companies who weren't exactly delighted with their stand positioning are able to exert any influence over the organisers to be moved to a more favoured location.
In terms of what got the show talking this year, the news which broke on Tuesday that Toro are to buy Ventrac was understandably quite a surprise to say the least. It created quite the stir and no little chat amongst the exhibitors and visitors. Rupert Price of Price Turfcare, who has very successfully built up a market for the equipment in the UK over the past 3 years, told TurfPro it's "business as usual" for them. They are actively continuing their policy of building up a dealer network and looking forward to a very prosperous 2020. See story here.
As for product interest, there was array of new products being shown at this year’s BTME.
I managed to catch up John Coleman and Vinny Tarbox on the Club Cadet MTD Stand to see the new range of Infinicut mowers on offer that have phone app control systems to alter the heights of cut.
Vinny Tarbox, sales manager for MTD Specialty Turf Products said that due to rapid growth during 2018/19 they have started a dealer recruitment programme. He said this has always been planned upon reaching a certain annual turnover of equipment. Vinny said some appointments have been made already but they are looking to secure more in certain areas. Dealers would have access to their full range he said.
I also managed to catch up with David Withers and Alan Prickett from Iseki who spoke about their plans for 2020 in terms of growing the business and increasing their dealership outlets and the interest being shown in their flail collect mowers.
I also caught up with both Adam Butler (Baroness) and David Hart (Kubota) who spoke about a new initiative they will be working on together to benefit customers, not an official merger or anything like that, more a gentleman's agreement, UK md David Hart told me that not all of the two company's dealers are aligned, but where the opportunities present themselves, their dealers can offer a package of equipment to golfing facilities - many of whom want both tractors and cutting equipment.
I also caught up with Ian Pogson from Campey TurfCare where we spoke about the recent award being given to their AirG2 product that has become very popular with many being sold both home and abroad.
Also during the course of the show, I manged to interview and catch up with many industry professionals such as Vic Domain (Durham CC), Professor John Moverly (Amenity Forum), Jason Booth (IOG), Peter Craig (Lensbury Club), Steve Nixon (Bernhards), along with many others.
You can view some of the video interviews we shot here - with more to come soon via TurfPro's YouTube channel!
I was also honoured to be able to catch up with Colin Webber, BIGGA’s new president for 2020, having accepted the Board's nomination to become BIGGA vice president last year. Colin I am sure will do an excellent job in promoting the role of the greenkeeper and the importance of sustainable practices.
Having come from a farming background and having built and managed his own golf course, he brings to the table many new ideas and opportunities and no doubt will enjoy his presidency role in the coming year.
To finish off I would lastly like to congratulate the winners of this year’s 2020 Golf Environment Awards that were announced at The Crown Hotel in a ceremony hosted by STRI Group. Read all the details in the story here.