What a great start to 2019!
I had a superb three days last week, hiking around the new BTME show – however I must admit the layout was a bit of challenge at first. As one exhibitor stated, it seemed like a five dimensional Ikea. It did take me two days to find my way around!
However, most of the exhibitors I spoke to seemed fairly happy with the new format. As always there are the odd one or two who found themselves in perhaps not the best of spots - particularly those situated on the dead ends of the Red and Blue Zones.
It was also difficult to gauge the numbers of people attending due to the spread of the show. However, official figures released after the show stated on the opening day of the event, BIGGA had welcomed 3,400 people into the Harrogate Convention Centre, including exhibitors. This was followed by 3,967 visitors on Wednesday, including 1,609 new visitors, and a further 1,159, including 345 new visitors, on Thursday.
So, this year, it seems we have had around 7,500 visitors at the show. Not a bad turnout, however I personally believe we should be attracting more considering the size and scale of our industry. We need to be attracting new blood into our industry. I think we should perhaps invite schools and colleges to attend on the final day. This initiative could help promote our industry and the potential career opportunities we have on offer.
Walking around the halls last week I certainly felt that Price Turfcare, the UK and Ireland distributor of the Ventrac multi-implement compact tractor and Ryan turf maintenance equipment, had selected a prime position.
Rupert Price and Peter Driver of Price Turfcare
The company’s managing director, Rupert Price was particularly upbeat. “We deliberately chose a location in one of the walkways that linked the Purple and Green zones and it worked exceptionally well for us,” he said. “Many people asked if we were late booking our space, as it was a slightly unusual position, but this was a deliberate decision that paid off brilliantly.
“This is the third time that we have attended the show and there’s definitely a different vibe from the first two occasions. Nobody really knew of us back then, but now they come onto the stand and say that they’ve seen us on social media or in the press and they want to see the equipment in the flesh, so to speak.
“Needless to say, with the amount of footfall across the stand, we’ve had some great enquiries and there’s a lot of work to do over the coming months, when we’ll be following up the leads and booking demonstrations.”
Jim Croxton, CEO of BIGGA, whilst expressing delight at the exhibitor numbers and initial estimates of visitors, did acknowledge everything wasn't quite perfect when he spoke to the press on the morning of the second day.
Discussing the figures first Jim said, "It seems to have gone very well in terms of pre-registration numbers and feet on the ground. It also went very well for us in terms of exhibition stand numbers. We’re really pleased that we filled all the space and a bit more than we anticipated.
"I’m pleased the way many of the exhibitors have embraced the opportunity to do different things on their stands. Those exhibitors who chose to return this year have on average taken 14% more space.
Moving on to address the navigation issues, Jim said, "Everyone I see at the show says they’re lost and confused – and that’s kind of what we wanted. That was actually part of the plan because people used to visit BTME and just do it on auto-pilot. They’d walk past stands just to see the one they wanted to go to. We wanted to make sure that visitors walked around and engaged with everybody.
"I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and how it’s worked this week - but I don’t think that it’s perfect though. I think there’s a couple of areas which haven’t worked quite as we’d have liked in terms of footfall. Going forward we’ll be working on ways to drive people into those spaces."
Jim admitted there had been "some challenges" at the far end of the Red Zone and talked of how it isn’t just about people walking through doors that counts, it’s how they engage with stands. He said their priority over the next few weeks, when they speak with their exhibitors, will be to discover what worked and what didn’t.
For me personally, the show offered the opportunity to catch up and speak to both end users, manufacturers and suppliers. As usual the large supply product companies such as ICL, Rigby Taylor, Headland Amenity, Bayer, Syngenta, Sherriff Amenity had plenty to talk about.
I met up with Colin Mumford from Bayer who was keen to show me around their stand and talk about improved techniques in managing disease pressures using a combination of IPM strategies.
While visiting the Sherriff Amenity stand, I had the chance to meet up with Karl Parry, who this year was promoting his latest invention Precision Pro, a dedicated app and mounting kit for sports professionals using granular fertiliser spreaders. This device helps you measure your turf area, calibrate your granular products and ensure you spread the fertiliser accurately.
This year saw several new exhibitors. Maxwell Amenity were attending the show for the first time with Dan Hughes delighted at the response they received over the three days. It was nice to catch up with some old work colleagues and see how the company was progressing.
Maxwell Amenity team
John Deere were promoting a couple of new products. New precision cut 2750/E cut hybrid triplex mowers, along with a new GPS Precision Sprayer. They were also once again launching their annual overseas TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme that sees seven British greenkeepers receive a trip of a lifetime thanks to a partnership with BIGGA and GCSAI.
The seven lucky greenkeepers will be working with over 90 other volunteers at this year’s PGA event at Sawgrass in March. Good luck to them. I’m sure they will have a great time and come back with some great stories to tell.
Whilst on the subject of golf tours, I also caught up with another nine guys who have won the chance to go to the states on a trip of a lifetime with a Bernhards / BIGGA sponsored trip which is now in its seventeenth year. Stephen Bernhard was on hand to say a few words of wisdom and congratulate them on this life changing experience.
As for other new equipment, I noticed Richard Campey had two new innovations to promote one being a rear mounted scarifying machine he sourced from Italy and a new brush sweeping attachment for tractors, thus complimenting a fine range of equipment he now has on offer to improve turf quality.
As always it is in the evening when Harrogate comes alive, with all the banter and comradeship amongst industry professionals to the fore. It is without doubt the combination of the day’s activities and the evening banter that makes this show special.
Jim Croxton summed up 2019's exhibition saying, “And just like that, BTME is over for another year. It’s been a vibrant, busy three days and I’m delighted to say that on the whole the changes we implemented for 2019 have paid off.
“There are some further opportunities for development, but I had so many conversations with visitors and exhibitors over the past three days about how bright and engaging the exhibition has been. We’re really pleased with the feedback we’ve received and you can rest assured that planning is already well underway for BTME 2020.”