Autumn is the busiest season for trade fairs and exhibitions, and for the many SMEs who exhibit at trade fairs, these exhibitions deliver an important sales pipeline.
3,000 SMEs were already booked to take part in trade fairs within the months ahead, and with many September trade fairs and exhibitions now postponed and future trade fairs and exhibitions in jeopardy, the Irish Exhibition Organisers Association (IEOA) is calling for equal treatment to that of retail businesses who engage with thousands of customers every single day.
Recent cancellations include the Wedding & Honeymoon Show and Vitality. For Killaloe business, Palm Free Irish Soap company, the cancellation of Vitality at Dublin’s RDS came as a disappointment.
“Trade fairs and exhibitions are a vital way of connecting small businesses like ours with new customers. We exhibit at a couple of trade fairs every year and last year, Vitality expo really delivered for us in terms of sales.
“We were booked to exhibit at this year’s event and are saddened that the September event is no longer taking place as the event had the potential of connecting our Killaloe business with customers from throughout Ireland,” adds Kathy Hoynes, co-owner of the Palm Free Irish Soap company.
Whilst the IEOA organisation and many exhibitors are in complete support of the Government’s advice based on health and safety being paramount, IEOA members are frustrated by the lack of a level playing field.
Comparable to retail, trade fairs and exhibitions should not be defined as ‘mass events’, therefore the IEOA is calling for the number of people admitted to trade fairs or exhibitions to be determined by the size of the venue or hall in which it takes place.
“We have already produced and distributed robust guidelines which clearly show how trade fairs and exhibitions can operate in a safe manner, and it goes without saying that the health and safety of our employees, exhibitors, contractors and visitors is our number one priority.
“We are NOT organising mass events such as concerts, sporting events or large social events, and are calling for the Department of Business to recognise that exhibitions and trade fairs must be treated equally to that of retail,” adds Garret Buckley, Chair, IEOA and Managing Director of EventHaus.
The IEOA is optimistic that exhibitions and trade fairs will be included in the July Stimulus package, which would play a crucial role in securing thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly throughout the entire supply chain.
The organisation is also calling for the introduction of a voucher scheme which will enable SMEs to cover some of the costs in participating in future exhibitions and trade fairs, and in return help stimulate Ireland’s recovery.
Speaking about her future hopes, Kathy Hoynes ,said: “It’s a difficult time for all businesses and sales, particularly to gifts shops, are understandably not what they were. We have another trade fair booked for December and are very hopeful that it will go ahead as it could provide a lifeline for us after an unprecedented year.
“The IEOA’s call for a voucher scheme would be a very welcome measure. It would encourage many SMEs, like us, to exhibit, trade and make new sales which will be so important as we all move forward.”
Trade fairs and exhibitions are a crucial sales funnel for many Irish SMEs as they are effectively marketplaces which connect buyers with sellers.
Expanding on the voucher scheme, Garret Buckley adds: “The IEOA is calling for the introduction of a voucher scheme of approximately €1,500, which will enable businesses to participate in future trade fairs and exhibitions, helping to secure vital sales at a time when every business needs it most.
“As well as directly benefitting exhibitor SMEs, this scheme would have a positive ripple effect throughout our supply chain, securing business for our many third-party contractors and suppliers.”
The IEOA is calling on the Department of Business and Health & Safety Authority to engage with the Association, include trade fairs and exhibitions in the July Stimulus package and to consider the merits of the introduction of the SME trade fair voucher scheme.
For further information on the IEOA Roadmap to Safe Exhibitions and Covid-19 protocols, click here.