Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.53 29 Aug 2020


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Trade show and event organisers say they're now hoping 2021 doesn't get written off alongside 2020.

The industry is among the many sectors hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with no restart date yet given.

On this week's Down to Business, organisers and exhibitors spoke to Bobby about the impact that the continuing closure has had.

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'We've written off 2020' - Trade show and events sector remains 'in the dark'

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Garret Buckley, chairman of the Irish Exhibition Organisers Association (IEOA) and Managing Director of EventHaus, explained that they've been 'out of business' since the middle of March.

He said: "Right now it looks like there's no restart date for our industry members... for the thousands of exhibitors that have traditionally exhibited at their annual trade show each year. We're in the dark."

Mr Buckley stressed that their events are not social events or mass gatherings, and instead something attended by business and trades people.

He says the sector completely understands how every type of event was shut down in the early stages of the pandemic, but he now believes they're ready to resume as soon as they get the green light.

He explained: "As we saw different industry sectors - like construction and large retailers - we started to make the point that using the guidelines that we drafted as an industry sector... we feel we can open trade fairs and exhibitions in a highly controlled environment.

"Really we're at the hands of the Department of Business and Business... we're being told we're on the agenda on [a meeting on] September 13th, and that our guidelines and protocols will be reviewed.

"Hopefully there'll be a recommendation for a restart date... probably at this situation now [it will be] January. We've written off all 2020 at this stage... we're just hoping that 2021 doesn't get written off."

Exhibitors

Gill Toal is managing Director of Genovese Foods, a company specialising in pesto products.

Ms Toal said trade shows are a "lifeline" for small, niche companies such as hers.

She explained: "Buyers are very, very difficult to get in front of - they have a hugely busy schedule... getting them out of the office and to a trade show... it's a day out for them. They have time to chat and talk, and look at new products.

"We really want to get back to that situation where we can reconnect with the buyers and show them the new products we've been working on in the lockdown."

Ms Toal said while buyers are vital element of trade shows, others also allow some retails sales.

She noted: "We get the consumer in in small quantities, and they're great feedback.

"It's a great way of us honing down on our flavours and new products before we go to market."

Event production

Martin Cullinan, CEO and Owner of All Event Productions Limited, says their usual business of producing events, conferences and meetings has been "wiped out".

He observed: "We don't foresee any meaningless business coming in, although we're trying to move in to the online space... we've built an online TV production studio.

"Events are gone for the foreseeable future... clients are understandably nervous about running events even if they could - there are a lot of very good and well-founded reasons why they would be afraid to run that, even if the guidelines allow for it.

"One way or the other we are in a bind as to when we'll be able to get back - when public and corporate confidence will get back."

He said he's now also working on a business aimed at providing correct and ergonomic equipment for people now working from home.

Main image: File photo. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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