The trade flocks to Stoneleigh

What can exhibitors expect from a three-day British Shooting Show, and how can they get the most out of it? We ask John Bertrand for the low-down as we consider how the show has evolved

Interview with John Bertrand was conducted in January 2014.

It is now two years since the British Shooting Show announced its move to Stoneleigh from Newark in Lincolnshire. Back in 2012, the show was enjoying its fourth year, having successfully got off the ground and established itself as one of the premier shows the UK has to offer. So to opt for a change of location came as a surprise to some.

“I think it’ll be a bit like starting a new show that will have to build up again, so there’s a chance ticket sales will drop,” said one exhibitor at the 2012 show. Another speculated that it might alternate between the two locations yearly. The indoor setting clearly lent itself to bigger, more impressive stands, and support from the biggest names in the trade seemed to be there – but any major relocation inevitably carries some doubt as to whether the punters come along too.

A year on from the first Stoneleigh show, and there’s no doubt it paid off. Thousands of punters thronged the aisles and even made it difficult to get around at times, such were their number. Exhibitors described the show as “manic” and “non-stop interest.” If you want the opportunity to sell your goods to the shooting public, there’s none better than at Stoneleigh – and this year there should be 50 per cent more opportunity, as it’s expanded to a three-day format.

“The third day was inevitable,” says organiser John Bertrand. “Trying to do a two-day show and cope with the stream of visitors we’re getting was becoming uncomfortable for traders.”

But it’s more than just a matter of comfort – John believes there is more business to be had from punters: “We had a lot of comments from people that they actually went away from the show and hadn’t spent any money because they couldn’t get on the stands. If they wanted to stop on a stand, they were just taken away by the tidal wave. So obviously two days isn’t enough to cope with the number of visitors and create a reasonable environment, a conducive viewing and spending environment.

“The third day was really to make the whole thing much better for the traders, much better for the visitors, and give people a choice as to which day they’ll come on.”

And just how busy will these three days be? “We want to aim for two days that are like a Friday as far as the traders are concerned. Sunday will always be Sunday. But we know business was lost last year because people couldn’t get on the stands. It’s an intangible amount – all we can say is, if people can get on the stands, you’re going to do more business. It’s not going to be double, but then again there’ll be an increase again this year – so there was no question about going to the third day.”

For those who weren’t there, descriptions of how busy BSS 2013 was may sound like an exaggeration – but really, it’s hard to exaggerate, especially as far as the Saturday was concerned. We wonder if exhibitors may be daunted by the prospect of all that consumer traffic in one place again – it could prove a crucial weekend for business, so just how do they get the best out of it? “It’s the standard advice, really. Display your products clearly, with signage that draws people to special offers and anything that’s new.

“When people walk past your stand they’re not going to talk to you but they’ll see a sign, they’ll see a display, they’ll be attracted by it. So presentation – clear presentation – should be given some consideration.”

The British Shooting Show estimated 27,000 visitors in 2013 – but it’s always been a show about quality, not quantity. That’s something John clearly hasn’t forgotten as he reflects on how the show has evolved since 2012. “It has moved from a tented city to a proper exhibition hall, with much better road routes. The whole thing is better. As soon as we did that, we’ve upped the kudos of the show as far as exhibitors are concerned. People now want to display properly; the bigger manufacturers are concerned about how they look. They’re in a proper exhibition environment – one that’s commensurate with their status within the industry.

“Stands are increasing in size every year. People now realise that because the show has status, they don’t want their status undermined by their stand. They’re doing a professional job with them, and the manufacturers are treating the British Shooting Show as a launch platform – they’re not waiting for IWA. It’s feeding down from the manufacturers through the distributors that this is an opportunity not to be missed.”

And John gives us the last word on how show preparation is going, over a month before it is due to take place: “It’s full, really. It’s as good as we could hold it tomorrow – if we could build it in time.”

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