The GolfExpo trade exhibition at the NEC from November 2-5 is already facing an uphill battle to persuade the industry’s leading manufacturers to attend.
Callaway, possibly the highest-profile name in the golf equipment business, have already gone on the record as saying that they won’t be in Birmingham for the first major show in Britain for more than 20 months.
Callaway spokeswoman Annuka Kennedy said: “It’s true we are not exhibiting. We have sent letters to GolfExpo and the PGA telling them we will not be exhibiting. They were sent on December 1 by our president and managing director Kai Flint. We will be concentrating our resources on two major shows in Europe – Golf Europe from September 24-26 in Munich and at the Open in St Andrews this July.
“The biggest thing is the budget and the cost of the exhibitions. They cost a lot of money and we will have to see what we have got.”
But the NEC Group, who became the four-day show’s new owners last year following an agreement with the PGA, European Golf Industry Association and British Sports Industries Federation, are looking on the positive side and far from convinced that Callaway will stay away.
NEC sales executive Fiona Ward said: “”Titleist, Footjoy, Cobra and Spalding have all confirmed they will be attending. Ping is taking part. Thirty per cent of the actual hall floor space has been taken. We are very pleased with the response. Lynx, Greg Norman, Rukka, Hippo, Regal and Power Caddy are also all booked.
“Obviously we are disappointed with Callaway’s decision and we are going to have talks with them. The PGA is also very interested in meeting them as well.
“Some of the industry have negative feelings from last year. But we have just taken over the show, are committed to ten years and will put a lot into it.”
Ping spokesman Dave Fanning said: “We haven’t made a final decision but it’s very likely that we will be going to the show and supporting the event.”
In contrast, John Peal, the marketing and sales director of Titleist and FootJoy, said: “We haven’t made any decision yet and will be examining our budget. We need to know their plans. The factors which influence our decision will be the value of it, the likely attendance, what difference the new ownership will make, and the timing of it. There are two days of public show and how do we handle that? Do we show year 2001 range which will not be in the shops for a few months?”
The two public days will be on the weekend of November 4 and 5 with the trade-only section of the show being held on the two preceding days.
But it seems that the NEC will have work hard on their presentation over the next few weeks if they are to persuade other manufacturers not to follow Callaway’s lead.
MacGregor Golf spokesman Philip Morley said: “We are not going. We have a limited distribution and there is a lot of expense.” Paul McNally, sales director of Dunlop-Maxfli, commented: “No decision has been made as yet. We are looking at all the proposals. We are very unsure of the retail side of the show.” Wilson’s Angus Moir echoed this sentiment, saying: “We still haven’t decided yet. We have talked internally and we have been speaking to the NEC but we will not make any decision until the end of the first quarter. It all depends on whether we feel the spend of exhibiting is a good use of our marketing budget.”
Another potential threat to GolfExpo attendances could be looming in the form of a trade show which is thought to be booked for the Costa del Sol from November 13-15. Robert Fairbairn, who resigned as media consultant to the PGA of Europe at the end of 1999, and Reed Exhibitions, whose own bid to acquire GolfExpo foundered last year, are believed to be involved in the project.
“The objective is to provide one central focus for the European golf industry,” said a spokesman. “We’d be providing a cost-effective, pleasant, easily accessible venue. Pros could be playing golf in the sun.”
Fairbairn’s most recent foray into exhibitions, the GolFex road shows of last November, was not exactly a spectacular success. “They were a curate’s egg,” said Fairbairn. “Some did better than others, but overall we had fewer pros and retailers attend than for the inaugural GolFex shows in 1998. I’m not sure at this stage whether I’ll do them again.”