Geoff Russell, publisher, Golf Business News talks to Colin Brunton, chairman of The Golf Show Co Ltd and the man behind The London Golf Show 2007 about this year’s event and his plans for future developments.
Golf Business News (GBN): Colin, The Third London Golf Show – your second as Chairman – how would you rate the 2007 edition by comparison with the past two years?
Colin Brunton (CB): I believe we have managed to improve the show in a number of different ways. I believe the features are better this year, with the Floating Green Prizes and the Ultimate Golf Prize leading the way in attracting participants. We have been lucky with our sponsors, led by our media partners, who have attracted interest from visitors and have developed significant competitions for their listeners and readers.
In addition to this we have been able to learn from previous shows, about the nature of our visitors, and have repositioned some of the attractions, particularly the Driving Range, to allow for more driving bays, and a better design for the Show. We have also been lucky this year with our sponsors, including Setanta, Blackberry, Fullers London Pride, Sparks, England Golf and particularly american golf, who have been supportive, imaginative, and really developed for 4 days, the largest Golf Shop in Europe.
GBN: So you are happy that your new retail partner, american golf, has produced the retail attractions that you hoped for?
CB: Very much so. They made a massive investment and the shop is absolutely first class. It has also been very busy throughout the show.
GBN: And what has been your feed-back from american golf?
CB: They are having a very good show and are happy with the experience.
GBN: So do you expect them to continue as your retail partner next year?
CB: I hope so. Nothing is finalised yet.
GBN: The Show has certainly been a great focal point for people in the business. Apart from the usual suspects from the world of golf media and pr, I’ve seen senior management from golf companies who are not exhibiting, chief executives from major golf associations, organisers of a leading international trade show, exhibitors holding meetings with their European distributors, and the main director of a multiple golf course owner in conference with a well-known firm of golf course architects. The London Golf Show is certainly a good place for golf business networking.
CB: That is one of the main purposes of the Show, to produce a meeting place where everyone and anyone associated with or concerned with golf can meet. It also gives industry folk the chance to actually meet with golfers from all over. Surprisingly we live in a world where a major manufacturer in the golf industry may not ever see or meet a customer, or a large group of them….and it is amazing how many ideas can develop, and how many misconceptions can be shattered when meeting our visitors.
GBN: You did have plans to hold a golf business conference in conjunction with this Show – why did that not happen?
CB: We want to produce the definitive golf conference dealing with down to earth business issues facing the industry. There are many conferences where vested interests in golf get together and a small group reaffirm their own position and role. We decided to go for something bigger…and realised that we were not getting what we wanted. Rather than develop something less than planned…we decided to reschedule for later. I am working hard on a conference at The Golf Show, NEC Birmingham in November 16th to 19th 2007.
GBN: So the idea will be revived in the future?
CB: Yes…Definitely part of our future plans.
GBN: There are a huge number of opportunities for visitors to take part in competitions and to try out new equipment. What proportion of the available stand space do these attractions take up?
CB: Most of it…I think we have probably the lowest ratio of sold space to total area of any show organised. I won’t give the full figure, but assume it is more than 70% given over to visitor attractions.
GBN: Does that mean that the rental costs of the traditional ‘shell’ stands have to be more expensive?
CB: No, we are relatively inexpensive compared to other shows. We are lucky of course, in as much as people do pay to visit us…and one of our prime challenges is to get the balance right between offering exhibitors what they want and visitors what they want.
GBN: The golf travel section is always a very attractive part of the Show. You have huge stands from Austria, France, Italy etc and I notice exhibitors from countries as far apart as the Czech Republic and Malaysia.
CB: As Europe’s largest consumer golf show, we obviously attract exhibitors from all over. I think we will continue to develop this area as the show grows. It is a major competitive area for the golf industry that property companies have used golf to attract, successfully, foreign buyers. It is an attractive target audience at the London Golf Show.
GBN: I get the impression that this year there are fewer UK golf clubs and UK golf holiday destinations represented?
CB: Certainly we tried very hard to get golf clubs to showcase their clubs at the Show. We have some really significant ones, but you are right…we do not have enough. We do, however have more than last year. We will continue to try harder to build this aspect of the show. I think it would be fair to say that those golf clubs who have developed intelligent marketing strategies and recognise you can “market golf” are going to be here and do better than those who are still working it out.
GBN: What about the companies selling properties in golfing resorts? There’s been some worrying news this week about the state of the Spanish property market – particularly bad news for the ex-pats who have bought there recently. Any idea if there’s been a downturn in the enquiries for these exhibitors?
CB: I have not heard anything, yet. I suspect that an oversupply in property has caused a temporary readjustment. The best resorts and those offering real value should be unaffected.
GBN: A large number of your exhibitors seem to have stepped straight out the classified ads in the monthly golf magazines. It’s hard for some of these companies to get their products into the regular golf retail outlets so they must relish the opportunity of being able to show case their products and take some cash?
CB: We offer smaller stands to cater to all exhibitor requirements. You may be surprised to know that some of these small stands are among the best “cash generators” at the show. I love them.
GBN: And there’s no shortage of ingenious inventions. Golf seems to attract innovators like no other sport. My favourite is the German-designed Free-Release golf shoe from U-Go. What’s yours?
CB: I am full of admiration for the fellow who has spent four days standing in water in his water-proof socks. Now that shows a total commitment to his company, and to a product that has to work…or cause serious foot rot….Brilliant selling technique and successful! Of course, I also admire those companies at the “other end of the scale” who made a massive effort to build expensive stands, well manned and beautifully presented, who saw our show as the centre of their marketing effort for golfers.
GBN: So not the special golfer’s underpants from Nordic Golf Trends?
CB: I liked them as well!
GBN: More seriously, it was good to see the people from the Special Olympics. I understand that you have been instrumental in getting the golf industry to support the GB team?
CB: I met with Nadine Hughes, some months before the show, and was excited about the whole approach being taken by her and her team toward Golf at the Special Olympics. The only golf in the Olympics movement is that at The Special Olympics, at this time, and I was delighted to help. There are three parts to the Olympics, the one we all know so well, the Paralympics, and the Special Olympics, and all have the same principles and purpose so when Nadine asked for some help to attract support, I was able to talk to associates at Mizuno, American Golf, Stewart Golf, Bite and others, who have all got together, and very, very generously provided all the necessary equipment for the Team.
The Special Olympic Golf Team were at the London Golf Show and one of the support team was in the final 4 in the play off for the Floating Green ….They play brilliant golf. I also met with Lawrie McMenemy at the Show who is one of their ambassadors and supporters, and who very kindly was photographed with me and the Team when they presented me with a beautiful Olympic commemorative medal. The whole London Golf Show Team are very happy to be involved at any level with Nadine and the Special Olympics and I was not surprised – but equally delighted – to receive such generous support from my colleagues in the golf industry.
GBN: The people from Duchy College were telling me that last year they recruited eight new students for their golf academy training courses, and American Golf is looking for staff. The Show does provide a shop-window for those looking to work in the golf business.
CB: Yes. When I spoke to Duchy College and others they all said they were delighted with the response they were getting. There are 240 different companies at the London Golf Show, and certainly the show offers opportunities for people wanting to get into the golf industry to see the diversity of the business, and make the right contacts.
GBN: It would be good if you could get the PGA along. There would be huge interest in their stand, I’m sure.
CB: I agree. I spoke with several of their executives at the show and before the show, and think they may see the opportunities for 2008. I think they have a number of things to market, and should be proactive in attracting interest.
GBN: Do you have a forecast of what the likely final attendance will be?
CB: No…but, better than last year.
GBN: At the start of the show you announced your plan to stage The Golf Show, NEC Birmingham, on 16-18 November 2007. I assume that you are going to run the new show along similar lines to the London Golf Show?
CB: We will try to maintain the template, with a few adjustments to cater to the environment at the NEC. We learn with each show and can do better with each show.
GBN: And with the same retail partner?
CB: We will see. I have a few different options and nothing is yet finalized.
GBN: A public show was held at the NEC just last year and that organisation has now regrouped and decided to move on to pastures new. There was some talk of ‘golf industry politics’ proving a barrier – are you sure that you have industry-wide support for your move?
CB: I hope so….certainly the reaction so far has been 100% positive. I cannot think of any reason why taking a successful concept for London would not work at the NEC. Remember, we will still continue to develop the London Golf Show as Europe’s largest, but hope to offer an excellent show at the NEC, with its own geographical catchment.
GBN: The NEC is an excellent location – in many ways easier to get to than ExCel – have you got thoughts about moving the London Golf Show anywhere else?
CB: Never. I like Excel, and hope to work with them, and develop the London Golf Show at Excel for the foreseeable future.
GBN: And you will be back at ExCel in 2008?
CB: Definitely. 100% definitely.
GBN: Colin Brunton, thank you very much.
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