Surviving the Loss of an Anchor Exhibitor

TSE STAFF
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It’s inevitable. Whether through industry consolidation, mergers or simply changes in marketing strategies, at some point, one or more of your anchor exhibitors will leave.

“Don’t panic,” is the advice offered by Roland Bleinroth, former president of Messe Frankfurt, USA. “Although it may not seem like it at the time, losing an anchor tenant creates the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive,” he says.

And Bleinroth knows. One of his home textiles shows lost three major exhibitors who, along with their subsidiaries, represented nearly half of his rented space.  One exhibitor issued a press release to alert the industry of its decision.

However, Bleinroth and the show’s partners were able to minimize the impact of his anchors’ actions by slightly altering their sales approach and bringing in new exhibitors. The show dropped 25% in net square footage the first year but it rebounded to its previous size the year after.

Other show organizers, including VNU Expositions and Reed Exhibitions’ National Hardware Show® have found that losing an anchor exhibitor is not the end of the world. Here are some tips to help you navigate out of the initial turbulence you will inevitably face:

Expand your product categories. Messe Frankfurt USA targeted product areas that the sales staff had never pursued intensively in the past. “Attendees appreciated the enhanced product diversity because they were able to see something new,” says Bleinroth. The same was true for Reed’s National Hardware Show, which evolved from a hardware show into a complete home show featuring hardware, housewares and lawn and garden products.

Reach out to new categories of attendees. There may be consolidation among hardware retailers, but there is an expansion in the hardware market, says Rob Cappiello, industry vice president of the National Hardware Show for Reed Exhibitions. Home-oriented products are now sold by grocery stores, lawn and garden centers, housewares stores, wholesale clubs, mass merchants and drug stores. “Our attendees are a wide range of buyers representing all of these different types of retailers,” says Cappiello.

Partner with publications. Cappiello worked with publications targeted to the expanded facets of his attendee base to learn how to best serve those markets. The result was press coverage and recruitment of sponsors for specific segments of the show.

Fill your floor. When an anchor leaves, move your other exhibitors forward to fill the newly vacated spaces. Add special events, new product displays, rest areas, food service, and if necessary, an exhibit showcasing an industry association or  show management to fill the holes on the show floor.

Continue to market to attendees. In Bleinroth’s case, the loss of his anchor exhibitors had little effect on buyer attendance.  To the contrary, the improved representation of auxiliary product lines by new exhibitors created an added attraction for buyers—and led to one of the best-attended shows ever.

Find out why the anchors have really left. Post-pullout discussions with Black and Decker revealed that the company’s decision to withdraw from the National Hardware Show was based on its desire to focus on private events. The solution was to create a private event for Black and Decker within the show, says Cappiello.

Find out what they want to accomplish, then create a way to make it happen. When The National Hardware Show learned that Black and Decker really wanted to throw a party at the show, it facilitated the event. In lieu of exhibiting, the company is sponsoring a lunch for the attendee-retail buyers.

Nurture your small exhibitors. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, says Jim Bracken, Chairman, VNU Expositions. “Work with the tier you’ve ignored—the 10’x10’s and 10’x20’s. Many of those companies will grow.”

Reach Roland Bleinroth, president, Messe Frankfurt USA at (770) 984-8016 or roland.bleinroth@usa.messefrankfurt.com; Jim Bracken, chairman, VNU Expositions at (703) 488-2702 or jbracken@vnuexpo.com; Rob Cappiello, industry vice president, National Hardware Show, Reed Exhibitions at (203) 840-5493 or rcappiello@reedexpo.com.

Sidebar:

The Calm After the Storm

Messe Frankfurt sailed out of choppy waters when it lost three anchor exhibitors from one of its shows. “The changes we made increased the satisfaction rating among both attendees and exhibitors,” says Roland Bleinroth, president of Messe Frankfurt, USA.

Expanding product categories pleased the attendees. And without the anchors, the other exhibitors experienced stronger traffic. Two years later, Bleinroth reports that the show has not only rebounded to its former size, but is actually larger, has a much healthier mix of exhibitors and good traffic patterns.

The show’s success has not gone unnoticed. The former anchor exhibitors began reconsidering the show when they saw it continued to thrive. Bleinroth says in the long run, their temporary absence was a benefit. These exhibitors have lost their perks, including their grandfathered locations in the front of the hall. “Now we place the large exhibitors where it is healthiest for the overall show and other exhibitors have a better chance to stand out,” says Bleinroth.