The events industry is making a comeback, right? Sure enough, there’s no shortage of Elvis impersonators available across the UK at a moment’s notice. So why is it so hard to find an exhibition contractor right now? Unfortunately, unlike our white jumpsuit-clad entertainers, exhibition contractors require a multitude of moving parts to be operational before they can take on new work. After large-scale downsizing during the pandemic, many are struggling to get the machine back up and running. What does this mean for companies seeking to exhibit?
The early bird gets…
…the exhibition contractor of their choice. There quite simply isn’t the usual abundance of contractors to choose from at the moment, with many attempting to re-hire and re-build on limited capital. No sensible contractor will accept work when they lack the staff and equipment to complete the task. As a result, we have an imbalance of supply and demand — a host of companies itching to get back to live marketing and not enough dance partners (contractors) to enable them to do so. Those that are operational will be quickly sought out and booked up, so any company that plans on exhibiting over the next 6 months should act quickly to snatch up a willing contractor.
Out of the frying pan…
The companies turning down business need exactly that business to build up cash flow and reinvest in themselves. This pandemic has been destructive for a number of reasons, among which is the difficulty that businesses (particularly SMEs) have in getting back on their feet. I apologise for possibly recalling memories you would rather keep buried, but when you were in gym class as a child, your coach may have told you that stopping and starting, even if you’re tired, is the worst way to tackle a race. Your body prefers a steady rhythm, and the same goes for businesses. Lurching back into motion after a period of stagnation is not the cause for celebration some might imagine it to be. The business must bring back each of its components into operation without the capital this necessitates, like a body restarting the race without sufficient oxygen. Of course, some companies will have enough reserves to get up and running, but others will have to accept work in dribs and drabs before they can resume full operation.
Blue skies ahead (just a little further ahead than we thought)
Most events industry writers will have developed deep-set brows over the course of this pandemic, writing one miserable piece after the other. The truth is, it’s getting much better. Ultimately, the demand is there again, and that’s the key factor. The harbingers of doom believed for a time that virtual events would rise to take the place of real-world events, or at least cripple the industry forever. Nothing could be further from the truth. Demand is back and stronger than ever, and this means that but a few (admittedly challenging) hurdles remain in the path of contractors.
Additionally, there are many older exhibition contractors that had the reserves to deal with the stopping-and-starting created by the pandemic. Quadrant2Design is one such company. Based in Bournemouth, the business has been operational for a number of decades, time it has spent accruing cash for times like this. CEO Alan Jenkins comments, ‘We have been extremely lucky to be able to brave a storm like this. Many were not so lucky, being younger or less well-established in the exhibition circuit. We are frequently approached by clients stating that many of our competitors have had to turn down business or discontinue trading altogether due to severe depletion. We are not ecstatic about the prospect of taking business from dying competitors, and truly hope that in time they are able to rebuild to their former state. A diverse market is a healthy market.’
We must all exercise caution when researching news in these times. To do otherwise would be to risk falling into the lap of complete despair. Yet, despite a seemingly endless slew of obstacles this past year, there are some positives to come out of the pandemic. The entire world has been reminded how much we value face-to-face interactions, and how we need them to lead fulfilled lives. This is good news not just for individuals, but also for businesses in the hospitality and events sectors, upon which the UK economy is reliant. Blue skies are ahead… somewhere.
Theo Reilly is an independent writer and multilingual translator whose goal is to counteract stale writing in business blogs. Theo has particular interest in business and marketing-related matters surrounding the online world, web design, exhibitions and events.