27-Aug-10by Annie Byrne
The foundations of the Ideal Home Show have wobbled of late, but for the first time in a while, the future is looking brighter for the exhibition. The 101-year-old show, which in its heyday introduced the public to the microwave oven, the fridge and even a solar-powered robot lawnmower, has had its title deeds passed to Media 10 following a deal (brokered by Mayfield Media) with former owner DMG World Media for an undisclosed sum.
Media 10, the organiser behind UK consumer building exhibition Grand Designs Live, has announced its best year ever. The company, steered by MD Lee Newton, made a turnover of £16 million in 2008.
Speaking exclusively to EN, Newton says he is convinced he can take The Ideal Home Show, back to where it once was. It has seen over 60 million visitors since its inception in 1908, but has suffered dwindling numbers in recent years. More than 167,000 fewer visitors entered the doors of the show in the period between 2002 and 2007 and more recently the show has been trading at a loss.
“Ideal Home Show has been in limbo for a long time, with no focus. We know where the exhibition has gone wrong; DMG was trying to be too clever for its audience,” says Newton.
And he singles out the ad campaign for last year’s event as a “real mistake”.
“It was being marketed as a day out experience rather than a home show, the marketing was all wrong. Organisers were spending too much time trying to copy Grand Designs Live, which launched with a big bang and they lost their direction.”
Newton admits that Ideal Home Show hasn’t always been in his sights, and he is quick to point out that Grand Designs Live is very different and he didn’t buy the show simply for its database. While there is a 20 per cent crossover of exhibitors to the two shows, he says there is hardly any crossover of visitors. He also admits that when he signed the dotted line, his nerves did take over, as he wondered: “What have I just done? Maybe DMG has tried and tested all my ideas and they had failed.”
But so convinced is he now that he can turn the show around that he says: “Buying the show was a no brainer for us. Media 10 is a small company but we make decisions quickly and we also change our minds very quickly. It is our money we are gambling with, we are 110 per cent sure this is going to work. We wouldn’t risk our reputation if we had any doubts.
“The show has been running at a loss recently, but in the past it has made an immense amount of money and we will be making in-roads to the task in the next six months, we want everyone to think wow!” he says. “We want to put the ideal back into the home show.”
He doesn’t rule out moving the show away from Earls Court in the future either. But it will remain at Earls Court in the near future as a 17 day show and all staff will keep their jobs. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Newton is going to bring back the 12 sections dedicated to different 'phases of home life' such as construction, cookery, furniture and decoration, that were synonymous with the first ever show in 1908. “There’s lots of research to do, but we are going to redefine the show’s history,” says Newton.
With such a broad history it is hard to believe that the Ideal Home Show should suffer such criticism in recent years. It was set up by Wareham Smith, the advertising manager of the Daily Mail and predominantly targeted the middle classes to help boost sales of the paper. More recently it has become the ‘Prime Minister’ of the exhibition industry, with everyone thinking they could run it better.
“Ideal Home Show has become the whipping boy,” says Newton. “It has been beaten up time and time again, by us included. But putting things into perspective it attracts 250,000 visitors every year and over 300 exhibitors.
“The show really excites us.”
And with so much enthusiasm, what could possibly go wrong? Surely an ideal match made in Media 10?