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Johnston Press, known for its local and regional newspapers, is expanding its events division across the country. Until recently, its biggest events were shows for people emigrating from the UK, held four times per year. Mike Schwarz is the MD of JP Events and Exhibitions (JPEE). He has been with Johnston Press for four years, and has worked for media-related companies for 30 years. We asked him about JP’s expansion plans. Does the Johnston Press event portfolio currently include any events other than the emigrate shows?Johnston Press has been running events for many years through its divisions. The company organises some local business awards and dozens of smaller, local events, such as wedding fairs and health and beauty shows. These events are typically held in hotels and leisure centres attracting lower numbers of exhibitors and visitors. JPEE has been organising larger-scale events in the emigration and overseas property sector for 15 years, previously through Outbound Media and Exhibitions. We were among the first to drop out of the overseas property sector when we realised the effects the recession and over-saturation of similar events had on the sector. Prior to that, we were organising combined events at venues such as Sandown Park, Stoneleigh Park and SECC Glasgow, attracting over 100 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors to the larger three-day shows, which took place in up to 5,000sqm of space. We continue to run four emigration shows per year. In January 2010, JPEE emerged from Outbound with a brief to use our existing skills to organise and manage a portfolio of larger scale events for the group. Although a small team, the staff at JPEE is highly experienced in big show formats and can count more than 150 such events between them.How is JP planning to expand its event portfolio?The objective for the next 12 months is to plan, conceptualise and deliver one large-scale exhibition for each of the JP divisions in the UK and Ireland. Using our existing contacts with venues, contractors and suppliers, we will provide the framework and background support necessary to underpin each show, leaving the local teams to sell stand space and sponsorship. In addition, we have a small sales resource based in Eastbourne that is being used to sell not just emigrate shows, but also some of the larger new events, too. This sales capability is likely to grow as we develop further.What events are you planning on launching in each area, and why did you decide on those specific events for each division?Initially we undertook some desk research to identify gaps in the market from a geographic and market sector perspective. Some divisions have been prepared to look outside their normal business classifications as well, which has led to the development of some interesting concepts. A series of proposals based on local demographics, available venues and show formats were then presented and agreed by local senior management. Many of the larger, well-developed exhibitions tend to use the better-known London, Birmingham and Manchester city centre bespoke exhibition venues. But given the JP footprint, this gives us an opportunity to develop shows in other locations such as Yorkshire, Lancashire, the East Midlands and the South Coast. The full programme is yet to be finalised, but those that are now underway are: • LovePets at Peterborough Exec, 27/28 November 2010 • Magic of Christmas at Haydock Park, 13/14 November, and at Fontwell Park, 19/21 November 2010 • The Time of Your Life at YEC Harrogate, 4/5 December 2010 • Outdoor Pursuits at Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh 2/3 April 2011 • etc Homes and Gardens at Brighton Centre, 23/24 April 2011 Can you tell us a bit more about each specific event?LovePets will use about 3,500sqm at Peterborough Exec. We are aiming for more than 80 exhibitors and hope for 10,000 visitors over the two days. The show will be highly interactive and the main arena will offer constant daily entertainment. We are talking with local dog and cat groomers, dog agility and Fly Ball specialists, providers of ferret racing and duck herding, plus a vet’s Q and A, and so on. Tickets will cost £10 and local animal charities will receive 10 per cent of gate receipts. Magic of Christmas at Fontwell Park will be a three-day affair running from 10am to 10pm daily. Exhibition stands will be housed in the new grandstand, while much of the rest of the outside area will be used to accommodate a German-style Christmas market, Victorian fun fair, ice-skating rink, reindeer and Santa Clause. The Haydock Park event will be similar. We are hoping for 12,000 visitors in the North West and 17,000 on the South Coast. The Time of Your Life at Harrogate is aimed at the ‘grey market’, a target audience of 55-plus, and will incorporate the Yorkshire Disability show. Once again, we will include a high degree of interactivity from cookery demonstrations to mass participation line dancing. We aim to welcome 6,000 visitors over the two-day event. Outdoor Pursuits will take place in Edinburgh and the Highlands, which holds numerous possibilities for outdoor activities. The show will be divided into five themed zones covering various outdoor pursuits, from adrenalin sports to camping. We expect 15,000 visitors. One of the key advantages we have is the ability to deliver heavyweight local press advertising through our existing network of JP local daily and weekly newspapers and websites, which number more than 300. It means the equivalent spend per event of about £500,000. This will be backed by radio and television, if appropriate. A separate and detailed marketing plan is being prepared for each event.What spurred this change in direction, or more specifically expansion, to the Johnston Press portfolio?We realised last year that JP has a small but highly-skilled and experienced company in Outbound operating on the south coast that could be used to spearhead expansion into bigger exhibitions for the group. There is also the desire to add more value to our existing brands, which include some high profile titles such as the Yorkshire Post and the Scotsman. Brand extension has been recognised as a way of not just developing a new capability in exhibitions, but also as a method of potentially supporting local newspaper sales, too.Does JP have a longer-term plan for launching events or otherwise expanding its events division?Yes. Once the initial roll-out has been successfully completed, we will certainly be looking for other types of events and shows. Initially our thoughts have turned to consumer-based events, but this will not necessarily be the case moving into the next phase. It’s very much a case of watch this space!
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