New lifestyle show defiant against market woes

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The organiser of a new LifeStyle show in the South East has played down the impact of uncertain consumer conditions and declining exhibition spending on his event next year. Announced last week, the first Leisure, Luxury and Lifestyle Show will take place at Sandown Park Racecourse in Surrey on 16-17 July 2011 and is organised by Webster Partnership. Webster Partnership MD Paul Webster told EN his son James’ appointment to the company prompted the search for new show opportunities. Although focused on business-to-business exhibitions, it opted to launch a targeted consumer show for the mid- to high-end leisure sector.“We believe a consumer show in Sandown, in a targeted, affluent area, has a good chance of working well. We did a lot of research and had really good responses,” he said.Although several months away, ongoing uncertainty in consumer confidence could arguably effect the show’s success. Figures from the British Retail Consortium for August illustrated a 1 per cent rise in UK retail sales year-on-year. However, deal-driven sales remained a major contributor and big-ticket items were affected by uncertainty over job cuts and income prospects, it reported. The VAT rise to 20 per cent in January could also affect consumer spending.  Webster claimed the boutique show will be tailored to the mid- and top-end of the retail market, which was holding up well. Retail sector research was encouraging and he pointed out CBI was still forecasting 1 per cent growth in consumer spending in 2011, up from 0.9 this year.  The launch of the LifeStyle show also comes in the face of steadily declining exhibition spending in the UK and abroad. According to a recent report into the exhibition market conducted by Vivid Interface, the number of UK companies exhibiting dropped 9.2 per cent, while organisers booked an average of 8.5 per cent less space in 2009 compared to 2008. Webster acknowledged times were tougher and the industry was under pressure, but was adamant live meetings continued to hold an important role.“It’s always a concern, but if you think you have an idea, you go for it,” he said. “There’s always a place for face-to-face. People were very worried when virtual exhibitions came onto the scene for example, but nothing happened.“I am confident about the exhibition industry’s future.”The LifeStyle show will also focus on a wide range of lifestyle areas such as travel, fashion, food and wine, gadgets, cars, health and beauty, home entertainment and fitness. Confirmed exhibitors include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group, Chelsea Football Club’s Football in the Community, Foxhills Hotel and resort, Clay Salon and Spa, Visit Surrey and Sandown itself. The key to running a consumer show in today’s climate is to ensure visitors are entertained, Webster said.“Consumer shows have to be an attraction, not just an exhibition,” he said. “It’s got to be something that the public wants to see.”  Features of the LifeStyle show which should help include the Chelsea Football Foundation’s decision to run kid’s training sessions in an enclosed outdoor space, as well as interactive elements on stands from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful group and Clay Salon and Spa. Webster was also considering using a 270m long champagne bar and running a dedicated home entertainment space.
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