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FIT SHOW 2017: MY FULL REVIEW

The FIT Show is over for another year, and there definitely won’t be another one until 2019. The stands have been packed down. Sore feet have been rested. The hangovers have been cleared. We’re all back to doing our day jobs.

I have already posted daily reviews of the exhibition. You can catch up with those, the live page and all other FIT Show related content by clicking here. This however is my full fat, bible-length pontification of the 2017 FIT Show. You’re going to want to be in bed, or sat on the loo for this one.

These views are my own, if you attended the show and disagree with anything below, feel free to put me right in the comments section at the bottom of this post!

High quality stands

One of the most immediate things that stood out for me was the very high quality of the stands on display this year. It was going to be a tough ask to flood this show with new products just a year after the last one. So it was clear that a great deal of time, effort and a fair few pound notes were spent on creating a wow factor with stands.

 

Props to all the designers and hard working staff who put in monster shifts the weekend before the doors opened to make sure they were all ready on time. There was the typical last minute rushes to get finished on time, and a few tired eyes on Tuesday morning as some staff worked into the morning to make sure things were ready on time.

But, as the doors opened, the show, the stands and the staff were all ready to go. Visually impressive. Physically massive.

New home, different atmosphere

For those exhibiting and visiting, I hope you all had your smartwatches on counting your steps. The NEC is a much bigger venue than it’s previous home in Telford. I would dare say that the car parking there is bigger than the TIC itself. You will have definitely got your 10,000 steps a day in if you were there.

With 250+ exhibitors, it would have been almost impossible to host this year’s show at any other venue than the NEC. It needed the space. And space is what you got. The edges of the halls were much wider, which allowed for off the cuff meetings and quick catch ups. The aisles between the stands were wider too. With a bigger footfall this year than in any other year, this was very much needed.

This year’s show was spread around three halls. However, the only signal of which hall you were in was from the outside. Once inside, there were no signs to show visitors which hall they were in, and I couldn’t see a single stand number on any of the stands. For the day trippers it would have helped to know exactly where they were just by looking up. These halls were massive and packed, so it did become a bit easy to get lost.

Speak to any of the exhibitors and they will tell you that the organisation and facilities at the NEC were second to non. This was a clear step up from Telford. Naturally you would expect this to be the case somewhere as established as the NEC. Still, £12 to park your car? Total rip off.

So, bigger halls, more stands, better stands, better organisation and a big rise in footfall which I’ll cover soon. Still, I could not help but feel like there was a bit of an odd atmosphere. On the first morning, many people were still waking up to the horrific news of what happened the night before in Manchester. There was a definite sombre mood in the halls on the Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, the busiest day, there was a much more obvious energy and buzz to the place. Thursday was very quiet. Hangovers in full flow and most day trippers been already, it was a steady end. But I could not help but feel that throughout the three days there was something at Telford that there was not here, and that for me was a close, cosy buzz, almost a family feel to it. Telford was much smaller in comparison. But when the industry descended there, it was all ours, and that brought it’s own unique energy to the place. The NEC, being the much bigger place it is, although well organised and everything you could possibly need, lost some of that cosy buzz due to it’s sheer size. Whether that becomes a bad thing only future shows will tell, but you couldn’t get away from it.

 

The numbers

You all know how I like my stats, and the FIT Show on Tuesday published it’s stats for footfall, and they were pretty much on the money:

Unique visitors: 9935 – up 16.85% from 2016

Total visits: 13,285

Tuesday: 4808

Wednesday: 5136

Thursday: 3341

Just before the show I said that this year’s exhibition needed to hit 10,000 unique visitors. I think I can let them off with that 65  but a big thumbs up from me for hitting that target. Not an easy feat considering the last show was only 12 months ago and at a brand new venue.

I was surprised to see Wednesday’s figures so close to that of Tuesday’s as I thought that day two was significantly busier than the first day. Thursday’s figures are what I thought they would be.

Overall these are solid numbers to build on towards the 2019 show. If I were to pluck some figures out of the air I would say that 12,000 unique visitors would be the target for the 2019 show. Given that there will be two years of innovation and new products, this should be an achievable target.

Product of the show

I am basing my judgement on this purely on the wow factor the product inspired in me. I am handing that crown to the guys at Alumil and their simply staggering range of Interno entrance doors.

Alumil are a Greek company, but operate globally and were at the FIT Show for the very first time, as were a lot of other internationally operating companies this year.

The doors above retail in the tens of thousands of euros, but you get what you pay for. If you saw them you could see the quality. In-built back-lit handles, mad door tech, door slabs thicker than walls. These things would keep a house held together. Honestly, most of us will never sell them, but for the wow factor, easily the best of the lot.

That being said, there were some other very jaw dropping doors on display this year. Including some mammoth sliding doors on the Luxal and Arkay stands. Lord knows the effort and people power required to put those things together. Again, unlikely to sell to most residential customers. But, what this door-heavy show did display, was the speed in which the UK door market is powering ahead. Massive innovation, new possibilities and new products. We were once decades behind other countries like Germany and Austria, but I don’t think that is the case now.

Things I would change

Nothing is ever perfect, no matter what the PR and the spin says. And there were a couple of things I would change, and of course these are my own opinions, so feel free to disagree away.

Personally, I would change the date of the Gala Dinner. Having it on a Wednesday pretty much ensures everyone is hungover on the Thursday. There’s little to no energy in the halls the following day, which doesn’t look professional for those visiting on the last day of the show. I would try moving it to Thursday for the 2019 exhibition. Hire the halls for the Friday, have take-down teams come in then to clear up. Allow three full days of relative hangover-free staff and stands. It would lift the level of professionalism and I think more of those taking part would appreciate not having to work the day after.

I would also re-think the Tuesday late opening. This year the NEC was open until 8pm, with a number of stands hosting drinks parties for those who chose to remain. I was treated to hospitality on both the MACO and Selecta stands, thanks to both if you’re reading! However, on reflection, the number of those that stayed appeared to be low, and in the end it was mostly exhibitors who diverted to other stands. I get the aim of late Tuesday. I suspect it was to try and recreate some of the boozy fun often found at Fensterbau. I think it’s a different demographic here. Should it happen again? I’m not sure. Most guests to the FIT Show go and do their own thing in the surrounding hotels and bars on the Tuesday night anyway.

Some other little things:

  • install lockers in the halls – guests are bombarded with free things throughout the day, and they probably don’t want to have to carry things all day long. Some free lockers at the heads of the halls for people to drop their things off and roam hands free would be a good idea.
  • cheaper parking – negotiate better rates for parking, especially for those staying more than one day. £12 per car per day is a total rip off.
  • better hall labelling – the NEC is a big place, signs inside the halls wouldn’t be a bad addition to help visitors navigate better

All in all though, this was still a very well organised, well attended event, a true achievement given this is the first year in a new home. Could it have been delayed a year? Should it have been held one year later? I asked some attending and exhibiting and the answer was yes. Although they clarified that they still enjoyed the 2017 show.

Themes and content to come

These things always thrown up a plethora of issues and topics, and trust me, I think I have at least two months worth of content, ideas and industry discussion to put into words. I could have mentioned some of them in this review, but it would have ended up as long as the old testament, so I have saved many of them for their own dedicated posts.

But, there were some clear themes that came out of the exhibition, including the rapid rise of the patio slider, the role of women in the industry, certain marketing campaigns, aluminium in the residential market, price increases, fabrication in crisis, door tech, customer service to mention just a few.

I’ll say this though, the B-word was never mentioned to me once in discussions whilst I was there. Perhaps a sign the industry is sick of talking about it and just want to get on with doing their jobs and earning some money.

Summing up, a big well done should go to the organisers for putting on a very well attended, very well organised event that we all hope will benefit the industry in the weeks and months to come. An even bigger round of applause should go to the exhibitors themselves. These things really do put a great deal of pressure on companies, in terms of design and marketing of their stands, as well as the people power and organisation required to pull each stand off. It’s a real drain, energy sapping. There were some very tired people on stands on Thursday, but they should all be congratulated for being absolutely on the money from the get go. Well done.

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