Working Smarter Whatever Brexit May Bring
Updated: Feb 27
That’s it then. Britain is cutting her ties with the EU. Well some of her will. As to whether Scotland remains a part of Britain by the time that happens is going to be the subject of some debate. They say there is many a twixt between cup and lip, but the will of the British Electorate cannot be ignored and that is how it has been sold now with the referendum having been interpreted as a definitive mandate to get Britain out of the known and into the unknown. The majority who voted ‘leave’, will not have known what ‘leave’ means though there was obviously a feeling that even the unknown is better than the status quo. Those tasked with negotiating ‘leave’ don’t know what it might mean either dependent as it is on the prevailing political wind to see which side of ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Theresa May lands on when a wind strong enough finally gusts up to shift her off of the BREXIT fence. May has been sat on her fence quite resolutely for the last year or so, thus it may take a storm of quite hurricane proportions to decide our fate. What is clear though is that we will be out. Eventually.
What might this tumultuous turn of events mean for the exhibition and events industry in the UK for the next two years or so. The initial economic consequences were obvious, a falling pound, increased costs of fuel and other imports leading to rising inflation, and it costing a great deal more to travel and work abroad. Inflation will likely lead to upward pressure on wages, and potentially a shortage of skilled labour as EU workers depart from home with the pound in their pocket not worth what it once was, and fearing the worst for the future prospects once Brexit becomes a reality. It is going to cost more for us to make things, that’s for sure. At a time when exhibitors will be looking for more bang for their buck. Quite the challenge!
On the plus side, we are much more attractive a proposition for foreign firms looking to exhibit in the UK and finding it ever more affordable, or even exhibiting in their own backyards but looking for a quality of design/build that they trust from UK firms and now at a vastly reduced cost, currently up to 25% cheaper. The wild card in coming months may well be interest rate policy, and the battle of wills between Mark Carney and Theresa May. The former fighting to keep rates low, continuing to encourage investment (and we’ve been buying equipment like it is going out of fashion!) and consumer spending, with the latter already talking rate rises to control inflation, and to an extent the value of the pound as the Britain becomes a more attractive place to invest with rates that might become higher here than in other developed nations. Can the economy deal with rate rises? Are the electorate mortgaged to the hilt on a decade of low rates, or do workers want the value of their earnings protected when it comes to the price of goods and services, and finally the possibility of earning some money via their savings and pensions. There are no easy answers and it is a fascinating time to be an economist.
The knee jerk reaction to the BREXIT vote that we undoubtedly saw from some firms, with exhibitors pulling out of shows at short notice seems to have been just that. Early indicators seemed positive, with industry happy to just ‘get on with it’ following the vote and belying the initial pessimism around the outcome. Recent indicators seem less positive though and we have definitely noticed an increase in competition in the sector, with lower pricing of projects to win the business perhaps at cost in some instances just to pay wages, and greater efforts by sales teams to secure new business with exhibitors able to take advantage of a number of agencies and contractors vying for their business by inviting ever more organisations to tender for their work. It’s noticeably fraught out there with a lot of organisations worried for the future, keen to secure business for 2017 perhaps at reduced margins, and our industry as we’ve said many a time, is the bell weather for the rest of the economy. When investment starts to slow, it is marketing that nine times out of ten sees the contraction of their budgets first as firms batten down the hatches and there are tentative signs of this, although it is early days.
We’ve learnt a lot from previous challenging periods. Having been in business since 1989 we have seen all manner of ups and downs, albeit each specific economic period throws up its own unique challenges. However, when it comes to exhibiting there are a number of ways to continue to maximise your presence and take advantage of the greater opportunities that can exist should you commit to maintaining some level of adequate marketing spend whilst economising where you can. We are pleased to be able to share three of these with you and we hope they help going into 2017.
EXHIBIT SMART. Be ever more clear about why you are attending an event and what your objectives are. What would be a successful show for you? In less challenging times you may achieve your objectives without quite knowing how, or even what they were. Now is not the time to ‘be lucky’ when you need certainty. Ensure you brief clearly and concisely to your agency/contractor as to what your goals are and pitch in with ideas as to how you might achieve them. The best concepts are born from collaboration.
SPEND SMART. Any agency/contractor will have ideas to save you money. This may be through the use of items they stock built up through years of working within events. From Counters, Furniture, Audio Visual solutions, laminate flooring, IPAD stands, or specific electrical fittings. Look for different graphics solutions, can printed fabric wraps replace where you did Foamex before. Do you need as much power as before now most lighting is LED. Can you keep the essence of any concept you love, that is targeted specifically at achieving the objectives set out in your brief, whilst spending less? We are sure you can!
LOOK SMART. Halls full of exhibitors will attend shows looking less than their best. Especially when the decision whether to renew those graphics, or invest in a new concept rests on uncertain economic projections over the next 3-5 years awaiting the powers that be to get off of the BREXIT fence. DO NOT compromise on your appearance! How you look is how delegates experience you, which they take to be representative of the quality of your brand, service, or products. A good agency/contractor will not ship sub-standard or worn kit on your behalf even if you’ve had it in store for a number of years. Do not accept second best. You are the company you put yourself out there to be seen to be, and there are opportunities aplenty out there for exhibitors determined to represent themselves well at a cost to those who just look to get through their booked live event commitments with minimal spend.
BREXIT means that we all need to smarten up in every aspect of our business operations and marketing departments may well need to take a lead. Where marketing spend becomes the first budget under pressure for any business, often requiring advance spend or in-depth planning on commitments that seem an eternity away given the uncertainty. It will be those businesses that adhere to the above rules and continue to work SMART who are positioned best as British Industry and our unique entrepreneurial spirit pulls us through to whatever the future begins to look like outside of the EU.