EN meets the organiser of a show specifically designed to be the industry’s ‘no frills alternative’.
Phil Reynolds, like many exhibition organisers, saw a gap in a market and decided he was the man to fill it.
The industry was the vending industry, and the gap took the form of an existing biennial trade event that was rapidly becoming too expensive for many potential exhibitors. There was a need, and a desire, for a cost-effective alternative. And so Vendex was born.
“For 20 years I was publishing a vending magazine that I launched in 1991,” Reynolds tells EN. “Off the back of that vending trade magazine, we launched an exhibition in the mid-2000s.
“We knew all of the industry because we’d been dealing with them on a day-to-day basis for 20 odd years. As the voice of the industry with our magazine, I just thought we could come up with a better alternative.”
At first the show – Vendex Midlands – took place once a year, the alternative year to the pre-existing exhibition, then Reynolds launched a second edition – Vendex North. Eventually both editions became annual, due to the amount of positive feedback from visitors and exhibitors.
Vendex has worked hard to maintain its reputation as a low-cost alternative to its competitor event, which means that Reynolds has a tightrope to walk when it comes to the look and feel of the show.
“We’re a no-frills exhibition,” says Reynolds. “It’s a one-day show, which is only open for six hours. It’s so concentrated that you wouldn’t be able to have seminars and things because it would take people away from the exhibitors. And in such a short, condensed time, you need to make it as impactful as possible for the visitors and the exhibitors to discuss business.
“The strapline to Vendex is ‘where the trade buys’. A lot of business is written on the day, a lot of contacts are made on the day, and a lot of business is written after the show. You can’t beat a face-to-face exhibition.”
The show has grown significantly since launching, and Vendex North will be moving from its home at Old Trafford to a space double the size at Leeds United Football Club for 2019.
“When we first looked at the Manchester Suite for 2006, I thought ‘wow, we’ll never fill this’, but we did,” recalls Reynolds. “And now we’re bursting at the seams.”
One clear sign that business is being done at Vendex is the fact that companies frequently exhibit at both Vendex Midlands and Vendex North in a year.
“We get an awful lot of repeat exhibitors, and they wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t writing business at Vendex,” argues Reynolds. “What we always try and do is introduce new brands, products or services to each show, and we normally average about 25 per cent of the exhibitors are brand new to vending.
“It constantly gives the visitors something new to see. If they see the same old stuff every time, it’s the law of diminishing returns; they’ll get less and less footfall.”
Vendex, as Reynolds describes it, is a small, back-to-basics exhibition that has put doing business at the centre of everything it does.
“There’s always a buzz at Vendex,” he concludes. “Some shows you can go into and there’s almost tumbleweed rolling across the aisles. But as soon as you walk in through the door at Vendex there is a buzz, because the exhibitors all know what to expect. They’re happy to be there, and it hasn’t cost them a fortune.
However much Vendex continues to grow, it’s clear that Reynolds is determined to continue avoiding flashy features and content sessions and sticking to what the show does best: enabling business.