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The SIC of it

by EN

Martin Fullard suggests insufficient provision, and use, of SIC codes has cost us dearly.

Back in July I wrote a piece entitled ‘Why has the events industry been left behind’, and it seemed to resonate.

The thrust was that the events industry is not correctly administrated by Companies House, and in short, many businesses that operate in the UK’s world of events are assigned elsewhere.

The result is in the eyes of HM Treasury and Office for National Statistics (ONS), the events industry does not exist…certainly not in the way we say it does.

The £70bn value figure that we use to articulate the size of the industry overall is the result of some Herculean research, and not a figure awarded to us by central government.

While the short-term objective of our sector is to simply survive the Covid-19 pandemic, we must work towards developing a formal structure in the SIC code system in the medium term.

We must have a full set of SIC codes. At present, of the 752 codes that exist, only three directly link to the events industry: Section N, code 82301 assigned to ‘activities of exhibition organisers’, code 82302 ‘activities of conference organisers’, and Section I notes code 56210 is assigned to ‘event catering activities’.

With a sample list of 100 event businesses, I investigated which is registered as what. Of them, only
25 were assigned to one of the three available SIC codes.

About half of them are registered as ‘96090 – ‘Other service activities not elsewhere classified’. Many venues are registered as ‘55100 – Hotels and similar accommodation’. Agencies were the biggest “offenders”, with SIC code assignments including ‘59112 – Video production activities’, ‘73110 – Advertising agencies’, ‘70210 – Public relations and communications activities’, ‘79120 – Tour operator activities’ and ‘70229 – Management consultancy activities other than financial management’.

The issue is that every events business that has not registered as one of the three events-assigned SIC codes (regardless of their accuracy), is essentially contributing to other sectors. SIC codes are the tools by which a sector is measured.

Many event technology firms are registered as ‘63990 – Other information service activities not elsewhere classified’ and one furniture hire company uses ‘93290 – Other amusement and recreation activities not elsewhere classified’.

Organisers are the group which consistently uses the assigned SIC codes, perhaps unsurprisingly. There are a few weird ones – such as one organiser of note registering itself as ‘64209 – Activities of other holding companies not elsewhere classified’. Ideally, what we want is for every business operating in the event supply chain to register as an events business on the available codes in the short-term, but it is understandable that some may want to do the opposite.

Of course, unless the SIC codes are revised (and I can tell you that the Business Visits and Events Partnership is already working on this), then we will never be recognised as the industry we know we truly are.

The Government will not pay attention to us when we tell them the events industry as a whole is (or was) worth £70 billion to the UK economy each year. They are only interested in what the audited accounts on Companies House tells them, and right now, we are telling them we don’t exist.

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