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QUOTE Is this due to internet trading or are they being forced out of the exhibitions by the organisers having to pay massive expenses to some layouts which means only the big dealers can afford to attend?

Neither , I think.

The killer is our old friend rising property prices, manifesting itself in the very large sums of money the organisers have to pay for a venue. For a medium sized show I understand this is often well into 5 figures. What the figures are for venues like Alexandra Palace, or the NEC (where exhibitors meals have to be bought from a catering contractor with a franchise at commercial prices) , I shudder to think

Large layouts require larger numbers of operators and a large lorry - sometimes a 7 tonner , and bringing something like Gresley Beat or Ambergate to a show isn't cheap. At the same time these are crowd-pleasers and big draws , and criticism of a show's content being weak or not as good as last time often means (in my experience) that said show is one or two big centrepiece layouts down in the year in question . This translates into reducitions in gate which means thinner pickings for traders...

Discussion of the "right kind of trade" is also a tricky one. There's a lot of criticism of "box shifters " being present at shows - meaning anyone whose stand features lots of Bachmann and Hornby . But at the shows on my patch the "boxshifter" traders are - the local model shops. I'm fortunate to have a model shop about 10 mins walk away , but he definitely does several of the local shows with a stand heaped with red and blue boxes. The shop is in fact under a degree of threat at present as the proprietor has health problems . I'd be dismayed to lose him - is he really someone to be banned from local shows as that wicked thing a "box shifter" ? (And yes he does swapmeets)

Come to that is there anything wrong in being able to buy a Hornby Pendolino or a Bachmann 9F at a show? I think the attitude that RTR has no legitimate place in the hobby is about 40 years out of date.

Is online trading any different , fundamentally , to mail order? Are Rails of Sheffield and Signal Box any different to the Guy Norris, Railmail of Watford, and Fratton Bargain Shop of 30 years ago?

It is arguable that the smaller trader can now make himself available to all via the internet - putting his catalogue on line without further effort - and therefore does not need the exhibition circuit in quite the same way. And many traders are now into their 60s and getting up at the crack of dawn to drive 100 miles must be getting unattractive. Some clearly are retiring. The situation with Fox Transfers is perhaps a straw in the wind

Certainly the banks and accountants are not supportive of retailers who don't turn their stock over fast. And high property prices and retirement bear heavily on the smaller shops. But I don't think exhibition layouts'expenses have much to do with this

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QUOTE QUOTE(Ravenser @ 28 Mar 2007, 22:33)
But I don't think exhibition layouts'expenses have much to do with this

Don't know what it's like in your part of the world, as you don't state where you are located, but most exhibition managers I talk to tell me that generally the cost of layout expenses = cost of rent from traders & they often feel that some layouts have more operators that required, even taking into account breaks & time to look round the exhibition.

As far as local model shops closing , I don't think it has much to do with exhibition layouts - I'd agree with 60134 and Dan's analysis , with an additional factor being aging owners shutting up shop but few new retailers starting up to replace them , certainly in the South (BritHO's final comment did seem to juxtapose shops closing and exhibition layout expenses , which I felt was stretching it a bit far)

As far as the vexed subject of shows and costs, I think a straight equation that "every penny on layout expenses is a penny taken out of the small traders' pockets" is misleading

In terms of show managers' "rules of thumb" , presumably the takings on the door are expected to pay for the venue, the layout expenses equate to the income from the trade, and the profit to the club is basically the club second hand stand + the ladies on the teabar + (if you're lucky) a few hundred quid? At a larger show you might hope to do a little better ...

But the punters won't come to see an empty hall. I appreciate BritHO's feeling that the smaller traders are his main reason for visiting shows and the layouts are something of a sideshow. Certainly some people do feel that way, but for most visitors to the show the layouts are the main attraction and the trade the secondary attraction. We hear a lot about the need to provide entertainment for families and the kids at shows - I'm a little sceptical about the reasoning myself , but that's another thread - but whatever little Johnny wants from the show , I don't think he's there for the specialist trade. A "weak" show is generally more a complaint about the quality of layouts than about the trade (though both are issues)

Basically the layouts are not simply a cost centre and a burden - they generate a large part of the gate. And big layouts with numberous operators are commonly the headline attractions. There is a standing complaint about the smaller terminus/FY layouts that they don't provide much action and are therefore poor value . Again I don't necessarily agree - but it is the big continuous circuit layouts that a lot of folk seem to want

The thing about dbclass50's rough costing is that it suggests to me the level of stand rate isn't the big issue. Cutting layout expenses by 10% would only reduce the traders' total cost by 4% - marginal and unlikely to make any meaningful difference to the equation. And as some of the expenses are fixed (eg van hire, petrol) that sort of cut would probably mean 20% fewer operators. That's a big big cut with very little benefit to the trader's bottom line . Especially as exhibitors are likely to spend with the specialist trade - more so than the general punter

I just don't think that alleged "overmanning" is a significant factor in the cost equation.

There's another side to this. The trader expects to make a decent profit for his weekend (and so he should..) . What exactly do the layout operators get? They shouldn't be making any money - in fact in general they will be slightly out of pocket . (The complaint here is not that the expenses aren't actually incurred, but that if the operators kept their noses pressed to the grindstone the trade would have to pay for fewer of them and so would find more shows viable) They've given up their weekend , probably taken time off work, and put in a lot of time , effort and money to build the layout in the first place. The layouts arguably generate the majority of the gate revenue .

The only thing the exhibitor gets is a good day out. If he's to be tied to the layout for 6 hours or more a day tightly limited in number and viewed with suspicion as a cost burden on the show - that disappears and the exhibitor may start to feel the game's not worth the candle

And as I say , I don't think that a severe squeeze on the layout exhibitors would produce any real difference in the traders costs. To generate a significant impact on the trade you'd have to start halving layout expenses , which means the exhibitors subsidising their attendence out of their own pockets- in the case of large layout that might be hundreds of pounds a show

That said , in Kent and E.Kent (dbclass50's patch) , geography may well make shows like Folkestone and Chatham more reliant on layouts who travel from a distance and therefore accomodation and operator numbers may be more of a live issue

I do think though that the whole ecology of the "circuit" is under pressure. I've heard suggestions smaller shows face declining gates as people plump for the bigger shows which are felt to offer better value. At the same time rising costs of attending the bigger shows (not necessarily from the show itself) are making them more difficult for the trade. Traders are growing old and cutting back commitments, or are relying more on the internet and need shows less. There are fewer local model shops around

This means many shows are faced with rising venue costs and a gradually declining trade support. In some cases the gate may be falling. Club members may be aging. The number of shows has mushroomed in the last 30 years - I can see shows reaching the point where they decide to stop, especially when they hit a venue problem (Ipswich comes to mind here). I think we may now be stretched too thin and recession and contraction may set in
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