Ideal model for success


Media 10 founder and CEO Lee Newton ponders what makes the Ideal Home Show a success when high streets are floundering.

As the world-famous Ideal Home Show prepares for next year’s 100th edition, I started to ask myself the niggling question, “why has this event lasted the test of time, why in a world of online shopping, failing high streets and troubled shopping centres, is this event such a success”?

Firstly, the name. Ideal. Home. Show. It says it all – you don’t have to explain what it is, there’s no mystery in what you will be seeing and once we tell the potential visitors the dates, they come in their droves. OK, there’s a bit of science to it but deep down it is a simple proposition and what’s more, every person through the doors is coming to buy for their home. Visitors attend knowing it will be a full day out, they don’t get distracted by other outside influences as there are no other retail sites or shopping centres to distract our visitors.  The Ideal Home Show is a home show, people want to buy things for their home. Simple.

The issue of the venue and its location is something that I’ve spent long hours thinking about. Why do some locations work and some struggle? Let’s look at some that have failed – ‘Glow’ at Bluewater was a concept that seemed great (we attract x million people per year to the shopping centre, so an events space has to work) but didn’t work in reality. As stated earlier, visitors come to the Ideal Home Show for a sole purpose (to buy things for their home), it is a singular activity and should never be muddled or distracted by other factors outside of the event space.

Bluewater failed because shopping centres are the worst places to hold an exhibition. I can’t state that strongly enough. Various organisers spent years putting on events which all failed at Bluewater because the visitor wasn’t invested in the event, they didn’t stay long enough in the exhibition space to get their ‘purchasing fix’ because they were in a shopping centre with all the distractions and the allure of shops and restaurants. Therefore, the dwell time in the show was almost zero compared to a conventional exhibition centre and the visitors left quickly to spend their money in the hundreds of shops just outside.

Many years ago, we (Media 10) made a huge mistake when we dipped our toe into the shopping centre event space with the Bluewater Christmas Market. For all the reasons already mentioned, we only did the event once and never entertained doing it again, as our exhibitors didn’t benefit from the thousands of people that visited the shopping centre. We were lured by the prospect of a huge audience but these visitors were not there for the experience we were offering – it has to be their sole focus or it simply will not work.

For any event to be successful, you have to tick all the boxes but keeping your visitors in your event for the longest time possible is one of the top 5 Media 10 tips! Shopping centres works against this very premise.

Another tip is making sure you get the right visitors. Having tens of thousands of people in a space doesn’t guarantee success…trust me, we saw this at Bluewater. Imagine the scene; an irate exhibitor says that they are having a terrible show – and we say, “but look, there are loads of people here”. Yes, the wrong audience, wrong demographic, there for the wrong reasons. At the Ideal Home Show 100% of our audience are there for the event. You need to match the buyer with the seller, the visitor to the exhibitor.

Think about it for a few minutes, where would you go to buy garden furniture? Or for a sofa? Not to a shopping centre – shopping centres visitors rely on a demographic looking for clothing, food, for kids to hang out in, etc. When was the last time you went to somewhere like Bluewater to buy something for your home such as a sofa, a bed, a table and chairs, wallpaper, carpet, garden furniture, a garden building, windows, doors, etc), probably - like me - never? It is why you won’t find these stores in a shopping centre – it doesn’t work for them or the visitor. If it worked, then there would be more of these stores in shopping centres.

If you want a sofa you go to a retail park, for garden furniture you go to a garden centre, OR you go to somewhere like the Ideal Home Show where you can get all of this plus you see celebrities, room sets, advice centres, and all the stuff that we throw in to make it an experience. There is a science to this game and if you are looking to buy home products you go where they sell them…trust me, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt.

So, as I sit back and bask in the success of another fantastic Ideal Home Show, I now see why it works and why exhibitions work. After a devastating few years the last thing we need is to do damage to our industry – because if your clients aren’t successful, then your show isn’t successful and then ultimately the industry isn’t successful.

Events fail if you try to bend the rules and shoehorn in concepts that sound wonderful but are doomed from the start. All that glitters is not gold.