So the news broke on Friday that the UK's number one photographic industry trade show 'Focus on Imaging' is to close, if you went to this years show you attended the very last one.Am I surprised?
Yes and no.
Let me explain.
For the past couple of years I have chatted to employees of the big name photographic companies and after a pint or two, the question is posed 'do you think this years FOI will be the last'
It is a question that has been on the agenda firmly for the past 3 years or so.
I went to this years show and to be honest I was surprised as it appeared to be in slightly better health than I had anticipated, 2014 FOI was a cert I thought, with some big names keen to do it, turns out I was wrong.
One can speculate as to why the owner of FOI, Mary Walker chose to pull the plug at this time and not sell the show on.
The problem for the show was that times had changed, and all trade shows have shrunk considerably, even the mighty Photokina was a smaller show.
A common complaint from would be exhibitors is the price of the stands and what return on investment do they get? The money spent on a show could be spent in a much more targeted and quantifiable way.
It is an easy to sympathise why an increasing number of companies ducked out of FOI in recent years, times ARE hard out there after all.
I believe there is still an appetite for an annual UK show, within the trade and for delegates.
Let's have a look at it from a trade point of view for a moment.
I know for a fact that one of the big concerns for some photographic companies that they feel there are diminishing opportunities, particularly since the demise of Jessops and Jacobs from the high street, for buyers to get hands on with their product which may very well be superior to everything else out there but it is not possible to demonstrate this via a website.
However I do believe that if companies are to have successful photographic trade show presence they are going to have to work at it much harder, having a show presence where there is a strong emphasis on learning, be it seminars, demonstrations or perhaps more in depth training.
Something more in line with the show in the USA Photo Expo.
There was simply not enough of this activity at FOI and I believe that without a stronger element of learning any future show would struggle.It would be attractive for companies if the floor space is not sky high and the venue is right, with separate breakout/lecture areas with speakers/trainers who's presence is trailed extensively a long time ahead of the show.
FOI did work for some companies, being the biggest trading week in their year.
It did offer an unrivalled opportunity to let enthusiasts like myself get hands on with the latest cameras and speak to some representatives from the camera companies too giving an insight of the company and sometimes a hint of what was coming up next in their line up.
I expect there will be a successor to FOI but it will have to offer more for delegates and better value for exhibitors otherwise it will not succeed in the long term.