As SALTEX 2016 came to a close, it was apparent among exhibitors and visitors that Europe’s largest annual turf management event has found its rightful home at the NEC in Birmingham.
SALTEX 2016 was taken to a new level after an independent audit confirmed that the combined attendance over the two day exhibition totalled an impressive 8,754. With 292 exhibitors (28 more than 2015), increased show features, an enhanced education programme and extended floor space which saw three exhibition halls packed with an overwhelming number of UK and international visitors - it was clear to see that SALTEX is growing.
This year’s show saw new unique features such as the SALTEX College Cup and Pathology and Soil Science LIVE; and after listening to SALTEX 2015 visitor feedback, the decision was made to bring back outdoor demonstrations.
SALTEX’s educational programme – Learning LIVE – was bigger and better than ever before as visitors took the opportunity to listen to and discuss topical issues, learn from the industry’s leading experts and engage with high profile radio and TV personalities from Sky Sports, talkSPORT and the BBC such as Mark Saggers, Darren Gough, Barrie McDermott and Mark Clemmit.
Visitors made the most of SALTEX’s Ask the Expert feature where they gained free personalised turf advice and aspiring groundsmen went in their droves to the Young Groundsmen’s Conference to see how they could further their career.
Scott Bryan, deputy grounds manager at Uppingham School in Rutland, offered a fantastic insight from a visitor’s point of view: “This year we made SALTEX a team building event – we stayed overnight in Birmingham, and we attended both days because the show offers a lot to see and a lot to do. It is all very well reading things online but actually seeing them in front of you and hearing from the manufacturers is so much better.
“We also made a point of attending some of the Learning LIVE seminars, especially the ones about independent schools. The speakers and content were fantastic this year and the seminars gave us a great opportunity to see how others work, which I think is really important because you can always learn from one another.
“Every time we go to SALTEX we meet new people whether they be exhibitors or other visitors, and we always increase our network which is essential in this industry. Compared to last year, you could see that the event was bigger and more spread out – last year was good but personally I felt this year was even better.”
Lee Metcalfe, head groundsman at the Manchester City Football Academy, who attended with other staff members, was also upbeat about the show – particularly with the Learning LIVE seminars: “We all found that the seminars were very good and took something out of each one we attended. Education is the way forward and when free education is put on to help people better themselves, then I believe you would be silly not to attend and learn.
“We all really enjoyed the event and are looking forward to next year already.”
It was not just the visitors reflecting on an excellent exhibition – SALTEX 2016 encouraged serious business leads and significant sales, with exhibitors reporting that visitors were high-quality buyers with serious intent.
Gabriella Fox - sports sales and marketing coordinator for Harrod UK reported a successful show: “During SALTEX we obtained a number of strong business leads and maintained many relationships with customers, we were delighted with the amount of repeat and new visitors! We will definitely be returning to SALTEX in 2017 as we saw a 20 per cent increase in leads this year.”
Karen Proctor, marketing and communications manager for Ransomes, commented: “This year’s SALTEX exhibition was another success. It was well attended over the two days and we received lots of positive feedback about the machinery that we exhibited.”
Having previously opted to exhibit bi-annually at SALTEX, Reesink Turfcare has broken this trend by already committing to SALTEX 2017, with Holly Jones, marketing manager, commenting: “We were impressed with SALTEX 2016! Many of our customers visited our stand along with plenty of new ones.”
Derek Smith, amenity sales & marketing manager for DLF and Johnsons Sports Seeds, said: “DLF and Johnsons Sports Seed were delighted to return to the NEC. The NEC is a fantastic venue for this event - the biggest change being the broad spread of visitors, with people coming from all over the UK and many more oversees visitors flying in for the day.”
Richard Fry, marketing director for Rigby Taylor, remarked on a successful event: “The 2016 SALTEX was the best ever, both in terms of the number of visitors to the Rigby Taylor stand and the quality. For us as a company, the move to the NEC has encouraged visitors to the exhibition from a wider geographical area and has brought in new, additional customers who view the location as a place to do business.......Bring on 2017!”
Anita Lloyd from Lloyd Engineering was happy to see some sales take place on their stand: “We were pleased with both the quality and quantity of visitors and how many were interested in our products. We sold a number of attachments at the show, arranged several further demonstrations and have a good number of other leads to follow up on in the coming weeks.”
GMA CEO Geoff Webb was delighted with the success of SALTEX 2016 and signalled the institute’s ambitions to continue to grow the show: “The GMA board are really pleased with the reaction to SALTEX 2016 - both days of the show were busy, and with the GMA Awards as well, we feel we have consolidated the exhibition at its new home at the NEC. With Learning Live, the SALTEX College Cup, Soil & Pathology Live all adding to the mix, we are already working on new features for 2017.
“Overwhelmingly our feedback from both visitor and exhibitor was one of satisfaction and confidence in SALTEX. Set against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty we are determined that SALTEX listens, learns from each year and evolves. We always look at what worked well and where there is room for improvement and that work has already started in preparation for SALTEX 2017.”