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February 14, 2007

SUPPLY CONSOLIDATION 1: Can organisers benefit from a one-stop shop?

At any given event the shopping list of essential items that could help make the happening a success often extends to several pages – from basics like furniture and signage to an array of technology including lighting, audio visual equipment and perhaps some kind of device to encourage interactivity.

With so many elements to consider, it’s small wonder that an increasing number of event organisers are looking to the larger event contractors to provide a one-stop shop service, supplying all the items they need.
Time and money
Stanco has offered this service to end users for some time now and has many individual customers who source all their exhibiting needs through it. Curiously enough, the company’s marketing director, David O’Beirne, says that organisers are only now beginning to get the message.

“It is important for us to offer the service, but up until now it doesn’t seem to have been as important for organisers,” he says. “So much depends on what people’s definition of ‘everything’ is. We’ve had instances where people have been surprised to find that we can do so much more for their events than helping build sets and stands.”

As well as saving companies time by cutting out the need to track down and talk to a range of suppliers, O’Beirne says there’s also a cost implication with Stanco being able to secure competitive rates from its own partners that can be passed on to the end user. Having said that, the firm finds that price is not such a major consideration for most customers.
“Our repeat business is over 70%,” he adds, “so although price must be relevant to a point, we still find that the trust a client has in us and the extra ideas we bring to their marketing projects are far more important to them.”
The trust factor
This is something that David Freeman, managing director of Mayridge, firmly agrees with. “We like our clients to look at the wider proposition,” he says. “It’s better to ask ‘what will I get out of this’ rather than how much will it cost’.”
Freeman also agrees that an increasing number of clients are looking for the sort of solutions Mayridge and other suppliers now provide.
“There still aren’t too many people offering it at the moment, but once the client understands what you can do for them they tend to go for it,” he says. “If you look at how marketing budgets have been cut in a variety of industries you can see why it is attractive for a given marketing department to entrust this to firms like ours thus freeing themselves to do their main work.”
Trust would seem to be the key here. Mayridge likes to see itself as more of a consultant and partner than a service provider.
“We like to get to know what a firm is trying to achieve, what its brand message and values are,” says Freeman. “We can then co-ordinate its event presence providing the company with the comfort of knowing it can trust us to choose appropriate tools, such as the pop-ups or A/V. We often have clients tell us that we brought a value that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve by themselves.”
Freeman is clear about the benefits of an all-round service. “We want our clients to think of us in terms of consultation, co-ordination and partnership rather than simple service providers,” he says.
Think before you leap
It would seem to make sense to have all your event infrastructure supplied by just one company, and charged on one invoice, rather than the complex and over-complicated rigmarole of dealing with six or seven different suppliers – not to mention the savings that can be made. It would also seem especially attractive to profit from the overall marketing approach that firms such as Stanco and Mayridge provide. With their extensive contact list and experience, you may well find it preferable to let them do the leg work rather than you spending time dealing with a long list of individuals.

However, before going for a one-stop shop, you need to be sure it’s right for your event and your company. For example, can you be sure that the expertise they offer is as good as that from a dedicated specialist in that particular field? Is there a danger that you may become over-reliant on one supplier and, as such, lessen your negotiating position? What’s more, does consolidation simply reduce choice and dilute the skills available? Then there are the moral issues of one-stop shop suppliers driving the smaller, more specialist companies out of business.

Next week you’ll get an angle on these questions and more, as we talk to the specialist suppliers themselves.

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