EXHIBITION NEWS June 2017 - Page 21

Soapbox. Essentially we give retailers around fi ve minutes to stand up on a soapbox in front of a whole load of people and pitch to a room full of shopping centre owners.” Having exhibitors stand on stage and just pitch their product to visitors – the worst nightmare of many trade show organisers – is a deliberate strategy, and a successful one, at Completely Retail Marketplace. “We’ll have about a dozen brands at each event, and there have been lots of success stories,” Millar tells EN. “One that sticks in my mind is restaurant chain Tortilla. When we put on our fi rst event they had less than a dozen stores, and now they have 40. “The then-MD cites us as one of the contributing factors to that. In a market where everyone is saying that retail’s dead and everything’s going on the internet it’s really nice to be part of people’s success stories.” AGAINST THE NORM Turning the average exhibition organiser’s nightmare scenario into a success story seems to be a running theme for Completely Group. Keeping stands all the same size, and refusing to allow exhibitors to brand their own stands, is a decision that might feel extremely counterintuitive to many organisers. “We’re a bit odd like that, I think the popular term is disruptors,” laughs Millar. “We are commercially minded, but we’re a marketing agency at heart and our brand is important to us. We’ve had some of the largest companies in the commercial property world saying they need more stands. And we’ve said no, because that’s not how we do it. I’ve had to say no to some quite major people in the industry. “We’ve reaped the benefi ts, because there are strict rules. People don’t ever chip us on price; they know that the price is the price, and everyone pays the same, without exception. That makes it really easy to sell. “With the established events we have such a high retention rate that we just pick up the phone and say, ‘do you want a stand at both events this year, or just one?’” The combined popularity and exclusivity of the Completely Retail Marketplace events has reaped even more benefi ts for Completely Group, especially when it comes to the usually pricey area of catering. “We have our own food court and some of the brands provide food free of charge,” explains Millar. “They want everyone in the room to touch and feel and eat their food, because it’ll help them expand and help their businesses.” After the success of the London events, it was only natural that the next step for Completely Group was expanding Completely Retail Marketplace internationally. The organiser launched a small event in Dublin in 2015, before following it up with its fi rst venture into mainland Europe with Completely Retail Marketplace Amsterdam in 2016. “We were very lucky,” explains Millar. “We got in with a Dutch retail property association with around 80-100 brands as their members. "They had a need for an event. I approached the head guy there and they came over to London, saw the event and said, ‘this is what we need’. “They were so supportive; they probably sold more stands than we did, which was very encouraging. Amsterdam is forecast to pretty much double in size this year.” Following on from Dublin and Amsterdam, Completely Group is launching Marketplace in Stockholm for 2017. The organiser is also looking to expand the brand to Madrid in 2018 and to run a total of ten European events by 2020. “The more events we do, the more noise we’re making, and the more our family grows,” says Millar. “It’s really exciting. I think there’s a massive opportunity for us. There seems to be an appetite to take our formula and bring it into other markets.” “There are several niches that we could benefi t from, and which could benefi t from us. Even within the commercial property industry there are opportunities.” The Completely Group way of putting on a show, comments EN, seems almost too straightforward to be true. “It’s quite a simple thing,” laughs Millar. “It’s not complicated, but it’s taken an independent business like us. It may be that the big companies have looked at markets like this and decided it’s too small for them. They would chuck resources at it and it wouldn’t be profi table. Because we’re a tiny team we manage to make it work. “We have one sales person, who is my brother. He runs sales for Dublin and Amsterdam. My mum does accounts. My wife sits next to me – she’s co-owner of the business. Our overheads are quite low, which in turn helps us keep our prices quite reasonable.” Is it tempting to lower your guard, EN ponders, having struck on what seems like a winning formula? “We make incremental changes and try to keep things fresh,” says Millar. “Sometimes the biggest criticism is about the ten-deep queue for the cloakroom as people are leaving. If that’s the biggest criticism they have about the event, then I think we’re doing a lot right. “They’re small problems in the grand scheme of things, but we have a very conscientious events team who see problems and fi x them.” Whether it’s Completely Group’s marketing background, or perhaps the company’s degree of separation from rest of the exhibition industry, but its approach to problem solving is arguably unorthodox but undeniably effective. The events side of the business is growing fast, transforming in just six years from a one-off event to promote the Completely Retail website to fi ve sold-out events spanning Europe, and welcoming an international audience. Whether any other exhibition organisers come round to t he Completely Group way of thinking remains to be seen, but for the moment, the company is blazing a trail for a different type of exhibition. EN "It’s like a stock exchange of deals" exhibitionnews.co.uk | June 2017 21