A one-off trade show confined to part of the smallest hall in the NEC doesn’t sound like an event the whole market would be watching like hawks, but that was the case with the UK Garage and Bodyshop Event.
This trade show was organised by the same people that put on Automechanika UK. Understandably, the show runners were keen to make sure that a major UK trade show happened in 2022, but were unable to run an Automechanika edition so close to the main Frankfurt show. So the challenge for them was to come up with a one-off format that was different, but still useful enough for the trade to want to participate.
Lots of people asked us before the event, who was coming and if it was worth going to see… As if we had any special insight!
However, the doubters needn’t have worried. Pretty much all of the aftermarket arrived on the morning of the first day, seemingly all at once. This must have been a relief for the organisers, not least because a good percentage of the delegates were garage owners and technicians, who were the target audience for the event.
While it is true that a smaller event seems busier because people don’t get physically spread out so much, there was no doubt that it genuinely was packed. Part of the attraction was the range and quality of speakers at the sideshows, referred to by the organisers as ‘training hubs’. Unusually for a smaller event, there were three theatres, one loosely for workshop issues, one for bodyshop matters and a third called the ‘EV and Training Hub’ which hosted a range of subjects besides electrical matters, including our own CAT Conversations on recruitment issues (see overleaf).
ECP’s Andy Hamilton opened the show with a Worksop Hub talk about the struggle for access to information. He was followed by Bosch diagnostic tool expert Mark Banks, who was in turn followed by Darren Darling, the ‘DPF Doctor’. Similar crowd-pleasing speakers followed in the other two arenas, and while they were full to the point of standing room only, there were still plenty of people walking around the stands.
The stands also deserve a mention. Cornerstone had live PDR repairs, GYS had a (suitably screened) live welding demonstration while Valeo had live demonstration on replacing various complicated multi-plate clutch systems. There were many other demos, events and giveaways, and there was plenty for delegates to see and do.
Particularly interesting to us were the number of major suppliers that did not have stands at the event, but still sent teams, presumably to take notes about their competitors. We also bumped into a number of readers who have officially ‘retired’ , but still made time for an NEC show… One had taken a day off from a family holiday in Devon to come to see it!
As a lure to sign up for the event, the organisers had offered free parking, which was welcome as the current NEC price is £17 per day. The catch was you had to get your voucher stamped by four exhibitor stands at opposite ends of the hall, which made sure people kept moving.
There were downsides to the show. It wasn’t as zoned as some people would have liked and the NEC’s catering is worse than ever. Overall though, we really enjoyed the event and met scores of contacts old and new. Let’s hope it is a bellwether for future shows.