IT is a sad day as I write this, in late February. Once again, the directors of the APF demo have taken the unpleasant decision to postpone the show for another year, rescheduling it for 22–24 September, 2022.

Why, you might ask, have we taken this decision so early, with the vaccination programme going well and the Prime Minister’s new road map giving us all a glimmer of hope, with talk of re-opening shops, pubs and restaurants in the next couple of months?

Well, firstly, this was not a decision taken lightly or in haste. Uncertainty abounds. The road map is still a wish list, not a series of hard and fast dates. It suggests large events might be allowed from around the end of July, provided all UK adults have been vaccinated, but this is not guaranteed. The government has made it very clear the road will be closed if the instant infection rates rise. Confirmed cases, deaths and hospital admissions continue to fall, but scientists warn the main vaccine we are using may not be very effective against the South African strain of COVID-19 and we may need a third booster jab. Spectator events are still banned and the government is unable to give any promises of when this might change. If it does change, it is unlikely to be a full return to where we were pre-COVID. There may be enforced reduced attendance as under pre-lockdown tier rules or continued social distancing. This might restrict visitor numbers to 4,000 or less, a number that would make the show unviable for us and deter potential exhibitors from booking, due to the reduced footfall.

We would soon have had to book our services for the event – marquees, cabins, temporary roadway, toilets, power, etc. The events industry is on its knees with some companies already gone to the wall. Many of those left are demanding hefty deposits on booking of up to 100 per cent with no refunds if the event is cancelled. With all large events currently banned, we would be gambling a huge amount of money by booking services on the basis of hope rather than facts.

This is an industry event run by the industry for the industry so, as I wrote in last month’s diary, we wanted to consult our sponsors, exhibitors and visitors to hear what their thoughts were about APF 2021. We created three very simple surveys targeted at currently booked exhibitors, previous and potential exhibitors who had not yet booked, and visitors. To be successful, the demo needs the support of everyone, so it was only sensible to pick your collective brains. The results were very interesting and hugely informative and helpful from our point of view.

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An overwhelming 80 per cent of our currently booked sponsors and exhibitors said they would prefer to postpone the event until 2022. This was mirrored by the replies from past and potential exhibitors who have not yet booked, where 78 per cent preferred postponement until all COVID restrictions are lifted. More than half of exhibitors indicated they needed to know by the end of April to avoid incurring costs. There were also concerns about the financial risk of exhibiting, with reduced footfall being reflected in lower sales.

However, the results from our visitor survey were very encouraging. You clearly are a very enthusiastic and supporting bunch! A massive 85 per cent said they would attend APF 2021 if it went ahead. That figure hardly changed even when asked if it would make a difference if we had to put restrictions in place, such as advance tickets only, timed arrivals, etc. However, when asked if you would prefer us to postpone, it was a slightly tighter call with 51% in favour of postponement.

The survey results have really helped inform our internal discussions and made the ultimate decision an unpleasant but straightforward one.

All exhibitor site fees will simply be rolled forward until 2022. Tickets bought for APF 2020 or 2021 will also be valid in 2022, or visitors can request a refund.

We hope the early decision will help everyone’s planning. From our point of view, it means we can reduce unnecessary spending on advertising and lost deposits.

I know that I speak on behalf of the whole APF team when I say how disappointed we are with having to postpone once again, effectively missing an entire show cycle as we jump from APF 2018 to APF 2022. However, we all firmly believe it is the right decision.

There is some good news in all this in that exhibitors continue to book, and we welcome Perret Fencing, Upsom Mowers and Allsports Group. Rainbow Professional was especially keen and sent in a booking form even though it had already booked and paid 12 months ago.

The office remains open for business and we continue to take exhibitor bookings. As an extra incentive to book for APF 2022, we are not requesting payment for new bookings until September, but you can still choose and secure your stand. 180 exhibitors are already booked in. Advance tickets are still available on the website.

So we will leave Ragley in peace for another year and then all come together on the 22–24 September 2022 for the biggest and best APF show ever.

APF 2020 really was the ‘Show That Never Was’.

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