A two-year struggle between veteran Queens-land PC show organiser Woodland Exhibitions and southern rival Australian Exhibition Services (AES) has ended with AES triumphant.
In a rationalisation of the Queensland PC exhibition market, AES has absorbed Woodland's pioneering Queensland Computer Expo, which drew some 250,000 visitors over its 13-year life.
The Woodland show was left vulnerable to AES because of difficulty in winning support from national distributors and a perception that business users were not being drawn by the show. AES's ability to offer major exhibitors a package taking in its Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane shows was probably a crucial element in its victory.
Woodland Exhibitions' managing director Rob Woodland said the merger decision was made because "the shows were too similar. Realistically, for a city the size of Brisbane, some rationalisation was needed." In Brisbane, AES will duplicate the formula of running separate events for business and home computing, which has proven successful in Sydney and Melbourne.
Its business show this year is booked for May and the home show for September, both in Queens-land's premier convention venue, the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. As part of the merger, AES has also taken on Woodland's PC Expo manager, James Curtain.
The timing of the buyout disturbed some Woodland loyalists who had been focused on exhibiting at Woodland's autumn business show. With the AES May show now the only one in town, some fear they'll be relegated to the back of the queue for preferred locations.
Most resellers saw the rationalisation as a positive step for a market in which the quality of visitors was being diluted by an oversupply of shows.
Taking a longer view, many questioned the continuing value of traditional computer exhibitions in an era of proliferating access to PC information.
Michael Willcocks, managing director of corporate and government reseller C Drive, said his company would take a break from the show this year, although it exhibited at AES's PC 95 and at the previous year's Woodland show.
"The numbers are down and we think shows are losing impact as an advertising medium," Willcocks said.
PC shows were once the only way many people could get information. Now the rise of superstores and the abundance of print and on-line publications have made consumers less dependent on shows, Willcocks argued.
Many retailers see diminishing returns from renting space at annual PC shows.
For example, Concorde Com-puters, which had six people manning its stand at the home show last year, needed to sell 60 to 70 computers to recoup the $15,000 to $20,000 cost of exhibiting, said director Jason Puschmann. "It was profitable for us but we'd have gone to the show anyway to let people know we're still here," he said.
Ian Mackay, managing director of Brisbane-based Manaccom, a national publisher and distributor of budget software, agreed consumer shows were finding more justification as an advertising budget item than as a revenue-raiser. "The problem is that if you don't attend, people wonder what's happened to you," he said.
One of the few Brisbane organ-isations which also exhibit at southern shows, Manaccom dropped out of the Melbourne PC show last year after attending the previous three years because "the runs weren't there", according to Mackay.
Manaccom has booked into the March PC 96 Show in Sydney because it is looking for dealers, but won't be exhibiting at the later home show.
PC supplier Datamini welcomed the buyout as likely to produce Brisbane shows more in tune with its needs as a wholesaler and distributor, according to managing director Corey Tai. The Woodland shows, said Tai, "catered more for end-users, whereas the AES shows are half for sellers and half for manufacturers".
AES's managing director Graeme Selby said ticket prices would not change and forecast this year's shows will reflect booming interest in the Internet. "Our view is that Queensland is a strong and dynamic market and our style of events suits larger markets. At this stage we don't have any plans to take our show into Adelaide or Perth."
Queenslanders "appear favour-ably disposed to exhibitions" and on a per capita basis, Queensland shows outperform their counterparts in Sydney. Last year 50,000 people attended the AES PC show and another 35,000 its home computer show.
AES had already proven its business-oriented show was more effective than Woodland's. The merger effectively gives it Woodland's convention centre time slot for its home computer show.