Al Fresco, the new outdoor leisure show to be run in parallel with the Cycle and Leisure Show, will be built up over time, says organiser David Hyde. The first outing for the show will be a scaled-down version

Hydes outdoor show becomes a section

Its going to be small, admits David Hyde of Exhibition Action Ltd who had hoped Al Fresco would have been embraced better by the outdoor trade.

The idea for Al Fresco was mooted at last years Cycle and Leisure Show and won immediate approval form David Wilsher of the ACT who said bike shops were now stocking more leisure products and so a leisure-cum-outdoor show would be welcomed by the ACT.

Hyde and his team are currently doing a telesales pitch to outdoor companies, backing up a slew of trade magazine advertising in the likes of Outdoor Review and Outdoor Update.

The latest ad is a full page newsletter treatment featuring the character Al Fresco (not to be confused with Al Reid of BikeBiz! says Hyde). The ad majors on the fun side to the Cycle and Leisure Show.

Could the outdoor industry cope? says a caption to a female model clad in a Lycra sports top and clingy shorts.

News that a trade show has been launched that is designed to be fun for visitors, as well as help them make buyng decisions, has met with resistance from some [outdoor] retailers, jokes the ad.

Mr I.M. Dullengrey, a recently retired retailer, sees the whole thing as shameful.

These fashion shows and features are just an excuse for girls to dance about and show their legs. What any of this has got to do with leisure Ill never know. Its nothing but a trick to increase profit. Thank goodness Ive left the trade now.

This light hearted campaign has only just broken so no news yet on its effectiveness but, to date, few outdoor companies have booked for Al Fresco. Those confirmed so far are cross over companies such as Gill and Vaude who normally exhibit at Hydes cycle show anyway.

The whole of the outdoor business is in flux at the moment, says Hyde, a reference to the heated debate about where and when the outdoor trade should have their main annual trade show.

The Outdoor Industries Association formerly COLA has now booked a multi-year deal with the Harrogate International Centre for a September show but as most outdoor suppliers now operate strict forward-ordering policies, September is felt to be too late by many suppliers. AutumnCOLA stalwarts such as Sprayway, Karrimor, Lowe Alpine, and The North Face were not at this years show (now called Go Outdoors).

Visitor numbers were also down: from 3628 in 1999 to 3010 this September, although the Outdoor Industries Association says post-event analysis shows that the numbers of buyers only dropped by 30, with the bulk of the no-shows being retail staff with no direct buying power.

And with the Spring Soltex show in Manchester (a snow and outdoor combination) still failing to generate a buzz in the outdoor market, David Hyde must have felt the bookings for his show in 2001 would have benefitted.

However, he claims Al Fresco is not a direct competitor to either the Harrogate or Manchester shows:

Al Fresco is not out to snatch exhibitors from Soltex or Go Outdoors. Its not competiting directly against anybody. The show will proceed gradually. Ill be happy with just 20 exhibitors in the first year.

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