A combination of competing events, a weak economy and a changed venue are being blamed for small crowds and little to no sales at this year’s Barbados Manufacturer’s Exhibition (BMEX).
But organiser the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) countered that the exhibition benefitted from a “reinvigorating” layout and more time for manufacturers to meet potential distributors.
Some exhibitors expressed disappointment with sales and foot traffic over the trade fair’s four days in interviews with Barbados TODAY.
Darnel Greenidge, owner of watch maker Monumental said: “To be honest, it has been a little slow. My personal opinion is that I feel it should be free for patrons to come inside and see what we have to offer.
“I think $15 may be deterring them. We also have the Ross University, I don’t know if that would cause any confusion with them coming here.”
David Boyce, co-owner of Healthy Kinks Botanicals, which specializes in natural hair products, said he believes his experience at BMEX 2018 was much better than this year.
Boyce noted that while he received sales over the weekend, he holds the opinion that major activities to kick off the Crop Over season may have had something to do with the reduced numbers.
Cheryl Taylor of Cheryl’s Designs indicated that though the number of people visiting her booth could have been better, those who did come showed an interest in her custom-made soft furnishings, pouffes, foot stools and storage ottomans.
She told Barbados TODAY: “I don’t know if it is the hike in everything like bus fare and people getting laid off and things like that. But it was well advertised and people know that BMEX is around this time.”
Marketing and advertising manager of Jenanya’s Keisha Thompson said she was unable to sell some of the products she took to the exhibition, but was thankful that at least people expressed an interest in learning more about her business, with many requesting her business card.
“In terms of like direct sales, that has not been the main thing. The main thing was to be able to advertise and let people know.
“Sometimes people don’t really come out with big expectations, even though they may have been coming here for so many years that they should expect that they might see something here that they would have to spend a little bit more than the $50 that they bring.
“Í know that people have the tendency to want to come, look, and see what is on offer and maybe go to the place of business,” Thompson said.
Gail Greene of Sister Sister Naturals said: “When I compare last year and this year, it was better last year in terms of sales and in terms of seeing persons coming, even if they came to look.
“This year – I don’t know – I have not been seeing a lot of people coming into the actual BMEX, so sales are down. I don’t know if to put it on inflation and the problems that the country is going through right now.
“That could be one of the [factors], and another one could be the timing of BMEX this year kinda clashing with a lot of the NCF [National Cultural Foundation] activities. I would have thought that a lot of persons would have gone on Saturday to the opening of Crop Over in Speightstown, and that would have been a big day for BMEX.”
Director at Caribbean Passion, Drew McClean, who commended the layout and concept of the exhibition, said he noticed there was a steady flow of traffic on Saturday and Sunday.
But he said when compared to previous years, he would give the exhibition a failing grade this year.
“In comparison to all the other years, very poor. There are much fewer exhibitors than years gone by, and I haven’t seen the traffic that I am accustomed to.
“I guess there is some work to be done if they are to continue.”
Owner of Quickie Deeze soft serve ice-cream, Doriel Williams, told Barbados TODAY she was disappointed that “only a handful of school children passed through” on Friday.
Williams said she had stocked her booth with extra products for school children but was surprised to see students from only a few schools passing through.
“I think it was disappointing because Friday is a day when you look forward to school children. If that was the case and they weren’t having children, then we should have been told.
“The weekend crowd is very much reduced and I don’t know what is the reason for that. But my product is good. People like the product, it is just that the crowd is not here.”
In response, president of the BMA Robert Noel said he could not comment specifically on the exhibitors’ sales, but said the minor changes to the layout this year were good for manufacturers, who indicated they had more time to spend with potential buyers who went to the location.
He told Barbados TODAY: “It helps to change stuff up and invigorate it a little bit more so that people get to see more things, have conversations with more businesses, which is most of the reports I got this year, that some of the businesses enjoyed what we did this year, they had a little bit more time with the buyers and serious people who were thinking about doing business with them.
“They were all happy with the response they got from the buyers’ side of things. Some of them had to leave a little early, but most of the buyers expressed to me that they will have a good and fruitful relationship with the persons this year.
Coordinator of the BMEX 2019 Wendy Burke said while the focus with larger manufacturers were still there, “a lot more emerging manufacturers came to the fore and that is something the BMA was very happy to see”.
Executive Director of the BMA Shardae Boyce said: “I would say that I left BMEX 2019 with the feeling that the future of manufacturing is in good hands.”