There are aspects of the organization and execution of GuyExpo which are still are still in need of remedial attention, a fact that was again pointed out to this newspaper last week by some of the exhibitors. In fairness, we were only able to canvass the opinions of a limited number of exhibitors. The sheer numbers of visitors to the event, the vast majority of whom appeared more focused on enjoying a night out than immersing themselves in the commercial side of things, made the exercise a someone tedious one since our real objective was to secure a general sense of whether the exhibitors, in general, felt their presence at GuyExpo was accomplishing its purpose rather than with focusing on any particular booth or set of booths. That, on Saturday evening involved navigating huge crowds to get from one area to the next.
In this context, we found that a live entertainment show through much of last Saturday evening was perhaps not altogether conducive to the substantive enabling environment for the GuyExpo event though the number of persons who appeared to be permanently positioned in front of the stage told a revealing story about why they had gone there in the first place. And while we continue to have our reservations regarding the distraction afforded by the live entertainment, the organizers of GuyExpo, given the post-event emphasis which they placed on ticket sales, certainly appeared to consider the numbers in attendance to be at least one of the barometers through which to measure the success of the event.
Our particular concern – though not our only one – was with the extent to which the small business sector was able to use GuyExpo to maximize their returns from what, for them, would have been a sizeable investment and to market the goods and services which they were offering.
One of the striking things about this year’s GuyExpo was that it seemed that some new small entrepreneurs had decided to participate in the event this year, and, perhaps more significantly, that the quality of the products on display – craft, jewellery, clothing and some footwear – were of a decidedly higher quality than in previous years. That, at least, is the way it seemed to us. It appears that small manufacturers are beginning to come to terms with the importance of product quality in a competitive environment, a point made in a different way by one exhibitor that she felt GuyExpo was a challenging forum to conduct “market testing”.
Sales of course are as important as exhibiting. Small entrepreneurs cannot afford to pass up what, for them, is by far the single biggest local market that they are likely to experience and the feedback we received suggested that the crowds that visited the event transformed, to a considerable degree, into sales. Without actually getting into numbers, several exhibitors with whom we spoke openly admitted that they had not only made money but had established useful after-sales contacts which they felt might mean additional markets. That of course, from the standpoint of small business enterprises, is part of the whole objective of GuyExpo.
The major manufacturers too appeared to feel that good things had come from GuyExpo this year. In this regard the sense we got was that in the area of home furnishings, for example, a greater number of people who attended the event this year, went prepared to make major on-the-spot purchases. Beds, chairs and items of that sort were actually sold to individual customers; whereas, last year, it seemed that more people were simply trying them for size.
We noted too that there were few apparently new exhibitors who took engineering innovations to GuyExpo and while we could not determine the extent to which their products caught on with consumers, the fact that GuyExpo was able to provide insights into new and innovative business initiatives in an important field was a good sign for private sector diversification into areas that are critical to the productive sector.
What we have not been able to determine so far is the extent to which visitors to GuyExpo from outside Guyana were able to provide new markets for local products as well as to introduce their own products to the local market. That information usually comes much later from Go-Invest and once it becomes available we will attempt an analysis of the numbers that we receive.
In sum, it appeared to us that visitors and exhibitors alike felt better about GuyExpo this year and while we learnt that there was some amount of grumbling about the cost of space and preferential treatment in the allocation of vantage points we were left with the distinct impression that this year’s exhibitors, particularly those in the small business category did better this year.
It would seem, therefore, that GuyExpo deserves a fair measure of credit this year. The challenge for the organizers, in our view, reposes in recognizing that the event has now become our single largest business exposition and to, perhaps, create the long-promised permanent administrative structure to ensure that each year is better planned, better organized and better executed than the previous one.