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Welcomewww.exhibitionnews.co.uk 5EditorialPublishing Director Liz AgostiniManaging Editor Nadia Cameron Deputy Editor Antony Reeve-CrookStaff Writer Mike TrudeaudigitalOnline Editor Sarah O'DonnellAdvertising Manager Jamie LininSubScriptionSCirculation Executive Tim Pardingtonproduction & dESign Production Manager Luke SpaldingDesigner Sarah GarlandProduction Assistant Julia Ball contact uSSubscriptions 020 8971 8268Editorial 020 8971 8292Sales 020 8971 8265 Production 020 8971 8272Published by Mash Media 4th Floor, Sterling House6-10 St George's Road London SW19 4DPTel: +44 (0)20 8971 82821 year's subscription cost is UK £95+VAT p/a Europe £112+VAT ROW £130+VAT.Views expressed are not necessarily those of the publishers. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the publishers.Printed by Pensord Press Ltd. his month's lead feature stems from a special report prepared by Zing Insights on the state of the contractor market (page 23). The research makes interesting reading for exhibition contractors but I also believe it has merits for organisers. The premise was to gauge the health of UK contractors today given the recession, merger of two of the top three players (Stanco/Opex and Early Action Group), ongoing margin squeeze and market maturity. What the research makes plain is that the UK exhibition industry is in the grips of a contractor duopoly. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends on your point of view. Clearly for Melville and SO Group, having market dominance makes their positions significantly stronger. For the rest of the pack however, it means a tougher slog for their smaller piece of the market and to retain relevancy. Zing's research provides verbal and statistical information on how organisers perceive their shell and electrics providers today. Several interesting points were made by organisers during the initial interview stage; notably that many feel responsible for beating contractors down on price. Such margin reduction has been a catalyst for contractor consolidation. With the remorse is also a demand for innovation. One of the questions raised by Zing's research is whether we need more than two players for shell and electrics. Given shell scheme is such a commodity item today, then possibly not. But if you're looking for a partner and innovator, then the answer should be yes. Innovation is what contractors need to demonstrate and how organisers need to rate them. I can't help but compare the shell scheme situation to that faced by the IT industry, which I reported on prior to joining Exhibition News. Once upon a time, IT hardware such as PCs, laptops, modems, printers and servers were complicated items requiring specialist providers. Even word processing required dedicated installers and trainers. As a result, there were a host of suppliers making good margin on such products. Nowadays, these products are plug-and-play and can be bought from Argos or Aldi for a pittance (and word processing has been assigned to a small part of Microsoft Office). This commoditisation and subsequent margin squeeze forced lots of IT suppliers to consolidate in order to find sufficient sales volume. Many others simply went broke. The clever ones however found their own niche by developing a strategic customer focus, selling next-generation product, and providing specialist services around the everyday IT hardware. These are the companies that businesses with increasingly complex national or global IT demands come to for fresh ideas and innovation. And it's where the margins are today. Organisers don't work in isolation - they need contractors to build the increasingly complex features that shows require to keep exhibitors and visitors coming back. In turn, contractors need to innovate their own businesses to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated show brands. Treating your contractor like a partner is critical in this exchange. On a final note, this month's edition includes photos from the first Exhibition News Race Day, held at Sandown Park on 14 September (page 44). Alongside the serious business of networking and racing, we ran our first EN Question Time session to discuss the very real issue of increasing and sustaining visitor numbers at exhibitions. EN will be presenting an edited report of this discussion along with broader industry views in our November issue, so stay tuned.Several organisers feel responsible for beating contractors down on priceNADIA CAMERON MANAGING EDITORncameron@mashmedia.netSTRONGER PARTNERSHIPSt