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The Game Fair is Dead… Long Live the Game Fair!

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A few of months ago I started to write an article – inspired by a weekend trading at The Welsh Game Fair. Three months down the line with the dust having settled after a great Midland Game Fair at Weston Park combined with the sad news of the demise of the CLA I’ve decided I need to make time to finish that article and share it…

So… this is where I’d got to back in June 2015…
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The Game Fair is Dead… Long Live the Game Fair!

There doesn’t appear to be a good word for Game Fairs these days…

Too expensive. Not enough stalls. The wrong kind of stalls. That’s from the visitors… Traders have a whole list of other gripes. Exorbitant pitch prices. Not enough visitors. Wrong kind of visitors. The lists go on.

So what has gone wrong with the once mighty Great British Game Fair? I am of course talking from a “game” perspective – and by that, the GAME in GAME Fairs, refers to all things hunting – shooting – fishing.

Having just returned from the 28th Welsh Game Fair where we exhibited our wares to the good people of South Wales and surrounding area I feel need to put pen to paper to try and understand what is going wrong.

Frankly it’s a bit chicken and egg (and egg) – without traders, then there little for the visitors – and without visitors, there is no business for the traders. With dwindling numbers of both, there’s ever diminishing funds for (the second egg) “main arena entertainments” pot. Let’s be honest – how many times do we want to see The Devil’s Horsemen (brilliant though they may be) or some dogs jumping through flaming hoops.

It was refreshing at the small and compact Welsh Game Fair to see a good selection of hunting shooting fishing trade stands… Traditional net makers, The Llandeillo Hunt, Earth and Running Dogs, Fishing, Taxidermy, Leather Goods, Fox Calls (I had to mention them!) and not just a plethora of market stalls with tenuous links to the countryside. Yet during the lead up to the weekend, the social media wheels were on fire with tales of it “not being as good as it was” right through to it being “just crap”. This seems par for the course on any social media post where someone asks “Who’s off to the (insert name) Game Fair this weekend..?”

Does the Great British Game Fair stand a chance with so much negativity being bandied around? How many more years can the CLA support itself before the revenue it generates is simply not enough to sustain itself..?

For what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that if we (the lovers of all things game and country) want to see a future for “the Great British Game Fair” then we (all) need to change our ideas and perceptions.

As a trader, I’ve recognised that having a unique offer is a huge benefit to me at Game Fairs. By specialising in what we do means we are sought out and game fair visitors who are looking for our products make a point of coming to see us. We’re not there to compete on price – or to “pile it high, sell ‘em cheap” – we’re there to meet our existing customers, forge relationships with new ones, offer advice where we can, allow potential customers to see our products in the flesh and so on. For those reasons, we are still able to turn a profit.

Visitors – I ask you to please stop thinking of the Game Fair as just an opportunity for a bargain – those days went with the rise of the Internet. Instead see the Game Fair as a celebration of our sports – our way of life… an opportunity to speak to manufacturers and suppliers, an opportunity to meet up with friends from around the country and a chance to meet new friends. A chance to put a face to the many names you know on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. A chance to support some of the superb charities and organisations that help to educate and support our way of life and sports…

And finally, to the show organisers, a very simple request… Please don’t bite the hand that feeds – whether that’s your traders or your visitors… £300+ for electricity on a stand at the CLA is outrageous… £7 for a burger – and allowing catering contractors to determine what food can and cannot be sold – and at what price is just not on… Charging full “gate” price for an additional staff wristband is just greedy. With a steady supply of happy traders and plentiful visitors, you will have the funds to lay on a sought after event – and the triangle is complete…

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…and that was as far as I’d got with my thoughts…

Nobody is expecting event organisers to lose money – but sadly, the CLA has proven that you cannot just keep taking. The 2015 CLA was down on trader numbers and down on visitor numbers – and as I said at the outset of this piece, social media was alight with complaints of outlandish prices before, during and after the CLA.

As traders and visitors we have to change the way we think of the Game Fair and I believe with some thought of the future there’s a chance for us all to learn from the sad demise of the CLA Game Fair. This is an opportunity for the Great British Game Fair to re-invent itself – to pull it’s socks up, re-tie it’s garters and once again become the pivotal part of our way of life it once was. And for that to happen, we ALL need to stop complaining and just make it happen.

The CLA Game Fair may be dead… Long Live the Great British Game Fair.