Whenever I want inspiration for exhibition/exhibitor projects the last place I will look is the exhibition industry itself.

I’d rather read a book, watch a film, hunt a quote, remember a conversation or look at examples of everyday life.

Given that I like to spend money, retail environments are never far from my mind and there is a shedload that exhibitors and exhibitions can learn from this beast.

Relax, I’m not going down the Black Friday route. That’s too obvious this week.

Nope, my latest inspiration came from a recent jaunt down Oxford Street as it gears up for the seasonal shoppers. Last week I was sent on a mission, which effectively meant I had to walk half the length of the street – about half a mile.

Something odd happened. It felt like déjà vu and at first I thought I was experiencing a glitch in the matrix.

But it was only after I turned back down the street and looked back that I realised that one particular outlet had their retail game absolutely sewn up on Oxford Street.

Step forward – Zara.

In less than 1000 metres I spotted FOUR Zara shops positioned on one of Europe’s busiest retail streets.

Later that evening and after a little research at home, I discovered that I had missed one – they have just opened a fifth store near the eastern end.

Think about it, five big stores on one street in less than a mile but the more I thought about it – the more sense it made.

It all comes down to position, probability and stacking the deck – in your favour.

Oxford Street has one road, two sides and numerous exits and entrances.

Depending on where the shopper starts their Oxford Street journey – Zara and the position of their five stores has it pretty much locked down for every eventuality.

Oxford Street has more than 200 million visitors a year and having just one outlet would most likely mean that a retailer would miss out on a majority percentage of those visitors – even if the rental value is through the roof.

Let’s switch it for exhibitions and look at the visitor journey.

Exhibitions tend to have a fixed number of entrances and exits but their complexity and choice for the visitor increases exponentially when you take into account the maze-like cross section of avenues and streets we build.

It is standard fare that exhibitors take just one stand at any show irrespective of size and budget. Thing is , they’re actually not maximising their odds of visitor engagement.

What if exhibitors started to play the Oxford Street game on an exhibition floor?

If I were a big spending exhibitor would I go for the one stand location or multiple?

Thinking of the Zara approach I would probably now recommend the spread approach across the exhibition floor.

In doing so, it could pull in some pretty big wins…

  • The first is obvious, an exhibitor should increase their brand exposure count amongst the visitors with multiple stand locations.
  • There is the opportunity to divide your exhibiting objectives amongst the stands allowing teams to concentrate on different products, services, activities and visitors.
  • Multiple locations should enhance an exhibitor’s brand awareness and positioning as a dominant player within their given sector.
  • Breaking the exhibitor strategic activity over three or four stands allows a reduces the risk on the overall results and ROI.

Of course, my conclusions on this are all pretty subjective but given how Zara has bucked the trend in an otherwise pretty bleak retail and high street environment – I don’t think I am too far off.

What do you think?

Thankfully we now have tech like Forge SP and Storesense who are putting solid metrics and insight down on exhibition floors to help improve exhibition and exhibitor performance.

It will be interesting to see which exhibitions are akin to Zara and which are shaping up like Woolworths.

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Exhibitor Smarts is a specialist exhibitor agency working alongside organisers and suppliers to maximise exhibitor revenue and performance.

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