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London Wine Fair must charge freeloading trade, says Patrick McGrath MW

The organisers of the London Wine Fair must do something to deal with industry figures who are using the exhibition for meetings even though they haven’t taken stands, says Hatch Mansfield MD, Patrick McGrath MW.

Patrick McGrath MW

Speaking to the drinks business on Friday, less than 48 hours after the fair had finished, McGrath expressed his deep frustration that certain companies were using the fair to do business, even though they weren’t financially supporting the exhibition.

“The thing that really gets my goat is that anyone can come in to the wine fair and use it to have loads of meetings that you and I are paying for,” he said, referring to the fact that Hatch Mansfield, like db, invests in taking stand space at the exhibition.

Continuing, he recorded, “One of my customers said that he had told people that he would only have meetings with them if they had stands at the fair; it is totally wrong that members of the trade are trying to get a free lunch.

“Obviously, if you are a retailer coming into the fair to see your customers then it’s quite right that there should be no entry fee, but if you are a member of the trade who is a distributor then you should pay a premium fee; if you choose not to exhibit, then if you do come in, you need to pay the right price,” he added.

Recording the high number of visitors to the fair, he said that “there should be a lot more stands, another 15 at least”, but also noted the number of people having “meetings in the coffee bars”, rather than investing in the exhibition.

“I know wholesalers who are getting a free ride, but who had a stand two years ago, and the London Wine Fair has got to police this,” he stated. Commenting that such behaviour was unsporting, he then said, “It’s just not cricket”.

Although head of the fair, Hannah Tovey, was unavailable for comment on Friday last week, she has previously made it clear to db that she is planning a crackdown on freeloaders, suggesting that next year, any non-exhibitors who attend the event in a commercial function will be expected to pay for entrance.

Hatch Mansfield Agencies has retained a major presence at the London Wine Fair throughout its many guises, and McGrath, who spent three days meeting buyers from his stand at the exhibition last week, described this year’s event as “fantastic”.

He also said, “I would like to say a big thank you to Hannah and her team, it was a cracking fair, even busier than last year, with plenty of good quality people.”

He added, “From our perspective it is terrific, and we know already that we have got new business from the fair, we saw a lot of our current customers and we have got new indie retailer accounts purely as result of the fair, and some travel retail customers as well, and the fair is a great opportunity for us to come together from a team-building point of view.”

As a result, he said, “I’m a bit disappointed that some people pulled out from last year, and I’m left scratching my head as to why they would be doing that.”

Visitors to this year’s fair were up by 17% to 14,250 compared with the 2017 edition, as reported by db last week.

This was the first edition under the leadership of Tovey, the founder of Imbibe Live, who joined the London Wine Fair as its head in July 2017, setting out on a mission to refresh the fair and put it back in the hearts and minds of the UK drinks trade.

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