Shows are back, but where are the manufacturers?

The question of whether it is worth manufacturers attending agricultural shows has long furrowed the brows of senior management in machinery companies.

Shows are back, but where are the manufacturers?

Shows are back, but where are the manufacturers?

The palpable loss of faith in the concept has been evident for some years and the disruption caused by Covid-19 has only brought the matter into sharper focus, rather than started a trend.

Long-awaited return

This year saw the return of shows in earnest after a two year hiatus and all were successful in that they either drew significant crowds, or that those attending were out to look at machinery with a view to purchase.

Show dealer manufacturer
Manufacturers and dealers were keen to get back meeting and greeting customers

It is this last point that is key to the decision as to whether to book space, usually at great expense, at a show. Quality, not quantity, of the footfall counts.

There are mixed feelings in the trade. The larger tractor companies are generally withdrawing from provincial and even national shows, expecting their dealers to fill in the gaps.

Lack of choice

However, this doesn’t always work out to their benefit and this year’s National Ploughing Championships was a case in point.

Should anyone have been looking to buy a farm tractor from any one of the big three corporations, then there was very little opportunity to discuss the options available at the show.

Kubota tractors show season
Kubota was one of the few manufactures at the Ploughing and got a lot of attention as a consequence

There was no John Deere, Massey Ferguson or Case representation at all. Valtra tractors were on display courtesy of Clarke Farm Machinery and New Holland had one official dealer with a single tractor on the stand.

Kubota, Agri Argo, Zetor and Tumosan were present, either directly or via the official importers, while Claas, like New Holland, relied on a single machine tucked away on a dealer’s stand.

General withdrawal

This seeming lack of enthusiasm is not just a problem in Ireland. Manufacturers take great care of their marketing budgets and the emphasis globally is moving to a reliance on dealers to take the machines along to these events.

Yet this may not be a particularly reliable way to ensure representation, for it relies on a degree of cooperation from competing dealers, or dealers who fear that their efforts at a national show will benefit other dealers who did not take the trouble to go.

Provincial shows  dealer
Smaller county shows can offer the opportunity for local dealers to showcase their products at less expense

In the US, this year’s large Husker Harvest Days show in Nebraska was attended by dealers showing the machines, rather than the manufacturers, for the first time ever.

AGCO and CNH were represented by their local agents, but it is reported that the John Deere dealerships in the region could not come to any agreement as to who was to go, so there were no big green machines present.

Missing out

This is not the ideal situation for Deere and manufacturers caught in the same bind. By their insistence that the dealers take responsibility for the shows, they may well be creating a rather haphazard approach to presenting new products to the market.

Traditionally, shows were always the interface between customer and manufacturer. The advent of the internet has, to some extent, complemented this channel of communication, but it has by no means replaced it.

customers farmers
Shows have always been seen as the way to keep in contact with the customer

Manufacturers will reassure us of the importance of meeting farmers in the flesh, and how it is that they clutch said farmers closest to their hearts when designing new machinery.

This is indeed often the case with smaller firms, but as we go up the ladder, a certain remoteness sets in, and shows were always considered one way of bridging a widening gap.

Demo days can help

If shows are not to be attended, then how are market reactions to be fed back to HQ? Online polls are no more an answer than ‘phoning a friend’.

Demonstration days dealers
Demonstration days are growing in popularity with the trade and customers

Demo days are becoming more popular, but these tend to attract those who are already familiar with a certain brand or dealer, rather than bring in newcomers who may be convinced to switch.

This leaves a rather blank canvas for the next show season. There are the regular events such as the Tullamore Show, Balmoral and the Ploughing, which will go ahead as already planned, but the  Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) is still undecided as to what to do.

FTMTA undecided

Last year’s show in July at Punchestown Co. Kildare received mixed reviews with some exhibitors claiming that farmers who took the time to get along at the height of the summer, were very likely to be investing in machinery, others were of the opinion that it was at the wrong time of year.

The organisation is, by all accounts, quite undecided about next year, with a good deal of internal debate going on. As yet we have no decision as to whether it will be Punchestown in the new year or Gurteen later on.

There may be emergent problems with the latter according to one source.

FTMTA undecided
The FTMTA show saw most of the major manufacturers turn out in earnest

In the meantime, the machinery trade at all levels is still wrestling with the age old problem of identifying and talking to the genuine customer and those who are along just to kick tyres.

This is complicated by the fact that some of today’s tyre kickers may turn out to be tomorrow’s customers, there is no sharp dividing line.

What we can be certain of is that there will still be local and national shows; the question is how much is the trade willing to invest in them and who will carry the brunt of the cost, the dealer or the manufacturer?

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