Value for Money vs Return on Investment (ROI) – RHS Tatton Show


As we continue to fight the recession, the emphasis on value for money has never been more important. Is Return on Investment (ROI) the same thing? I’ve never known, but I do find myself not being quite so quick to purchase certain things that I’d hitherto been happy to fund unless I know for certain I’m more than likely to be satisfied with the outcome.

My father took us to the RHS Show at Tatton on Friday. £23 in advance wasn’t outrageous to me. I think it was £28 on the door which, by contrast, did seem outrageous but there’s no accounting for the irrationale within my headspace. It’s a lovely day out and all the more fab for seeing the second garden that my great friend, Sharon Hockenhull, had designed and built. A Silver Award in the bag, the garden seemed to attract a lot more attention and favourable comments than many of the others we saw. In my opinion that was solely down to people being able to see their own gardens being constructed in a similar fashion – something which is night on impossible to visualize with other entries. I’m sure that’s exactly why Antonio Carluccio employed her talents following that last show.

Garden Designer Extraordinaire

Embrace - St Ann's Hospice Garden

Embrace by Sharon Hockenhull

Silver Award Winning Design by Sharon Hockenhull

My gasping,  jaw dropping horror, however, came when we decided to have lunch. Of course had we really thought things through we would have taken a picnic and some folding chairs…the sort that you pick up for a tenner and can carry over your shoulder in a little bag. Classically those thoughts hadn’t entered our minds so we were left with purchasing from onsite facilities.

With long queues as far as we could see we opted for some butties from the Champagne and Pimms provision. I appreciate it was a Champagne stand but it did sell butties! We bought four sandwiches (3 club and 1 NY deli), 3 small Pimms and lemonade and 2 bottles of still water. The bill was £38.00.

Frankly I was, and remain, appalled. I know it’s supply and demand…we wanted some food, and we didn’t want to queue too long, but for £38 we got butties in a standard packet, not on a plate with a few olives or some crisps, and there was no guaranteed seat either. We queued with some of Cheshire’s rudest only to feel sadly short changed. The butties were adequate. Fit for purpose is about as complimentary as I can muster.

From an event management perspective I can’t help but think the organisers have let their most faithful demographic down somewhat. I stand to be corrected but it’s a largely grey haired affair, so with that in mind, you’d think it important for there to be somewhere for the retired folk to sit.  Both my parents have impaired mobility, and, a sit down between tents is most welcome…..but try finding anywhere. You can purchase an aluminium folding chair for £25-ish from the charity stall but beyond that the actual provision is woefully inadequate. Yes, there are benches, yes there is token seating in the food space but by no means enough, and of course, it’s the younger, fitter families who beat the pensioners to the decent seats every time. And then what to do when it rains? And boy did it rain.

What we choose to spend our money on is all personal choice….whether or not it’s personal spend or commercial spend. What makes financial sense to some is ruinous nonsense to others. I guess I’m saying that while there will be stats to support any business model, Value for Money is subjective while Return on Investment is science which can be proven!

Last year I enquired about a stand at Tatton for newroomsonline. I didn’t want the faff of having to buy something I’d have to erect on the set-up so opted to see if there was any chance of getting a stall within the Country Living marquee. The cost was around £3,000.00.

Now that might not sound much to some but when you consider the cost of the average unit that I sell…….that’s a lot of stock to transport to fill the stall. Added to this, none of the items I sell have an actual price tag on them because we’re online only, so we would have to ensure everything was priced up. When you then consider that it would take probably 2 days to get the stock from the warehouse and price up….take 5 days out for the show and then potentially have to bring stock back again, remove the price tags and redistribute around the warehouse, you realise that taking a stand is no mean feat……so is it worth the spend?

In a nutshell – No!

I’ve done many local shows. OK so they’re not Tatton but there has been a good variety of venue and I am reluctant to take the gamble any more. The outlay is so price prohibitive that I really do fear the result and it takes so much out of you. The assumption is that you will sell but so many factors influence whether or not you do any business.

Are you hidden by pillars, trees, someone else’s sign?

Is someone else there selling exactly what you sell?

Is there a cashpoint? Does it work?

Is it raining?

Should you have signage made? Carry away literature? Bespoke bags?

Will you need to employ staff? Transport them? Provide accommodation?

What insurance will you need?

And all I want to do is walk away with a profit……….so you can see why after years of all these factors informing my decision why that decision is No!

I know a few of my followers are in the process of setting up businesses so I would ask you to consider all these factors before some smooth talking charmer talks you into taking a stand at any show – no matter its track record! These are unpredictable times – my advice is tread cautiously and grow organically!


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