Show or No Show ?
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The possibility—nay likelihood—that there will be no show Olympia this March has been engaging no small amount ef attention during the past fortnight. Certain influential members of the commercial-vehicle section are of opinion that there is less to be gained from persistence than by abandonment others, in conjunction with an intimation that they will exhibit if the show be held, adopt an air of in (inference; letters, again, have communicated their decision to abstain in any event ; and, lastly, a few stalwarts are pressing for adherenCe to the published scheme as a matter both of polity and equity. All who have show dealings know full well the upset. extra work, and unavoidable e-xpense which these displays involve : the sales and works organisation is hindered for weeks if not months—the former by the very considerable volume of precedent correspondence.. and the latter by reason of the instructions to give first attention to the completion of the stand models and their bodies. It is hardly disputable that sincere thanks would go up to the Commercial Vehicle Committee of the S.M.M.T. were it to cry -enough! How welcome, though, would that confession of failure be to our French and German competitors, and how great a blow to our country's reputation in this branch of industry. There are, very truly, considerations of greater importance than mere external appearance and prestige, but we decline altogether to admit that trade is -so unstable that occasion exists for the grave and public declaration of collapse which is now under discussion. The very inconsistency of the contemplated action might well be held to render it unacceptable. What shall we say of a Society which restrains manufacturers from seeking trade at established exhibitions of many years' standing, on the plea of the perfection of its own show, and which, within the next few weeks, avows that " the bottom: is knocked out '' of its. professed belief in itself Far be it tronl us to abuse or to introduce recriminatory argument : the facts speak for themselves. Either the commercial side of the Society's programme has been hopelessly misunderstood, or, no matter at what sacrifice of profit, it will proceed with the show arrangement,. The time for relaxation. is not -et, for not a single maker, no matter how correctly Ile may estimate the potential value of his existing connections, with their more-or-less steady influx of repeat orders• and an increasing repair turnover, can pretend to gauge the international loss which will attend any faint-hearted attitude in the face of admitted difficulties. Prospects may not be over bright in regard to space applications—they never are when a spirit of " funk " is about; but it is an open question whether the reluctance of some to support Olympia this year should be permitted to impede the progress of thosewho have sufficient confidence in themselves and the movement to support the shoe in question. There was a decent profit on last year's enterprise : cannot it be agreed, even at the eleventh hour, having regard to particular and unforeseen factors in the situation, that the Society will this year rest content if there is no 'loss? Is it really good policy to. demand the pound of flesh at all times?
Turning-, now, to the side of the user, we are confident that cancellation of the exhibition could not fail to occasion extreme disappointment. Each successive year witnesses a growth in the total of owners who take a close and interngent interest in their road motors, It were invidious to quote names, but the writer knows, from personal experience, that the principals of the large carrying, railway, removal, stores, contracting, and other representative undertakings do attend the Olympia Shows, and do thereby prove that such shows are needed from the business standpoint. The. opportunity for comparison is one of great value to the user, and it ought not to he overlooked that there was a lesser number of users a year ago than to-day, and less again a year earlier. Many such owners automatically become canvassers for the trade at large, exactly as did the first thousand:
or so of purchasers of private cars during the years 1898 to tem. From about the year 1901 forward, as all will agree who were in actual touch with the progress of the period, more and more people were persuaded to order motorcars, and we do not hesitate to say that more than half of the growing annual accessions to the lists were directly attributable to the good reports which had already begun to replace the agonising stories of broken parts, overheated engines, ignition failures, lost appointments and weary trudges to a place of rest after innumerable delays and heavy manual labour on the road. Business men, naturally, will not talk so freely, now that the "turn in the tide" has come for the heavier branches of the industry, but they are unable to keep the facts of the case wholly to themselves. Silence or a qualified opinion -should count for nothing in the face of further additions to existing fleets, and we believe we approximate very closely to the true condition of affairs when we state that the pleasure side's bright days of 1902-1906 will before long find their parallel on the utility side.
Let us consider, with the foregoing premises, the position of the hundreds of prospective buyers whose interest has thus been awakened. They are now " on the scent," and ready to take the final step—to clinch business; they have used their vision and other senses in respect of the uniform running of different vans, lorries, or tractors in the hands of neighbours; they have practically decided to be guided ill their action and choice by one or other of such local experi
ences; then, on the eve of ordering, they are to read that the Commercial Vehicle Show has been given up—that the trade is dying out. Will they not fear that others' successes must be the exception, and can such an announcement at this juncture fail to create an adverse opinion, which must lead to further postponement? We see no other result, though their conclusions, if excusahle, would be erroneous. Next, take the case of the tire-brigade or other municipal committees whose members and officers are desirous to make a prompt choice. To London they will go, by preference, and no better justification could be found than the show of the year. Who shall say how many such deputations are intended, and who can assess the inconvenience due to alterations of plans at short notice? At no time of the year are public bodies more ready to make purchases, for do they not end the old financial year on each 31st March!
rue features we would chiefly emphasise are these : any break in the sequence of exhibitions will impair the favouraide effects of work which dates hack many years; and the consequences will be by no means limited to the actual loss of trade which may or may not be initiated or booked, at Olympia, between the t9th and 27th March. On the other hand, if all " keep at it," those swings of the pendulum which aided the touring car—the boom of up:2-1906, and the later preference for British-built goods—will assuredly come to the heavier and less alluring branch where each machine has to earn more money for its owner than he spends upon it.