4 September 2017

Ethiopia: Most Expensive Expo Spurs Holiday's Purchases

Araya Tesfaye, who owns a promotion and advertising company around Piassa, was having a beer with his three friends during the New Year exhibition on the afternoon of September 1, 2017.

This was his third time coming to the holiday expo, which was held at Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre, to buy accessories for himself and his loved ones. The 21-day long exhibition was opened on August 19, 2017.

"Unlike the previous Expos, the number of visitors is growing," he said, explaining the distinctiveness of the current expo compared with the previous one.

This Expo was organised by Eyoha Addis Entertainment & Event PlC and proved to be a record breaker for many visitors and exhibitors who took part. This will be the fifth time Eyoha organised an exhibition including the recent Christmas and Easter expos.

Founded six years ago by Ayu Alemu with an initial capital of 50,000 Br, Eyoha's current capital has reached over 30 million Br, having around 28 employees. The company owns two cinema halls and organises different concerts, events and exhibitions.

Held at the lone exhibition centre located along Mesqel Square, the Expo attracted more than 11,000 visitors, which is almost equal compared with the same period last year.

The event plays host to the largest meeting of exhibitors in the capital and provides the ideal platform to connect customers with retailers.

Similar to previous expos, this holiday's Expo involved the participation of many businesses. Most of the exhibitors came up with children's clothes, shoes and school kits, hoping that customers such as Melaku Belete, a father of one, will need such products for the new year.

Melaku was lined up to withdraw money from the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia's (CBE) Automated Teller Machines (ATM) when Fortune met him during the expo owing to shortage of ATMs inside the expo.

He came to the expo to buy school kits and clothes for his daughter, which cost him 2,000 Br. He had to add more money to purchase liquor and furniture.

Consumers like Melaku are much more inclined to open up their pocketbooks during the holidays. The positive "spirit" of the holidays also affects the purchasing patterns of products when it comes to price. Satisfied with the price offered by the exhibitors, Melaku witnessed the number of visitors rising year-on-year.

"People are becoming more reactive to such events," said Melaku, who was pushing and shoving with many exhibitors to buy various products.

Not only has the number of visitors to expos increased but also the amount spent to organise them.

For the current expo, Eyoha spent a total of about 29 million Br, of which 22 million Br is to rent the exhibition centre for the events after a stiff competition with Century Promotion Services, a renowned event organiser managed by Zewge Jemaneh, and Habesha Weekly which offered 19 million Br and 20 million Br, respectively.

The company also spent six to seven million Birr for advertisement, printing of promotional materials, bands and musicians, logistics and other expenses.

For this New Year event, 450 exhibitors have registered to participate. The number is greater by 100 from last year's new year holiday exhibition held in 2016, which was also organised by Century Promotion. These participants are spread out across three pavilions and in the booths right outside the pavilions.

Out of the total exhibitors, 30pc of them are from India, Turkey and Syria.

Like previous expos, most of the Indians were selling food stuff, household utensils and traditional slippers and textiles.

The exhibition centre was established in 1983, has been under the management of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA) under a 10-year contract with the Addis Ababa City Administration Trade and Investment Bureau since November 2005. According to a survey of the exhibition centre, holiday bazaars are visited by 315,000 people on average.

The success stories of the exhibition had not been without controversies. Fikremarim Gebre, a retailer of blankets, sheets, mats and towels, is amongst the exhibitors fed up and dissatisfied with the rent price hike of plots.

"I decided not to come again as the rent price is soaring year-on-year continuously," said Fikremariam, who paid 65,000 Br for a nine square meter booth in the first pavilion. He sells 6,500 worth of goods daily since the beginning of the expo. "It is insensible and unreasonable to pay such amounts of money."

Not only Fikremariam, but spending 95,000 Br for nine square meters of area, Abraham Tilahun, a retailer of children's outfits and school kits, also felt the brunt of surging prices of sheds.

"Unless the organiser reasonably started to charge rent prices, consumers will continue to be impacted by high prices," he noted.

The rising trend of the price offered to organise holiday exhibitions appear to be illogical for Alazar Ahmed, a private marketing expert and consultant.

"The businesses are trying to replicate their predecessors' success without studying what they are going to achieve from their move," he said.

A closer look at the price index of sheds per nine square metres, the price has multiplied by ten since the beginning of the first expo held two decades ago. In the current expo, the cost of sheds varies between 35,000 and 60,000 Br outside the hall depending on the size of the plot whereas the price ranges between 60,000 and 85,000 Br inside the pavilion of the hall.

To facilitate the event, Eyoha sub contracted the coordination work of the exhibition to Multi Art Works. Having 100 employees, Multi Art handles ticketing services, assigning and follow up of the security, manages the entertainment and other activities.

For this event, Multi Art Works invited four musical bands, more than 30 singers, three stage leaders, three DJs and a lot more. It also brought sponsors who cover the raffle draw.

The big breweries, including BGI Ethiopia, Heineken Brewery and Dashen Brewery, also joined the expo with the price of 12 Br a cup of draught beer and 13 Br for a bottle.

The number of exhibitions held in the capital are expanding year-on-year in the country as the demand for the consumer to buy all products in one place grows. In the past fiscal year alone, the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre & Marketing Development Enterprise has organised 28 expos in the 2.7ha of land, which is planned to be expanded to 8.5ha in the coming exhibitions.

Taking into consideration consumer demand and market opportunities, the number of exhibitors is growing at a considerable rate annually, rising by 100 compared with the previous fiscal year. However, as the competition among event organisers becomes stiff, the concern of retailers over an increase in the price of sheds is growing proportionally.

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