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26 June 2012, 07:20
Organisers of the Suffolk Show, have agreed to offer refunds following the closure of the second day of the Show on Friday June 8 due to gale force winds.
They thanked trade and livestock exhibitors, sponsors and members of the public for their patience while the organisation, which is a registered charity and bound by Articles of Association, met to determine how best to retain goodwill for the Show for the future, as well as support its exhibitors.
“It is vital that we do not lose the goodwill toward us moving forward and we take a long term view to bear the short term pain of the situation in order not to lose this support,” said Executive Director Christopher Bushby.
“And we did have a very good first day. We are determined as an organisation that the events of that Friday should not cast gloom on what until 7.30am had been a very successful Show,” he said.
A number of tradestands had reported a good turnover of business. Some exhibitors in the Adnams Food and Drink Experience had tasted above average takings. Lucinda Clay from Munchy Seeds said sales were in line with previous shows and they had covered their costs and turned in a small profit. Likewise in Eat Street and even the larger agricultural exhibitors who use the Show as a showcase said they had made good contacts. Rachael Jackson PR manager from Fred Olsen Travel said:” It was an extremely successful first day for Fred. Olsen, with a great deal of interest in the stand, which included the chance to win a cruise holiday and the opportunity to speak to the Fred Olsen experts first hand. Some visitors got into the holiday spirit to such an extent that they were keen to book their Fred Olsen cruise there and then!”
While the final footfall is yet to be confirmed, the SAA anticipates, that the gate will be between 40,000 and 50,000.
“We delivered on Show day all we wanted to,” said Mr Bushby. “All the new street acts and entertainments went ahead as planned. It was a tremendous social gathering of people from all areas of life across the county. We showcased the county at its best. The Sports Village and new In The Zone area was constantly busy. We served 280 lunches in the Sponsors’ enclosure, more than we have ever served on the first day of a Show. In fact, day one was so good for Suffolk New College that they anticipate upgrading their sponsorship for next year and also increasing their exhibition space. “
Facing a minimum loss of £500,000, the Association has decided that in order to retain the goodwill of its loyal exhibitors built up over 181 years, they should not lose out. During an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Board and the Show Committee held last week it unanimously agreed to offer refunds to trade, livestock and equine exhibitors, which together account for £440,000 of the Show’s income.
The Association has taken advice on the position from its lawyers and while it has no obligation within its constitutional charitable giving remit to take such an action, and exhibitor contracts state that ‘all exhibitors have in place their own appropriate insurance to cover all risk and liabilities,’ it is legally entitled to give a refund where appropriate to ensure the long-term future of the Suffolk Agricultural Association, as a charity, and the Suffolk Show.
Today a letter outlining the Association’s offer will arrive at more than 700 businesses. Tradestand holders can either opt for a cash refund of 30per cent of the total booking fee or forgo a claim in order to support the Association. In return they will receive recognition in next year’s Show catalogue and Annual Report for their generosity. Applications must be made in writing for the refund by the end of July.
The SAA has also decided to keep tradestand fees unchanged for next year at the 2012 level for those exhibitors signing up by the end of November under the ‘Early Bird’ booking scheme.
Soundings have already been taken with several exhibitors, with several saying they would not be claiming. Neal Sands Managing Director of Sands Agricultural Machinery said:” I hope the decent people on the agricultural side of the Show will realise it was an act of God. I won’t be looking for any compensation.”
His sentiment was endorsed by James Tuckwell, of P Tuckwell who said: “It would be inappropriate for us to take up the refund. We had a very good first day, the cancellation didn’t make a huge difference to us and we feel it is better to support to the Association over the closure.”
Livestock and equine exhibitors are offered a full refund for the classes not held on the second day of the Show. But one, Sue Barber who shows Lusitanos and runs Pinelodge School of Classical Equitation at Stoke Holy Cross, Norwich, said: “I would be delighted to forfeit our entries as I know how difficult it is to fund the events that we hold. We have always received a lot of support from the Suffolk Show. We rely on shows such as yourself to promote our ever struggling business.”
Admission tickets including Member and Vice President Guest badges will be refunded for Friday only on application and presentation of unused tickets.
For those Members and Vice Presidents who pay an annual subscription the Association is offering refunds of £18 and £36 respectively against the part of their subscription giving entry to the Show (the equivalent of a pre-Show adult admission ticket). Applications should be made to the office quoting membership details.
Details of refunds for Friday for members of the public who had made advanced ticket purchases were posted on the Suffolk Show website by the end of June 8. For those people who have printed off and returned the online application form with a proof of purchase their refund will be posted in the next fortnight. Two thousand specially designed and signed cheques have been printed in an attempt to minimise the volume of administration.
Outlets including local supermarkets, Tourist Information Centres and branches of the Post Office who retailed Show tickets were quick to provide refunds provided they were the original source of purchase and customers could provide proof of purchase.
For the first time this year the Association invested heavily in new information technology and introduced online e-tickets. Over 90 per cent of visitors who chose to buy this way received their refunds within the first week.
“The Association has agreed to accept the loss this year, and cover it from endowment reserves in order to draw a line under this year’s Show,” said Mr Bushby.
“We will have to shoulder the cost of all the structures – the marquees, utilities, temporary labour and other facilities hired in to stage the Show. We want to reassure people that whatever has happened this year will not adversely affect future shows. We are already planning for 2013 and there will be no cut back in the budget. We will continue to stage a high quality event, incorporating new features and entertainments as well as making year on year improvements. There is no question of us trying to claw back any of our substantial losses by making cutbacks for the future.”
“Our task now as a team is to tackle the enormity of this refund as quickly and efficiently and sympathetically as we can so we can move on to planning another fantastic Show for May 29 and 30 next year.”