The current "Gin Boom" has seen us not only have a rise in the number of new distilleries and new gins in the UK, but also Gin Fairs. The team at Crafty Connoisseur have been to many events and there are many well established, well run fairs currently on the go.
However, now we are seeing an increase in people "jumping on the bandwagon".
So what makes a good gin fair and who is ultimately getting the best deal from a fair?
The Fair Organiser?
The public need to feel that they are getting value for money for their ticket prices, otherwise they become disenfranchised with the whole idea of a fair. Their goal is to try some new gins that they might not normally have direct access to.
Then they can make an informed decision on which gin or gins they want to purchase, either on the day or at a later date. Most fairs offer a ticket price of between £10 to £30, but what does the customer get for this price.
A welcome drink - most events will include a perfect serve for their customers on arrival. This gives them a chance to scout out the various exhibitors and gins before tasting commences.
Tasting - usually the amount of tasting depends on the price of the ticket. Tickets priced between £10 - £15 usually offer a limited number of tastings but with an option to pay for more. Although it should be noted that additional "free" tastings can sometimes be down to the exhibitors discretion. The larger ticket prices normally encompass an "unlimited tasting" ethos so the customer is free to taste as many samples as they wish for the duration of their tasting session.
Masterclass - some fairs offer a masterclass option, usually for an extra fee, and this is a chance to know more about one particular brand of gin. It also offers a more relaxed environment to ask the brand representative (which is sometimes the actual distiller), more questions about their gin.
A Souvenir - again with some of the higher priced tickets, customers will receive a free branded glass from the event. This is often used as part of the tastings or for purchasing a perfect serve.
Perfect Serves - some events will have their own bar running or will allow exhibitors to offer a perfect serve. Both of these are usually for an additional cost , but it allows the consumers to have a full size G & T of their favourite gin.
Off Sales - depending on licensing laws for the event, consumers may be able to purchase a bottle of their newly found gin on the day. As long as they don't open it at the event.
Most exhibitors that attend gin fairs are from the distilleries themselves and a few companies, like Crafty Connoisseur, deal directly with the distilleries and may have more than one brand on offer.
From an exhibitors perspective, their "ticket price" offers them:
Marketing - a stand at the event where they can showcase / market their gin (s) and engage first hand with consumers.
Sampling - an opportunity for consumers to try their gin, many of which will be doing so for the first time.
Sales - a chance to sell directly to the consumers
Networking - an opportunity to meet the consumers as well as other companies in the same industry.
The Fair Organiser
Having never organised an event of this kind, my comments are purely based and what I would assume an organiser would get out of this process. So if I have missed any, then please feel free to comment.
Awareness - making people more aware of the different gins that are out there today.
Networking - developing new relationships with venues and exhibitors.
Reputation - the more, good quality, events they run, the more established and credible they will become to both the industry and the consumer.
Sales / Profit - we are all running a business and need to make money to cover our costs (hall hire staffing etc).
Repeat Business - by organising a good, value for money fair (for both exhibitor and consumer) there is a good likelihood that both will attend future events.
Gin Fair Issues
Now please excuse the title but ultimately the point about this article was the "over saturation of gin fair events" so we need to address some of the potential issues.
First of all there are a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon of the "ginaissance" for the sole purpose of making money. In theory I don't have an issue with this as we are all in business to make money.
My issue is with people making money without offering consumers or exhibitors "value"
Any costs levied onto the exhibitor or consumer need to offer value for money, otherwise you are just ripping people off. Below I have listed as few areas I think need to be addressed by anyone looking to run a good gin fair.
Ticket Pricing - pricing obviously needs to be sufficient that the events company can make sure it covers all its costs, or at the very least break even if attendance is low. High ticket pricing for the sake of just making more profit only undermines the value and credibility of the event:
The public may feel that for a high ticket price, they should be entitled to as much tasting as they can fit into their session. Apart from this leading to the possibility of people trying to get sloshed, it also has other ramifications. Exhibitors will go through a lot more stock when people are only interested in drinking and nothing else. There may also be issues when an exhibitor withholds a tasting because they think the consumer has had too much to drink already or just repeatedly keeps coming back and treating them like a free bar.
Event Supervision - the company running the event needs to make sure it looks after its exhibitors and consumers. Being present all the time so that if questions or problems arise, they are on hand to help resolve them. Keeping people informed of the schedule of events, how things work and the cut off times for the end of a session etc. All of these are vital to the smooth running of an event.
Stock - exhibitors must ensure they have sufficient stock for an event, especially if there is more than one session. Now I know this can be difficult and nobody knows in advance how sales will go. However, its always good to have some additional stock in reserve in the back of your van just in case you sell out quickly.
Bars / Serves - organisers need to make sure that exhibitors are fully briefed on who can do what on the day. For example, telling exhibitors that they can do their own perfect serves on the day does not go down well if you are then running your own bar and selling serves cheaper than them. It's a collaboration so if you are doing this kind of set up, agree on a standard set price for all.
Ultimately the above is not exhaustive and there are always pro's and cons from both sides but a fair should be exactly that "FAIR"
It's not about event organisers ripping of exhibitors or consumers and its not about exhibitors ripping off consumers. The gin industry is big enough for everyone to get a "fair" share of the pie without any underhandedness.
Gin fairs should be run for the right reasons and not just solely for an organiser to make as much money as possible at the expense of both the consumer and exhibitor. Also, if more and more fairs crop up for the wrong reasons, then we risk diluting the attendance numbers as well as the credibility of such events.
I don't claim to know all the answers, all I can say is that I have organised various events over the years, attended events as an exhibitor and also as a consumer. Based on those experiences, it's a bit easier to see where the underlying issues lie and how they can possibly be resolved.
Ask yourself if you have ever attended, exhibited or hosted an event that ended up with really bad attendance figures and then ask yourself why they were bad.
In the meantime, do some research on the gin events you attend, either as a consumer or exhibitor. Check out previous years reviews, try and find someone who's been before or if its a brand new event, go with your gut.
For details of all the events that Team Crafty will be attending, please visit the events section on www.craftyconnoisseur.co.uk for more details.