A decade of FIT

Nickie West
Nickie West

FIT Show event director, Nickie West, speaks exclusively to Glass Times’ editor, Luke Wood ahead of the exhibition’s special 10-year anniversary.

Luke Wood (LW): This year’s show marks a significant anniversary – did you anticipate it becoming such a success?

Nickie West (NW): FIT Show 2023 marks a decade since we launched at Telford. In the world of exhibitions, where shows can pop up and fail overnight, it’s a real milestone. The fact that FIT Show has gone from strength to strength over the last decade, in spite of several challenges along the way, is a testament to the resilience and support of our industry.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined being sat here celebrating our 10-year anniversary when we launched the show in 2013. I knew from the initial meetings with co-founders Matthew Glover and Paul Godwin that we had a very strong proposition, but it wasn’t until I started to get out into the industry, speaking to the people behind the brands that I fully appreciated just how much passion, enthusiasm, commitment and grit the fenestration industry is powered by.

We’re operating in a truly unique sector and it’s the people who continue to support FIT Show that make it the success it still is today.

LW: Do you think the industry has changed in the last 10 years? If so, how is this reflected in the exhibitors and events for 2023 compared to the debut event at Telford in 2013?

NW: The industry really is full of innovators. The most significant changes can be seen when you look at the video highlights footage side-by-side from each of the shows. When we moved from Telford to the NEC, the show not only became bigger, the products and showcases delivered by our exhibitors all stepped up a gear too.

I think the best example of this is illustrated in our 10-year anniversary video. The whole show looks bigger and better – there’s a real step change in the overall production, as well as the products on display. And this is down to the effort that our exhibitors continue to pour into their presence at FIT Show, and the work that we continue to do behind the scenes to make sure that we’re investing in the right content, such as addressing industry challenges via our learning programme, and growing the show profile with new exhibitors and product innovations to serve the changing needs of our audience.

LW: What are your personal highlights from the last 10 years?

NW: There are too many highlights (and a few lows!) from the last 10-years to mention. For me, the opening day of any FIT Show is always a real highlight. We know how much effort everyone has been putting in during the run up to the event, and then to see visitors lining up at registration is always a special moment.

I’m really proud of how successful our move to the NEC was. It was fiercely resisted from some quarters, but we took our audience on the journey with us and the move was not only right for the long-term success of FIT Show, it was a huge hit.

I think FIT Show 2022, our delayed 2021 event, was extra special due to the challenges we had faced and overcome as an industry, and as event organisers, in the run up to our return. I’m always amazed at the resilience of the sector, but I am especially proud of the loyalty and affection that people hold for the FIT Show brand. We couldn’t do it without this support.

I’m predicting FIT Show 2023 will be a very big highlight when you ask me the same question post-May!”

LW: And what have been the biggest challenges?

NW: There is no denying that there have been numerous challenges along the way, that’s the nature of the beast that is live events, and indeed FIT Show. But it’s how we weather these storms that make us stronger, and FIT Show continues to go from strength to strength.

The pandemic and ever changing restrictions that this presented became a challenge for all event organisers, and I feel we managed these well. We were more than a little on the back foot for our 2022 return though, with just five months to market the show and our new dates once we were given the green light to go ahead.

It’s worth noting that the challenges the industry faces really impact FIT Show too, from supply chain issues through to demand outstripping supply – these are all challenges that we have to work with our exhibitors to overcome, and tailor our campaign to remind visitors of the importance of attending. It’s a balancing act, but we operate in an agile manner so that we’re able to tackle these challenges head on.

LW: Can you tell us more about why so many international brands are exhibiting this year?

NW: Over 40% of the line-up for FIT Show 2023 is made up of overseas brands. Visitors will be able to see the latest product innovations across the windows, doors, hardware and components industry from countries including the UK, Ireland, Turkey, China, France, Italy, Germany, America, India, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

FIT Show 2023 will deliver a truly international showcase, and I believe this is the result of a combination of factors. Firstly, there is a huge contingent from Turkey, many of whom simply couldn’t exhibit in 2022 due to ongoing travel restrictions.

But I also believe there has been a lot of investment in product development across these countries in recent years. They’re now ready to bring their solutions to a consistently buoyant UK market. They’ve watched the growth of FIT Show and witnessed how this has helped propel UK brands and are looking to establish their own UK connections, with the plethora of opportunities the UK market presents.

LW: A quarter of the exhibitor list is also new brands – why have they chosen 2023 to exhibit and not before?

NW: Brands are seeing the value of FIT Show as a springboard for new brands and product launches. There’s never been a more exciting year for visitors to attend with so much new to see.

We’re also seeing a good mix of established brands who will be exhibiting at FIT Show for the first time. Whitesales is a great example of this. This is a brand with 30 years of heritage who are now ready to grow their network of fabricators and installers and view FIT Show as the right vehicle to do this.

It also helps that their marketing director, Sioned Yates, has been on the FIT Show journey with us in previous roles and understands the powerful role that FIT Show plays within a brand’s marketing mix.

We’ve also seen well-known brands like Garnalex’s Sheerline, Brett Martin, Listers, Saint-Gobain, Bohle, Cortizo and Quickslide join the line-up. It’s never too late for a brand to start their FIT Show journey. Our team is on standby to scoop these brands up and ensure that they get the best possible return out of exhibiting.

LW: New products are a key element of the show, but can you tell us more about this year’s seminar programme?

NW: New products are always a huge pull for visitors – they want to be able to see and compare the latest products on the market, side-by-side, which they can only do at FIT Show. There’s always something new to see at FIT Show, which is why we hold on to so many loyal visitors for each edition.

Learning is another key visitor driver. We’re very proud to be working with GGF and Fensa to curate our learning programme for 2023. There are some huge technical and regulatory changes that our audience needs to keep up-to-date with, and we’re working with the GGF and Fensa to ensure that our programme delivers this.

We’re also lining up more third party experts than any previous show to deliver seminars that will help our audience market their businesses better, drive more leads and secure their future pipelines. The full programme is now live on the FIT Show website.

LW: Social & networking opportunities have always been a big part of FIT Show – will we see the usual after hours events on Wednesday night?

NW: Our late night offering on Wednesday 24 May at FIT Show is back! This feature has been extremely well received by exhibitors and visitors alike in recent years. We were literally asking people to leave the halls at closing time last year as the PiG’s party once again drew a huge crowd.

This year’s late night will be extra special as we make a nod to our 10 years. Our exhibitors are starting to share their plans with us, with the full programme of late night events due to be announced over the coming weeks.

This is a great extension of the show and means that visitors who are perhaps busy on jobs during the day can still make it to FIT Show later in the day, and it allows our exhibitors to connect with customers and suppliers in a more relaxed environment. I’m looking forward to raising a glass with the whole industry this May!”