On the late afternoon of March 29, 2018, Tesfaye Kebede, the owner of Tesfaye Peanut Butter, was chatting with his assistance, sitting in their nine square meters booth at the Addis Abeba Exhibition centre between Ras Makonnen Street and Jomo Kenyatta Street at the heart of the capital.
Being one of the veteran holiday exhibition participators with a track record of taking part in 20-holiday expo, Tesfaye seems unsatisfied with this year’s exhibition as he served few visitors for the past 12 days.
Organised by Century Promotions, one of the seasoned event organisers, Grand Trade Fair & Eastern Expo Exhibition has attracted 200 exhibitors including Tesfaye this holiday. The number of this round participants has plummeted by half from the preceding holiday exhibition, Christmas.
Tesfaye paid 75,000 Br to rent his booth for 22 days up from 56,000 Br which is 34pc up from the preceding holiday rental fee.
To add fuel to the fire, the number of visitors has shrunk down significantly, claims Tesfaye, who participate in the expo with a double target of generating revenue and promoting his product.
“Due to the entrance fee which has tripled since the past year, individuals appetite to stop by the exhibition has significantly declined,” Tesfaye told Fortune.
During the previous exhibitions, he has been selling his products with up to a 15pc discount, but this could not continue as he faced a challenge in covering his expenses from the sale.
“Now I am selling the products with the same price I distribute to the retailers, 70 Br a kilogram,” he said. “This is discouraging visitors who presume that exhibitions are known for discounts.”
In the previous years, exhibitors were advised to discount they offer five percent to 25pc off on their products, but these days they are not giving discounts as they are struggling to manage their expenses against revenue.
“We are forced to raise rental fees as the price we pay for the centre is jacking up year to year,” said Zewge Jemaneh, the general manager of Century Promotions, a company which was established in 1991 and has organised 26 exhibitions so far.
Owned by Addis Abeba City Administration but managed by the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations, the centre has three pavilions and open-air space which all lie on 23,000sqm. The first hall can hold 90 minimum sized booths while the second and the third can hold 48 booths each. The open space can also accommodate up to 140 stalls.
Last year Century Promotions won a bid to organise Christmas and Easter exhibitions with 33 million Br, which is four times higher than what it paid five years ago with a combined sum of seven million Birr.
But for this round, the company has spent 18.85 million Br for the exhibition along with promotion, administrative and entertainment expenses for the seven musical bands, singers, stage leaders and the three DJs.
Crafts, clothes, pieces of jewellery, pottery, paintings, fabric art, cosmetic products, kitchen and houseware materials along with food and beverage were the product and services offered by the exhibitors accompanied with music concerts.
“The number of exhibitor has significantly declined,” Zewge confirms.
This and other circumstances led many companies to eye other options of an alternative venue, such as Millennium Hall, which is under the administration of Addis Park Development & Management Plc, a company which was established in 2004.
Jorka Event Management & Organizer has hosted Ethio Addis Eastern Bazaar as its first experience to organise an exhibition at the Millennium Hall, which was built for the celebration of the Ethiopian Millenium that was celebrated a decade ago.
Constructed by the Ethio-Saudi Arabian tycoon, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi, the hall is located in downtown Addis, few blocks from Bole International Airport, at the mature and vibrant city centre.
Jorka charges 28,000 Br to 45,000 Br for a spot depending on the location of the booth. Booths located at the prime location and front side grab the highest rental fee.
Kalkiadan Teshome, 29, was a frequent visitor of holiday exhibitions, she usually stops by Addis Abeba Exhibition Center & Marketing Development Enterprise to get items at one place for a discounted price.
But when she turned to being an exhibitor this year, as an importer and distributor of bicycle under her company named L&M Bicycle Import, she chose to promote her products at the expo opened at the Millennium Hall on March 24, 2018, and to stay until April 7, 2018, the eve of Easter Holiday.
“It is my first time participating in an exhibition,” she said. “I chose this venue as security issues are better managed here.”
Kalkiadan paid 45,000 Br for her booth located close to the gate, becoming one of the 200 participant companies.
She testifies that the number of individuals who visited her spot were fewer than her expectation.
“It is maybe because the venue is new,” she said with the tone of optimism. “I believe once this place is well-known the customers’ number will definitely rise.”
Jorka provides two alternate areas for exhibitors, first is the main hall with a gross area of 6,000sqm and second is a separate hall with an area of 2,800sqm.
“Even though the number of visitors is low at both venues, I can manage to get some items with discounts at the Millennium Hall,” said Meserat W.Michael, who runs her own business and visited both exhibitions.
But she was not fully satisfied with the discounts as the price of many items has displayed a price surge due to the recent 15pc devaluation of Birr against the baskets of major foreign currencies.
For a brand communication and marketing expert with over a decade of experience, Abenezer Feleke, says price discount of items is essential on such kinds of exhibitions.
“Pricing strategy is one of the most important aspects of a business,” said Abenezer who has worked with Multichoice Ethiopia (DSTv) and the United Nation (UN), “In this kind of bazaar, customers expect a lower price than usual.”
However, exhibitors such as Tesfaye, at the prominent centre did not offer a discount after making a cost-benefit analysis.
“To cover my expenses, I made no discount this year,” claims Tesfaye, “at the end, it affects the flow of buyers to my booth.”
Due to this, coupled with the spiking rental fee Tesfaye has already decided to withdraw from his habit of taking part in future exhibitions, as the participation stops yielding fruits.
“I would prefer supplying my products directly to the retailers,” he told Fortune.
However, organisers like Jorka see the business as untapped and a potential business area.
“We are planning to organise the expo regularly on holidays,” said Nebyou Daniel, Public Relation of Jorka.