The return of an amusement industry event in autumn has gone down well. ACOS has filled the traditional exhibition slot to warm acclaim; it was a show waiting to happen. The woman behind it, Karen Cooke, talks to Coinslot about aspirations and expectations.
Karen Cooke knows her stuff; she’s been delivering trade shows for the amusements industry for decades. And her next one on the schedule, ACOS, embodies Cooke’s menu perfectly.Give the industry what it wants. “We believe that ACOS’ success is due to its tight focus on the UK market,” she explained to Coinslot. “We see our role very much as a facilitator.”
To that end, ACOS has certainly delivered. “The change of location to Olympia has created more space on the show-floor but we are not going to pursue growth for its own sake,”she stressed; and for clear reasons.“ Bigger, better, faster, more, works for some events,but ACOS enjoys quite a lot of emotional collateral; almost everyone in the UK industry attends and they see it as their chance for an informal get together before the big January shows. The main challenge for us as organisers, will be to stay relevant.”
Relevance is not currently an issue for ACOS; the show is clearly gaining traction as Cooke advised. “For 2018 we have six new exhibitors. This may not sound a great deal but it represents around 15 percent of the show floor.
We’re pleased to welcome UDC this year who clearly are a mainstream distributor, and well-known manufacturer Project Design & Technology.”
And there are other new faces on the show floor: “We have many first-time exhibitors, companies which offer specialist services such as security products, currency handling consultancy, creative services, and machines for niche markets, all established in our industry and seeking to increase their presence.” As a signpost for the direction of the UK amusement industry, ACOS is one you probably shouldn’t miss. But Cooke is modest about this: “As far as the driving forces in British amusements are concerned it wouldn’t be correct to state my own views but suffice it to say that our exhibitors will be representing the outcomes of those forces on the show floor!”
While Cooke has ruled out new avenues internationally for the expo -“we see ACOS as the UK industry’s own show’- the domestic confines fit in perfectly with the focus on networking. “We will encourage networking by the provision of comfortable spaces at the show and the post-show event which will be held this year at the Albion, across the road from Olympia. Comparatively speaking, ACOS is a relaxed event and we don’t want the net- working aspect to be too structured.”
Relaxed maybe, but some of the subjects likely to be discussed during ACOS may not be as restrained.In a turbulent year for the industry, one might expect the mood among the core base to be vocal, for want of a better word. But Cooke is more sanguine about that.
“I think the mood is actually very positive. Many are saying they’ve had a good summer season. Some have mentioned their frustration about the delays to introduction of new stakes on FOBTs and there have been concerns about the future of the 2p coin, despite assurances from some quarters.”
As Brexit dominates the political agenda over the coming months, ACOS will certainly offer an interesting gauge as to the temperature of an industry heading into new economic climes. So, how does Cooke think Brexit will impact on the industry and can it deliver new prospects for distinctly British shows like ACOS?
“That’s quite a big question and if I had all the answers I’d be very much in demand,” Cooke laughed. “I’m not sure that our focus on the UK can offer much comfort as the show is dependent on the fortunes of our stakeholders, many of which trade with Europe, in both directions. For sure, none of us will be immune from the effects of the post-Brexit economy. On the plus-side our industry is extraordinarily resilient!”
The ACOS doors will be open on 3-4 October. Expect an amusements feast; after all, it’s been prepared by one of the industry’s top Cookes.