ES. Please take us through your professional journey since inception and some major milestones achieved over the years?
Matt Bradley. I started working in the exhibition industry as sales exec around the year 2000. I worked as part of in the organising arm of the Business Design Centre in Islington. The show I worked on was a launch called Mode and aimed at this high end gift and furniture industry. After year 1 the business decided not to run it again. I learnt very quickly that disappoint is never too far away in this industry. We had a rival show run by Clarion called Top Drawer. I called as soon as our show was cancelled and, thanks to some favourable feedback from some of our shared clients, I started working with them a few weeks later. I stayed with Clarion for around 4 years.
I loved it, I worked with some people that when on to become industry legends, Simon Kimble, Dominic Jones, Nicola Bateman, Andy Baxter, Nigel Nathan, Nicky Barr, Cartsen Holm and so many more. I later got the chance to move to London Event Co and work with Rob MacKenzie and Tim Etchells. Looking back I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have so much access to minds of some of the industries greats from such an early age. I learnt so much from all of them and will always be grateful for the time they gave me.
I joined forces with John Bednall and Nick Field to set up Legend Exhibitions and launch Retail Business Technology Show (RBTE) in 2011. By 2016 we had added a design and digital signage element, launched 2 publications, Essential Retail and Retail Design World and the show had become the biggest of its kind in Europe. In 2017 we sold the business to Reed Exhibitions and as part of the agreement, and as the face of the show, I moved across with the event, which we later rebranded to Retail Expo.
Sadly in 2019 due to the pandemic Reed Exhibitions took the decision to no longer run RetailExpo which left both me without a job and retail tech industry without a flagship show. I was quicky approached by several exhibition companies with offers to revive the show with them. Ironically after quite a few meetings with quite a few suitors it only took a 10 minute chat with Peter Jones and Alison Jackson for me to realise that the best place to relaunch would be Nineteen Group.
ES. You are the driving force behind the launch of Retail Technology Show with Nineteen Group. In what ways have you brought Retail Technology Show to the forefront? What does it take to succeed a business?
Matt Bradley. There’s an expression, no passion, no point. I have incredible passion for this industry and for RTS and I think people within the industry can see that. I have a team who share that passion and are equally driven and again people can see that. I am fully immersed in the retail technology industry and take my role as event director of their flagship show very seriously. I spend time with our exhibitors and visitors to try to truly understand the issues they are facing. I’m not and have never been interested in running the “biggest” retail tech show, I’m interested in running the very best and that means we design an event that is relevant to the industry that its serving both exhibitors and visitors who will find benefit from attending.
I despise corporate, I despise the conventional opinion of what a trade show should look like. With RTS I have tried to be as creative as possible. Whether that’s through the look and feel of the event, the conference programme or the marketing messages and route to market. I ripped up the “rule book” and its worked. I expect a more to follow our lead.
ES. Can you tell us what were the highlights of the Retail Technology Show 2022 and to whom would you attribute the success of this show?
Matt Bradley. So many to mention, selling out the show 7 weeks before the event, the incredible speaker line up including Tinie Tempah, Sam Jones, Mike Coupe and Ella Mills, the Big Reunion Party at the end of day one and so many more. But a moment that really sticks out for me is, on day one at 9am, I announced over the public address system that Retail Technology Show 2022 was now open. I’ve done this hundreds of times before on previous shows and people rarely raise and eye brow. But this time every exhibitor stopped what they were doing, stood, clapped and cheered. I’ve never felt anything like that. The relief and happiness of an industry that had been through turmoil finally about to be reunited was so visible. It was a very special moment, one that really overwhelmed me and one I’ll never forget. That’s why the success of the show isn’t down to me, my team or Nineteen Group. Its down to every exhibitor, for the incredible stands they built, for every email they sent and every social media update they posted. To the speakers who gave up their time, who shared their insight and knowledge to an audience who were desperate for some sort of road map and to every visitor who attended the show, who took meetings with our exhibitors and who joined to reunite an industry. This show was for them, by them.
ES. How do you see the resumption of trade shows restoring people’s confidence? Could you tell us about the current state of trade shows in your region?
Matt Bradley. We’ve seen a great surge. As mentioned stand space sold out with 6 weeks to go – unheard of on a launch event and we rebooked 81% on site. Events are well truly back! And although the visitor pre-reg spike came later in the marketing cycle than perhaps we’re used to, we did meet the ambitious targets that we set ourselves. We also saw a significant uplift with a walk up registrations.
ES. The exhibitions and events industry, like the rest of the world, has experienced rapid change. What are the most significant changes you’ve witnessed during your time in the industry?
Matt Bradley. If there is one good thing to come out of the last 2 years it’s that people have realised the importance of face to face events. The novelty of working from home and zoom meetings soon wore off for the majority of us and it wasn’t long before people were craving for human interaction. As organisers we have both a great opportunity but also a great responsibility to ensure face to face events continue to live up to expectations. We mustn’t sit back, we must continue to evolve, continue to listen to our markets and in my opinion continue to rip up the conventional.
ES. What does a normal working day in your life look like? Please take us through the course of your day from the time you wake up till the time you retire to bed.
Matt Bradley. It varies from day to day which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. The only constant is I take an hour every day to go to the gym. I tend to do this in the middle of day and normally come back with a hundred new ideas to pitch to the team. Just having that hour away from the office in a different environment really helps to re-invigorate me.
I love meeting clients and talking through the issues and finding ways that I can make RTS even more relevant to our industry. I tend to work quite late, I’m not unknown to send emails, texts or more recently voice notes late in to the evening or at weekends. This isn’t because I’m a workaholic, its because my memory is terrible and so when I have an idea I need to get it to the people that can action it as soon as possible!!