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Mr Morris will present his far-reaching vision for the future of Olympia to dealers at this week’s Spring Fine Art and Antiques Fair but he emphasises that, while there definitely will be changes, there is no time scale and new policies will evolve in response to markets.

After consulting widely with Olympia exhibitors and the trade associations, Mr Morris is determined that his three Olympia fairs will remain distinct with their own identity, but all with “the quality brand of Olympia”.

At present “there is not enough difference,” he said.
And at all three the chief executive wishes to expand and change the audience, to see the fairs refreshed with younger buyers and new money.

The eventual dropping of datelines, Mr Morris insists, is the way the fairs must go, but there will be no diminution of quality. Indeed, he plans even stricter vetting.

And on the often vexed question of size, the head of Clarion explained: “The growth of fairs will be entirely market-led; the market will decide what size is sustainable. And we must look at the ratio of visitors to dealers.”

Referring specifically to the June 2002 Olympia, when the scope will be greatly expanded by opening the Grand Hall to the National Hall, Mr Morris said this would mean “more space rather than more dealers”.

The use of this space is a key to how Mr Morris sees his fairs evolving. He feels stands must be more dramatic and some exhibitors have already come up with exciting visual display ideas which will gradually change the face of Olympia. Interior designers will participate and the fairs will become a more visual experience, he says.

To attract new buyers and reflect modern tastes and lifestyles, design and look are very much a part of Mr Morris’s philosophy. Some exhibitors may have to re-invent their style to get the right look and some may have to consider teaming up with others, or borrowing (and clearly marking as such) stock to give the desired effect.

Surprise and excitement will be vital ingredients at the new-look Olympias. In this Mr Morris feels he is in step with the top international fairs where design is becoming an ever more important factor.

The chief executive again emphasises all these changes will be after two-way discussions, but one must face the possibility that in this new vision of Olympia certain dealers with a certain kind of stock might not be at home in the new environment.

In this week’s presentation, Andrew Morris states: “Olympia is a retail site dedicated to the art and antiques industry, its effectiveness must depend on how attractive it is to the buying public. The advisory boards have a vital role to play in assessing which exhibitors add to the vitality of an individual fair.”

The new look, Mr Morris hopes, will attract major overseas dealers to exhibit, and he is interested in the idea of staging an overseas Olympia, but only in response to a gap in the market and using local organisers.

At Olympia there must be a rotation of members on vetting and advisory boards so as no cliques prevail and all exhibitors must actually sign Olympia’s strict code of practice (see 'Olympia's exhibitor code of practice, below).

Mr Morris is committed to an on-line development and explains this will not just be promotional, but will be used for business. He is also committed within the next six months to an Olympia magazine, not just an antiques magazine but one based on the one million Olympia visitors a year, what he considers an affluent marketplace.

You can also expect new marketing and promotional initiatives, such as advertisements in unexpected places, but one of Mr Morris’s most innovative schemes is his commissioning from a university a study in the behavioural psychology of buying patterns specifically in the art and antiques world. He will share the results of this research with his exhibitors.

Finally, the chief executive spoke of his letting of a floor of Olympia to Sotheby’s as “purely a land deal”, and repeated his promise that there will be no joint promotion with the Olympia fairs.

Olympia’s Exhibitor Code of Practice

The Olympia code of practice, which all exhibitors must sign and abide by, commits them to standards under five headings, and are as follows:

• Authenticity: Exhibitors must undertake to vouch for the authenticity of all material offered for sale. Any material deemed not authentic or questionable shall be returnable for a full refund or on some other mutually agreed terms.

• Description: Exhibitors must agree that they are responsible for the correct identification and accurate description of all items offered for sale. Prices will be displayed and all significant defects, restoration and any enhancements clearly indicated.

• Stolen Property: Exhibitors must accept responsibility for passing clear title to the buyer for all material sold as well as agreeing not to knowingly purchase, hold or attempt to sell stolen material.

• Damage in transit: Damage or loss in transit will be the sender’s responsibility.

• Transactions: The Exhibitor must undertake to give the purchaser a detailed invoice and receipt giving a full description of the item, the dealer’s name, address, telephone number and VAT registration number.