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Glee director is 'In the Spotlight'

Published: 19 September 2008
As Glee prepares to open its doors, DIY Week gets to know the man in charge and puts show director Dan Thurlow 'In the Spotlight'.
Glee director is 'In the Spotlight'
How did you get to where you are today?
After university I spent 2 years working for a conference/hospitality company. Then 4 years with the leading trade show organiser for the former Soviet Union. I have now been at Emap for 9 years, the majority of that has been in events although I did spend 2 years as commercial manager on a weekly magazine.

Where do you work/how big is the company/how many people does it employ?
Emap Ltd is the company that run Glee. We are the leading UK trade exhibition organiser running over 400 events across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Emap Ltd operates major information businesses serving fashion, automotive, construction and media and has leading publications including Retail Week, Broadcast, Construction News, Nursing Times and HSJ.. Approximately 1500 people work here.

How do you spend an average working day?
There doesn't seem to be an average day. In the office I sit with the sales team but also work with the marketing, operations and liaise with our external agencies and supporting associations. I try and get out as much as I can either to see clients (exhibtors) but also to meet retailers (our visitors). This is by far the most important and useful exercise. I have learnt so much from these meetings, everyone I've met has been incredibly helpful and honest. They are a genuinely passionate about their industry.

Are you a DIYer? What was your last project?
Not really I'm afraid. Fortunately I have an elder brother who is enthusiastic and incredibly capable; there is nothing he can't do. Both my father and father in law seem to do more than to my house than I do which is very kind of them. I have helped put kitchen units together and there are some shelves I managed to hang that are still up, and level.

What do you do outside of work to relax?
I enjoy most sports. I play football, tennis, go to the gym a couple of times a week. I also have a 2 ½ year old who keep my wife and I busy.

What are the biggest issues facing the retail industry today?
People are obviously wary of the "credit crunch" and the declining market although the impact depends upon the sector and the product ranges you sell. On the gardening side I am aware how significant the weather is but I've been impressed with most retailers ability to successfully manage and adapt their business accordingly.

What are the specific challenges facing Glee?
We know the main reason visitors attend is to see new products and suppliers so we need to continue to present the widest range of both and make it easy for them to find what they are looking for. Equally we need to work with our exhibitors to ensure the event is successful for them. A well executed show can be the most powerful piece of marketing a company does and will deliver on all levels.

How will the company meet these challenges?
Through gleebirmingham.com we are providing more information than ever before. There are detailed profiles of suppliers and products giving buyers a year round sourcing reference. In advance of Glee the site allows buyers to prepare better and make sure they get the most out of their visit.

The Glee Awards recognise and reward innovation. This year we are giving them a higher profile and extended them to include retailers as well as manufacturers. The aim is bring both groups together and celebrate success at both the product and retail level.

At the show we make it as easy as possible to find what you're looking for through visitor trails and buyers guides. We have also invested more money in our seminar programme for 2008 enabling us to offer several high profile speakers who will impart the kind of advice that retailers would normally expect to pay for. We have introduced interactive workshops and features that will provide tips and suggestions with a real business value.

To provide the widest possible choice, the sales team work hard to bring in new suppliers each year. We also attend overseas shows to help attract international exhibitors that UK retailers will not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

How has the industry changed since you first became involved in it?
I've only been involved for a year so I'm probably not in the best position to draw a comparison. Those retailers I have spoken to have suggested there is more competition, whether it is from supermarkets moving into non food, websites driving prices down or other activities competing for our leisure spend. That said, they are confident that through customer service and tailored product ranges presented within an engaging retail environment, they are in a really strong position.

What does the next 12 months hold for the company and the sector as a whole - are you optimistic or pessimistic?
A strong show this month and then the hard work starts for Glee 2009. I am optimistic. Glee is a great event and we have good support from the industry as well as internally from Emap.

What are you looking forward to at Glee this year?
I like the new products area, there is always some genuine innovation on display. Often it is the simple idea, well designed and presented that catches the eye of the buyer.

What is the best product you've seen at the show?
I have to say the GPS for your pet last year was genius. Some of the outdoor furniture looks stunning, if I had a bigger garden I would love to own a set. I also like the children's play structures we see in Hall 4 at Glee. I can imagine my son having a great time on them; maybe I'll bring him to the show so he can test them out!

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