Exhibitions: NAMM Tradex

There was just about universal acclaim from both exhibitors and visitors for the first stand-alone memorial exhibition in 14 years when it was held at Warwickshire Exhibition Centre on 19 & 20 June.

It has been a long time since the memorial side of stone has had a show that was not an adjunct to another exhibition and it was clearly ready for it.

The venue chosen by the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) for its Tradex exhibition in June was the rural setting of Warwickshire Exhibition Centre near Leamington Spa. It was an appropriate size for the 34 companies exhibiting and had ample free parking space for the 800-or-so people NAMM says registered to visit.

The show was held just a week after the National Funeral Exhibition (NFE) at nearby Stoneleigh Park, which Tradex has been part of for the past few years.

The short gap between the two shows probably deprived Tradex of some of those funeral directors who also sell memorials who might otherwise have visited. That is one reason why it has been decided the next show will be in an alternative year to the two-yearly NFE.

That means the next Tradex will be next year or in three years’ time – but NAMM does not seem to have any doubt that the memorial masonry exhibition will be a stand-alone event again in future.

The exhibitors this year were a good cross section of companies that supply memorial masons, including leading memorial wholeslaers, suppliers of tools, etching and sandblasting machines, handling equipment, foundations and fixing systems, paints, vases and other peripherals. 

Natural Stone Specialist previewed some of what the exhibitors would be showing in the previous issue of the magazine. As we said then, it included a significant presence of British stone, both from established suppliers such as Odlings, Wincilate and Barham (Barham won the Best Small Stand Award), and from two newcomers breaking into the memorial supply sector, J Rotherham from Yorkshire and Cerrig from Wales.

There is a premium to be paid for British stone because of its small scale production as a result of the tiny part of the market it holds. But British companies are better equipped with the latest processing technology these days and believe they can hold their own against imports. And as they are keen to point out, raising the price point of memorials can benefit the masons selling them.

Even some of the companies not concentrating on British stone were keen to emphasise British production. And A & J Robertson from Aberdeen did not have a polished black memorial on its stand even though they are its biggest sellers. Graeme Robertson said he wanted to encourage the trade to expand its repertoire.

Another of the wholesalers, George Willcox (which had the largest stand at the show and won the Best Large Stand Award for it), had a section devoted to its latest computer software, known as SAMM (support application for memorial masons). It gives the retail section of the trade access to a sophisticated management system it has developed at a cost of many tens of thousands of pounds – and it is not just for use with George Willcox products.

For many years Tradex has included Craftex, a competition for the best memorial work. That also enjoyed a revival this year with more than 40 entries, although the artists from wholesaler Odlings, led by Alan Clough, who was giving a demonstration of his skills on the Odlings stand during the show, once again took most of the prizes.

Because it had been so long since this many companies supplying memorial masons had been seen together under one roof, there was a lot that visitors had not seen before and judging by the reports of exhibitors they were prepared to invest in what they saw.