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Moving PNE to mid-summer might not be enough to really boost attendance

Last Updated May 12, 2016 at 7:51 am PDT

A concert at The Fair at the PNE (2014) (Courtesy facebook.com/PNE.Playland)

Marketing expert says PNE struggles are likely because main target market has been older people

SFU marketing expert suggests PNE split target audience a bit more

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Can you smell the mini-doughnuts?

The scent of frying dough and cinnamon could be wafting across East Vancouver even sooner, if the PNE follows through on an idea to move the fair to midsummer. But a potential move to sunnier, drier July might not be enough to significantly boost the fair’s flagging attendance.

Related article: The Fair at the PNE considering a date change

“The PNE has been suffering over the years, very likely because it’s main target market has been older people,” says Lindsay Meredith, a marketing strategy expert at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

“Seniors have a bad habit. In marketing, we say we have to watch out if your target market is dying out on you. As these older folks stop coming, you are going to have to find other target market segments to pull in to replace them,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Otherwise, your business is just going to basically die right along with them.”

So is the PNE outdated, or is it the nostalgic aspect of the fair that brings people back?

“The nostalgic stuff does have a real value — it brings in the seniors market segment, which is at least consistent. When you can bring in the bands that they grew up with, that’s a good draw. But perhaps the PNE also has to look at developing another target market in a much bigger way,” says Meredith, pointing to teens and millennials.

“That, of course, is almost the polar opposite of seniors. They definitely have different tastes and you have to figure out what turns their crank and get some of that material out there for them as well.”

Meredith believes that, aside from the rides, the PNE should put in more venues and entertainment targeting younger fair-goers.

“I’m not saying kiss off the older segment — although that does happen. I’m saying split your market a bit more. At least in the buildings, you can easily separate things — have a lot of stuff in some buildings that appeals to young people and you can have stuff in other buildings that appeals to older people,” he suggests.

But Meredith admits that having a split focus can be a marketer’s nightmare.

“Watch out when you have two polar-opposite target segments. In the process of changing one, you often alienate the other.”

On Tuesday, the Pacific National Exhibition announced it is exploring the possibility of changing dates because of “changing weather patterns.” It has launched a survey to hear what you think about the idea.

If the date change goes ahead, it would start in 2018 or later.