The show must go on
After over 20 years of operation, BCF, has staged its last ever computer fair.
Paul Driver, founder of BCF said "It is with fond memories and some regret that I must announce that BCF has now ceased trading. I had been wanting to wind down my involvement in the business for a while, but I was keen to see the continuation of the Croydon fair, for the benefit of all the regular traders and visitors who enjoy attending".
He went on to say, "Earlier in the year, I had been informed by the venue's management company that they did not plan to take Sunday bookings from the beginning of 2017. This was a blow, but it was my hope arrangements could be made with a local organiser to manage an orderly relocation to another venue. In the end, it was not possible to reach an agreement and the talks broke down".
The latest news is that a number of the regular traders have decided to band to together and have been successful in finding an alternative venue, not too far away from the existing site and so 'the show goes on'. Full details can be found on their Website or Facebook Page
BCF was the UK's longest running computer fair organiser and whilst it wasn't the first computer fair in the UK, it was only just pre-dated by All Formats Computer Fairs and Northern Computer Markets. In the end, it went on to operate much longer than both of its forerunners and only closed it's doors in the middle of 2016.
Paul Driver said, "After nearly 25 years in the computer business, I have decided that it is time for me to move on to something new. During my time at BCF I gained a huge amount of knowledge about web design, online marketing, and search engine optimisation. Using this experience to build a web development business seems a natural thing for me to do"
In the early days, most BCF advertising focused on the huge choice and massive savings that could be found at a computer fair when compared with mail-order prices or those found on the high street. The Croydon fair, which was held at a large school on Shirley Road was always the best-attended event, and at its peak, attracted as many as 150 traders at any one time and this was the reason that buyers would attend in their thousands.
Many of the computer fair traders had their own shops or mail order businesses, whilst some worked for themselves as system builders, repair shops or software experts. Trading at the fairs was very lucrative for these businesses and by booking tables at the fairs, they would often speak to more potential customers in a day than they otherwise might see all year.
For computer fair visitors, their guarantee of big savings arrived from the keen competition between traders. So whether visitors were in the market for a high-performance laptop, a fast gaming PC or low-cost second-user machine, they were always sure to find a bargain. Indeed, many customers would arrive with hundreds of pounds in their pockets, absolutely determined to spend it.
Paul Driver went on to say, "From the very beginning, BCF placed a great deal of emphasis on consumer confidence, and big efforts were made to educate visitors that their rights were exactly the same as if they were buying from a shop".
BCF was one of the first event businesses in the world to operate a website and went on to build the world's first online shopping mall, specialising only in computer goods. ComputerMarket.com pre-dated Ebay in the UK and was a searchable, multi-seller marketplace, which many companies of the dot-com-boom went on to emulate. It is worth remembering that at this time, the phrase 'comparison website' had not yet been coined.
In the end, some say, that the internet proved to be the undoing of computer fairs and to a large degree, this is true. However, other factors were also in play, not least of which was the arrival of smartphones and tablets.
With a supercomputer in the pocket, who needs all those wires?
www.easable.uk is a web development business operated by Paul Driver, the original founder of BCF.
Easable's main expertise is in producing advanced websites with Drupal, a powerful content management framework, used by many of the biggest names on the internet. One niche that has proven especially successful, has been providing websites for schools.
In his years of operating BCF and ComputerMarket.com, Driver has acquired a wealth of knowledge about internet marketing, web design and search engine optimisation.
As well as operating a growing web design business, he also advises businesses, schools and nonprofits about managing their digital strategy.