The company’s huge, purpose-built office and warehousing complex spreads over a four-acre site and ensures that the company, now the largest family-owned independent musical merchandise distributor in the UK, has an effective base for demonstrating the product lines from its extensive catalogue. And I do mean extensive - for the catalogue carries some of the music industry’s biggest names, including the innovative roundback guitar range from Ovation, for whom JHS are sole UK and Eire distributors and the famous Danelectro guitars and amps, back in the music world with a vengeance.
An early decision taken by John Hornby Skewes to carry self-branded merchandise continues to this day too, and JHS also has international distribution for its comprehensive signature Encore and Vintage acoustic and electric guitar and bass range, Antoni stringed instruments, Kinsman cases and Odyssey brass and woodwind instruments. In fact, browsing through this year’s JHS catalogue range reveals over 3000 products under some 50 brand names, with a customer base covering more than 30 different countries.
The Event is a 3D version of the catalogue, adding a social layer to the serious business of business. Arrayed across the site are exhibition marquees, a refreshment marquee, a guest exhibitor area - featuring British Piano Manufacturing, Music Exchange (Manchester) and Kemble Ltd - and a sound stage featuring performances by Kevin Brown (The Living Proof - Ovation) and Pat Park of Danelectro. One of the signature elements of the event - though it did nearly reacquaint me with my lunch - is a helicopter ride across the surrounding areas.
A key new feature this year was the dedicated pro audio demo theatre where the full line-up of HK Audio sound reinforcements systems (including the HX active systems, LUCAS, ELIAS and ACTOR, and the most recent addition to the range, the powerful 3.6kW PROJECTOR) were being regularly taken through their paces. Andreas Mayerl and Christian Stumpp of HK Audio flew in from Germany to lend support. Other pro audio products on show included The Scanner radio system, the Get Yourself Connected series of cabling and Kustom PA systems and cabinets. Also present was MAD Manufacturing, a guest exhibitor, who provided the full lighting rig for the demo theatre.
Events like this certainly ain’t cheap - and as JHS also offers accommodation to those travelling any distance, the three day outing represents a substantial investment. But it was clearly worth it, and it’s no coincidence that there are order forms in every visitor pack and that the canny Mr Skewes even lines up a finance company to advise on interest free options. If the weather was a little mixed, attendance wasn’t and JHS can count another successful event to its name.