A record number of visitors and exhibitors are expected to attend the Convenience Retailing Show which is being run concurrently with Food & Drink Expo at Birmingham's NEC. The two shows will take place in adjacent halls at the centre, from March 17 to March 20. This year more than 4,500 buyers from the independent retailing sector visited the CRS, held in conjunction with IFFE, a 29% increase on 1999 when the two were last held together. The number of exhibitors topped 160. Organiser William Reed Exhibitions expects visitor and exhibitor numbers each to increase by 30%. David O'Beirne, exhibitions director, said: "March 2001 was our first year managing the show. Our heavy investment in visitor promotion and show features drew record crowds and ensured it was a major success. "Visitors say they come to the show to place orders or research suppliers for long term relationships. In March, 68% said they expected to place an order as a direct result of their visit and 43% placed an order at the show. It's the only independent event where retailers can network in a business setting away from their stores," O'Beirne said. Following its experiences this year, William Reed Exhibitions is continuing features that encourage debate and sharing of best practice. These will include a theatre for live talks, demonstrations and interviews, as well as a 3-D presentation of the latest practical and cost-effective advice on how to improve business. {{NEWS }}