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Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.

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Too Many Trade Shows?

Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try something new?

By CLN Subscribers (November7, 2005)

(Note: The Oct. 17 edition of CLN included a "Business Wise" article by an unhappy manufacturer complaining about too many scrapbook trade shows and trade groups not doing enough to help its members. To read the article, with responses by MemoryTrends/Craftrends' Bill Gardner and CLN's Mike Hartnett, click on "Tough Trade Show Questions" in the right-hand column. The article elicited the following responses.)

Quit whining.

In response to the small manufacturer who questions the number of trade shows, etc.: "Wwhaaaa."

Sheesh, don't exhibit at all of the shows. I rep lines who don't exhibit at ANY of the shows, and they do fine. Obviously it was not a good choice to schedule MemoryTrends so late in the year and it showed in the number of $$ spent and the low attendance. But hello? How can you be in the industry for five minutes and not recognize that MemoryTrends is not sponsored by CHA? That the decisions CHA makes have little or nothing to do with those made by Craftrends?

[Editor's note: Final figures indicated a 7% increase in attendance. The show may have seemed slower, however, because there were more booths, which spread out the attendees.]

I spent a lot of my time at MemoryTrends listening to vendors lay blame. Blame on the show promoters for low attendance and timing of the show. Blame on the storeowners for lack of loyalty and stingy spending. Blame on their reps for not making more sales, and now blame on CHA for "allowing" too many shows.

I know I sound unsympathetic, which is unusual for me, but the need to point fingers and lay blame drives me crazy. EVERYONE is hurting right now. The economy sucks. The cost of gas is taking a serious toll on the consumers' budgets, which means they are not spending as much in stores and therefore the storeowners don't have as much to spend. I know owners who did not attend MemoryTrends because they felt guilty that they couldn't spend as much, because the vendors had already pressured them. These people are looking at closing their doors; they are not being "disloyal" and they are not being "stingy." Reps (myself included) for the most part work their tails off and they are suffering right along with you.

If vendors want a solution?

Quit whining. Stop looking for someone to blame (unless you'd like to point at Congress and the executive administration where the "blame" truly belongs).

Be proactive. Promote your product to the consumer. Make it easier for your independents to buy from you! If you have a $200 minimum and demand that stores buy in 12's, they can't afford to buy from you. They can't make the $$ minimum and they can't turn 12 whatevers fast enough in their store.

Recognize that everyone earning less than $100,000 per year (i.e., our demographic) is truly hurting right now and accept that you need to ride out the down times out with the rest of us.

And P.S.: If you have questions regarding the benefits of belonging to CHA, you aren't paying attention. – Name Withheld, Manufacturer's Rep

Take responsibility.

As a small manufacturer, I agree with the problems stated by the author. However, there comes a point where manufacturers need to take responsibility for their business and decide which trade shows are good for them. Case in point: we spoke to many of our retailers in the past year, via phone calls, conversations at trade shows, email, etc, to find out which shows were really worth going to. We also looked back through orders from all three trade shows the year before to see if they were primarily regionally attended, or had a much broader reach. What we found was that CHA Summer was the least important show for us to be at. Orders and leads tended to be very regional to that area, which just meant we push our sales reps a little to sell better in those areas.

Email marketing has completely changed our business, and we found we did as much this summer during show time by email, telesales, and pushing reps, without the added expense of the trade show. It was a win-win situation for us. The point is, we listened to our customers.

They had some very interesting things to say at MemoryTrends. My favorite was when I mentioned to one retailer how I thought a particular vendor's booth was beautiful and that I hoped that our booth someday would look as nice. She said not to bother – that she doesn’t want to pay their higher prices in order to pay for their booth design, which included no less than four leather sofas. She’d rather work with us smaller companies who maximize our smaller booth spaces, just like she does her store. – Name Withheld, Small Manufacturer

Growing up.

The article included a reference to the Scrapbook Biz show, so I thought I would respond since we are working with this show on the programming.

First let me address the issue of a "hurting" industry. I have been a part of the paper arts industry now for 15 years, and as many would agree, we are coming out of the infancy stage and into the "toddler years." We are experiencing a new growth stage, a thinning of the industry that will make us ultimately stronger in the end.

Gone are the years when you could just open up a store on a dream and no budget; gone are the days where cottage industry manufacturers will survive on their own. Sad, but necessary.

We are not in a doomsday situation; we are, as an industry, simply growing up. With this growth we require resources, support systems, and excellent training. The way we communicate is changing, the way we research products is changing, and the way we run our stores...has to change.

As for the number of shows, I personally think that it isn't the number of shows that is the issue but the function of the shows and what their purpose is for. Other industries related to ours – i.e., the photo market – have numerous shows but their function is different.

As a retailer in our industry, you don't have to go to a show to see the newest products; manufacturers do a great job of pre-marketing the products through consumer and trade magazines, websites, and direct marketing – so why go to shop!?!

It used to be that the shows were the product unveiling – Christmas for retailers. Now when you go to the show, there is the reaction that you haven't seen anything new; that's because you see it before you come, so why be wowed?

Why another show? For many excellent reasons Scrapbook BIZ is not your ordinary show: First, we aren't targeting a national draw; this is intended to be a regional training center. If we have a national attendance it will be due to the business school program being offered, and good timing.

We recognize that retailers can't afford to, nor have the luxury to, take a lot of time away from their business. With the Midwest and Eastern demographic expanding more into the paper arts world, there is nothing being offered in the spring to service this demographic. Scrapbook BIZ has answered this need. If my store is in Pennsylvania, I can much better afford to go to Ohio than to Las Vegas or Los Angeles. I might even be able to bring my staff for effective business training.

The program is our number one differentiating factor. Real language, application, and business school-level programming. Our business school for retailers is offering classes to train, educate, and build businesses – real business, not product promotions. We are providing the long-overdue resource courses that will keep retailers like the one who wrote the original article in business, leaving the product training to the vendors offering technique courses, and encouraging the trade floor to become, not just a mall, but a training facility.

Scrapbook Biz is, yes, untested, but has years of industry experience and expertise being put into it. A new concept, a new location, a new way to go to a trade show. Do we need this show? Yes. Do other shows need to change the way they function? Yes. Is our industry in jeopardy by having another show? Absolutely not. We need more shows that are committed to building business. – Pamela Grimm, President, Ideaco. Call 519-798-9930, email gottaidea@aol.com, or visit www.bizzyretailer.com.

(Note: Email your thoughts on the subject of trade shows to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. Previous Business Wise articles are available by clicking on the titles in the right-hand column.)

xxx

 

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