irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
Too Many Trade Shows?
Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try
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.)
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,
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
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 doesnt want to pay their higher prices in order to pay for
their booth design, which included no less than four leather sofas.
Shed rather work with us smaller companies who maximize our
smaller booth spaces, just like she does her store. Name
Withheld, Small Manufacturer
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit www.bizzyretailer.com.
(Note: Email your thoughts on the subject of trade shows
to CLN at email@example.com.
Previous Business Wise articles are available by clicking on the
titles in the right-hand column.)