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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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Suggestions for the CHA Show

How to attract more buyers and exhibitors.

by Randy & Edna Morton, Coronado Island designs & stamps (March 3, 2008)

As one of the smaller exhibitors (10 x 20 booth) at the winter 2008 CHA, we see that the participation in CHA is in a declining mode. Our location was very good, near a lot of popular companies. But for the third year in a row, there was a decline in the number of actual buyers and an increase in the number of non-buyers, which include non-exhibiting manufacturers, professional designers, students, guests, and craft demonstrators or instructors. The non-buyer groups take a lot of time in our booth and use up a lot of our make-it/take-it space. There was also a decline in the number of exhibitors and the size of the booths.

This will be our 10th CHA winter show and we've exhibited a few times at the summer show. The first five years there was a steady increase in buyers and in sales for our company. Then, there seemed to be a plateau for a few years and now there's a steady decline in buyers for the last three years. Yet in the last five years, the cost in doing the CHA shows and being a member of CHA has steadily increased. In our first five years of exhibiting, we averaged in gross sales five times our expenses for doing the show. In the last five years our ratio of sales has dropped to only twice our show expenses.

Our company participates in other trade shows around the country, an example being the Hobby Expo shows. Their costs are more than 50% less than CHA show costs. Therefore, it appears that CHA, since the takeover of the summer show, is stretched a little thin and is not keeping up with the needs of the little companies who, I believe, make up more than 70% of the membership of CHA.

At this last show, we got a fair share of the actual buyers who showed up. Knowing that new products and, in our case, new stamps, bring in the sales, we had a nice offering of new images. We also had a new product, Stamps that Fly, which helped keep our booth busy. In this respect I agree with your comment that new products attract buyers, but only if there are actual buyers to sell to.

We send a newsletter monthly to the retail stores who purchase from us. We polled our customers to see if they would be attending CHA; most said they were not. The reason most gave was that it cost too much.

They also said they will wait till the show is closer to them like the summer CHA (which is really a six-or-seven-state regional), or when the winter CHA Show moves to a closer city.


Here are some ideas that I think could keep CHA revitalized for the future:

1. Buyer participation is the key; there needs to be a way to get them to come to CHA. The retail stores need to see what they are missing. Set up a way for them to see last year's CHA through a DVD or streaming video on the Internet. I am open for any new novel approach to get the buyers interested in going to the show.

2. Limit the amount of non-buyers in attendance per retail store.

3. Set up a "Buyers Only" day, maybe Sunday. That way they will get exclusive attention in the booth.

4. With the decline in exhibitors, reduce the cost of booth space by 30% to improve exhibitor attendance.

5. Have GES offer a package deal for 10' and 20' booths to include electricity, carpet, and tables with skirts, chairs, trash cans, and a move-in and move-out cost with drayage included for one price. Say, about 35% less than if ordered separately.

6. New product offering: Expand the Innovations area and offer electricity for companies who may want to show a video or movement of their product in their assigned space.

7. For ongoing information, send out quarterly reports on the new trends in crafts and hobbies, especially on the retail side. As a manufacturer, we are very busy with our customers and with building our products. Keeping up with the retail side of our business would be very helpful for CHA to report to its membership quarterly. This would be valuable information that would support the increasing dues that we are charged.

Right now is the time to be looking very carefully at how CHA can help this market grow and come back, and not follow the way of MemoryTrends.

(Note: Have any suggestions to improve the CHA show(s)? Email your thoughts to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. To contact Randy and Edna, visit www.cidesignstamps.com or email cidesigns@sbcglobal.net. To read previous "Vinny Da Vendor" entries, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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