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The recent announcement that GLM will co-locate the GourmetHousewares Show with the summer New York International Gift Fair beginning in August 2011, coupled with the pending arrival of the summer gift fair season, has brought the topic of trade shows to the fore once again.
For regular readers of this space you know where I stand. I am pro-trade show. I don’t advocate one show versus another but am a strong believer in the concept of trade shows in general. There is simply no more time or cost effective method of seeing myriad new products, identifying emerging trends or networking with suppliers and fellow retailers than a trade show.
Having said that, I continue to be surprised by the number of retailers I speak with who do not attend one or more of the industry’s housewares related events.
Perhaps these retailers have supernaturally active reps with superhuman ability to bring them as many new products as they would find at the average trade show. Perhaps these retailers are preternaturally attuned to shifting consumer lifestyle, color or product trends and can identify from the safety of their store the next “Hot” product. Or perhaps they are simply missing out.
It is not always easy for an independent store operator to attend trade shows. Staffing issues, time and money are always factors in the decision to leave the store and attend a show. And what could be more frustrating than working through those issues only to attend an event that is sparsely populated by key vendors, or worse yet, populated by vendors who have little interest or ability to service the independent’s needs.
There is a mutual obligation associated with the trade shows that frequently gets lost in discussions of “cost” and “timing.”
When shows are successful it is because their aisles are filled with retailers who are working with intent to buy product and build their business. Correspondingly, they are successful when exhibitor booths are filled with new and innovative products, not last year’s wares in a new color and not the same things that were shown at seven other previous events. There is a certain chicken-or-the-egg conundrum associated with trade show discussions. Without the retailers who wants to exhibit? Without key vendors and meaningful product, who will attend?
In reality, it is incumbent on both sides to make a mutual commitment. Vendors must show up with products and programs worthy of the audience, and retailers must show up at the very least with an open mind.
It is easy at a time when the economy remains uncertain, even for all the recent signs of improvement, to say it’s too expensive to attend or exhibit at one more trade show. No question it’s cheaper not to exhibit or not to attend. It’s also cheaper not to buy product to put on the shelves or not to pay for new molds to replace the old ones.
Building a successful store, a meaningful brand or an innovative product line is rarely the least expensive course or the easiest. Great achievement requires great effort.
The trade show landscape is undergoing significant change. The shift of the GourmetHousewares Show to New York City and to August timing may or may not be successful; only time will tell. New shows may emerge to warrant the attention of gourmethousewares stores, or perhaps not. What is certain is that readers of this publication have a say in the outcome. Both constituencies will vote with their dollars for the trade shows that will thrive in the coming years.
And as with any “election” you have an obligation to make an informed choice. And the best way to do that is get out of the store and attend the shows; that’s right plural, shows. Get a ticket, pack a bag and invest your time in attending a few of the shows most relevant to your business. Whichever ones you choose you are certain to see more new product than if you stayed in the store. You are certain to be exposed to more new ideas than had you stayed home. And you are very likely to develop at least one working relationship that will enhance your business going forward.
And for the vendors out there who are on the fence about this show, that show or no show at all. Feel free to stay home if you like, there are plenty of eager companies out there who’d be happy to gobble up the business that you’re leaving on the table.
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