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Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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What Is the Future for Trade Shows?

Surely they will change but how?

by Staff Report (February 15, 2010)

(Note: The Feb. 1 issue of CLN included a commentary questioning the long-term viability of trade shows as they exist today. Below are some of the readers' responses.)

A Virtual Trade Show

The Needlework Show (http://needleshow.com) debuted in 2001. We received a LOT of negativity and complaints that first year. So many people in the industry were "threatened" by the Internet and hoped, I think, that if they ignored it, it'd go away.

Essentially, we've tried to structure the show as much like a "physical" show as possible. Each vendor has a "booth" with up to 30 products displayed. Each layout is the same, but there's a lot of flexibility within the programming parameters. Some vendors choose to use their page for advertising only; others put a lot of detail descriptions with each product; and others simply show pictures and that's it. But because of the consistency between pages, it's very easy for viewers to navigate the show and place orders.

We also try to incorporate some "fun" features into the show: door prizes, puzzles, games, complimentary patterns. We also have the advantage, unlike physical shows, of being able to include the consumer in the show with "general viewing" pages. These pages don't show any of the wholesale information provided during the regular show, but they link back to the exhibitor's website and provide a great advertising resource throughout the year.

To see vendor pages from last year, visit http://needleshow.com/cgi-bin/2009.pl.

Of course, the show can't compete with the "face-to-face" interaction that is provided in a physical show, and we lose out on some of the advantages of seeing a model in person, but considering the ease of the show and the economics of it, I'm really surprised that someone hasn't tried to "copy" it yet.

When we first started in 2001, the show had about $10,000 in sales. Last year, each show had over $100K in sales. We've grown from having a "regular" server, to now needing a dedicated one to handle the traffic from the show. I hope/expect that this trend will continue. Cindy Ward

A Vendor's Request

I was happy to see your article on the future of trade shows. I have been trying to tell TNNA that they need to add one virtual trade show per year to their trade show offering. Why have I been preaching this? Because as an exhibitor, I know that only approximately 20-25% of all knitting shop owners attend the physical shows that are conducted each year. That means that 75 - 80% do not attend. In fact, when I look at a list of my largest customers, very few if any attend these shows.

The reasons they do not attend are many: too busy, too expensive, too much time required, away from the shop for too long, intimidating, etc.

We could, as an industry, get to many more wholesale customers by offering them a virtual show. Instead of only having only 20-25% of the industry's retailers participate in the trade show, we could double or triple that participation rate. This would expose more of the shop owners to "new ideas" and "new products" in a more timely manner. It would also increase the exhibitors' potential for generating revenue making trade shows more productive.

I could envision various types of virtual trade show environments. For example, a virtual trade show could run concurrently with the actual show so that all of the prep work down by exhibitors could also be presented to the virtual attendees (those that decided not to physically attend). It is also possible to run a virtual trade show at a period of time between the physical shows.

Finally, the virtual trade show could also run perpetually where a shop owner could log into a site that had all of the exhibitors' virtual booths online all the time. This is different than the exhibitor's website because it would be positioned inside the virtual trade show where the attendee could view many booths at the same virtual venue.

I see the industry's reluctance to embrace the concept of virtual trade shows in a manner similar to what we all saw in the 1990's when the Internet was coming up. Businesses said the Internet would never be something that they would use. Ironically, now they could not function without it.

We need to pressure TNNA and others to consider the use and role of virtual trade shows in supplementing the standard trade show venues. As exhibitors, retailers, and even the sponsoring organizations themselves, see just how successful and efficient that virtual trade shows can be, they will come to accept them which will be ultimately good for everyone in our industry. Including all of our retail customers. Bob Shroyer, Nancy's Knit Knacks

Hotel Shows

We limit ourselves to [TNNA's] Nashville and St. Charles hotel shows. This venue remains the best cost/retailer exposure for us. We see no marketing or financial benefit to participating in convention-style shows. Just aren't enough existing or new retailers to justify the expense incurred at such shows.

We've monitored the on-line needlework shows. While they show some measure of success, we believe that they will remain for the foreseeable future a side venue at best. From a time and efficiency (and probably $) standpoints, we remain convinced that the best approach remains face-to-face exposure in a downsized show environment. Of course, companies will start producing videos and uploading them for their customers to view. Our thought is that the notion of a retailer sitting at his/her computer to view perhaps hundreds of videos to replace a trade show is not realistic. Something terribly plastic about that scenario!

Our 2! Hate to see us disconnect more from our customer base." John Caldera, Just Nan

High Touch

This is still a "high touch" business. Michaels may be able to see/buy online, but their poor buying habits and less-than-inspirational presentations to consumers ("Oh that's 50% off, but what is it, Ma, and what the heck do I do with it?") is the reason we can stay in business and thrive with them at our front and back doors.

Much of our inspirations come from our ability to touch, feel, and talk about it at our trade shows. Did you see the Vintaj booth [at the CHA winter show]? 20-24 people at the demo counter all day, every day, just pounding antique-looking brass with hammers. Ask them if they would have sold that product if they hadn't gotten those hammers in people's hands." Bob Ferguson, Ferguson Merchandising

(Note: Want to add to the conversation? Email your thoughts to CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)

xxx

 

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