Pet Product News Editorial Blog:
Friday, July 31, 2009
By Patrick Donston
Store Owner, Absolutely Fish
Does anyone out there go to trade shows anymore? I was wondering because the ones I've traveled to in the past year had lower attendance than in previous years. Not just buyers were missing; the aquatic exhibitors also had less of a presence than in the booming years.
I realize the economy doesn't make it easy for us to generate expendable income. Money is tight for most businesses (small and large), thus making it difficult to justify trade-show expenses. I don't know about you, but in times like these, I want to get to as many shows as I can. I really don't look at it as expendable income as much as networking income or investment income.
Exhibitors are making less of a presence, arguing the expense per orders taken doesn't warrant the cost. Not all exhibitors look at it that way, though. Some believe making a presence, talking with customers, and building relationships are the intangibles that carry them throughout the year. A smart business understands it's not how much you sell during a sale; it's the relationships you build during the sale that carry you forward.
I want to see as many manufacturers as I can, and there is usually no better way to do that than at a trade show. I want to meet new people and passionate manufacturers, and see products that excite me. I want to talk with colleagues, go to a seminar (or two) and learn something I can take back to my store.
Look, we all know the aquatic industry is in a real rut right now—it’s probably been harder hit than other sectors of our industry. We need to be together, in person, learning, networking, bouncing ideas off each other and buying at trade-show prices. The shop owners and managers I've met at the shows seem to agree with me. When it's clicking, it's wonderful. While walking around shows, I frequently hear from shop owners, "I'm so glad we came, we needed this show, I have learned a lot."
Trade shows can reenergize you, help you refocus and educate you. When I'm on the plane home, I usually write a page or two on everything I've learned--from new ideas to products to business practices. I can't wait to go over the information with my management team. I always go back to the shop with a "pumped' up" feeling that everything's going to be okay. In the U.S., there are four major shows—one each in the West, Midwest, South and East. I urge all of you to attend one. If you do it right, you'll be glad you did.
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