For the world of cookware and bakeware, the new year brings trade shows. These shows, which date from the middle ages, bring together buyers and sellers and suppliers to the housewares industry. Vendors erect booths (as they are called in the U.S.) or stands (the European designation) and spend several days in hopes of enticing retail buyers to place an order for products. A lot of hard work and thought go into a productive show, whether one is a buyer or a seller. In today’s Internet savvy world, it would seem like a waste of time and money to continue such ancient ways of doing business. Yet even in the electronic industry, trade shows still have their place. All the Skyping, webhosted conference calls and similar electronic communications can’t replace the good old face to face meeting.
In February, one of the largest shows debuts in Frankfurt Germany. Ambiente has vendors for everything found in the home except large electric appliances. Similarly the International Housewares Association’s March show in Chicago brings some 75,000 folks to the Windy City for a four day show held at the massive McCormick Convention Center along Lake Michigan. Many consumers wonder what these shows are like, since typically they are not open to the public, but only what is termed “the trade.” Here are three things which might surprise you:
1. Everything you see at a trade show doesn’t end up in retail stores. Many producers prototype products, show them at the show and see if there’s any interest by retailers. Many “great” ideas don’t get picked up by retailers and die a quick death. When you see some of these samples you wonder, “What were they thinking?”
2. Very few actual orders are finalized at a trade show. These days programs are either already in place by the time the show opens or they are concluded following the show. That’s where modern communications has enabled faster agreements compared with a generation ago…or in some cases slower time frames. Retailers can wait ’til later in the year and gamble they will have a better handle on consumer demand before placing orders with producers. But, if you wait too late you run the risk of not being able to get the product in time. Retailers often play a gambling game. And they have lost in the past!
3. Working or attending a trade show is not a bed of roses. Those who don’t attend or work in a trade show imagine parties, lavish dinners, entertainment of customers and other exotica. The truth is after standing in a trade show booth on a concrete floor (even if it is covered with a thin carpet) for nine or ten hours, most people are ready for a quick dinner and an early bedtime. Larger retailers are governed by codes of ethics which make it difficult for them to be influenced by “wining and dining.”