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Making sense of show dates

Reps on the road

Ed Brookes -- Casual Living, June 1, 2009

If you have it, they will come ... well, maybe they will and maybe they won't. I am speaking of the recent announcement of the Casual Furniture Industry's show schedule for the next few years. I was very surprised to read that the schedule includes the September show plus the July premarket. The very strong rumor, if I remember correctly, at last year's show was that we would finally decide on one longer show. I guess business got so good over the last 12 months that two shows are needed.

As an independent sales representative, I want to be in front of my dealers as often as possible and need to attend as many trade shows as necessary to accomplish this. The question is: How many trade shows are totally necessary? The ICFA seems to think two short shows two months apart are better than one show of reasonable length. I disagree.

The history of the premarket is well documented. Starting with individual manufacturer shows, it has since morphed into a sanctioned event. I have heard dealers explain July is good because they get to see products early and come back in September after all of the tweaks are made. If that be the case, this is some pricey market research. I remember when we had one official show and it seemed to work just fine.

I have spoken to all of my dealers to set my plans and it is very disheartening the responses I am getting. Some are coming in July but not in September. Some are not coming in July and only in September. A few are going to both shows but are traveling with less people for each show. The most interesting feedback has been that some reps are telling my dealers not to come because their factories are holding off on new product introductions. The one constant response I am getting is surprise and disagreement with the published schedule. I honestly have not found a dealer who likes the idea.

I am a small business owner as are all of my dealers. In these trying times we are all struggling to run our organizations as efficiently as possible and not waste a single penny. These shows are very expensive. Not only are we asking our dealers to spend additional money, but more importantly we are expecting them to leave their businesses twice. This seems somewhat arrogant when we know most of our dealers have cut back to bare minimum staffs and are nervous as heck about business even when they are on site.

The Merchandise Mart makes out as does the city of Chicago, but for the life of me I do not see how these two shows make sense at the present time.

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