What Did We Learn In Three And A Half Days?
Monday April 2nd, 2012 - 11:14AM
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So, what did we learn from three and a half days at the Home + Housewares Show?
That you can’t please everyone.
There are many who will continue to insist three days are plenty— that all the five hours tacked to the front of the show on Saturday afternoon accomplished was to shift its most productive period forward by a day, leaving Tuesday as a relative non-factor. They might have a point.
But Tuesday has always been a bit of a crapshoot for buyer attendance during the show’s three-day, Sunday-Tuesday format. As such, one could counter the extended format delivered an extra half a day of quality meeting time.
Nothing is set in stone, but early indications from the International Housewares Association are that the industry should prepare for the four-day show format to stick. Four-day schedules through the 2016 show are already posted on the association’s website (the 2013 show is set for March 2 to 5).
A big jump in the number of retail attendees at the show during the next few years is unlikely. The extra time was not created or needed to accommodate an unexpected rush of additional buyers. The four-day format all along has been touted by IHA as more time for retail buyers to work the show more effectively, particularly independent retailers and other buyers with responsibilities that encompass a wider portion of the show’s three-hall expanse at McCormick Place.
Many exhibitors confirmed the show’s traffic seemed more diffuse across its three and a half days. While they didn’t necessarily see more retailers, many said they got to spend more time with the retailers they saw.
Rationalization or justification? The difference often is subtle.
Starting the show on a Saturday wasn’t a detriment. Buyers answered the 12:30 p.m. Saturday bell in solid numbers (about 70% of those that attended on Sunday last year entered on Saturday this year, according to IHA). If anything, many exhibitors and retailers seemed ready for an even earlier Saturday start, including some exhibitors that took advantage of the chance to hold sales meetings in their booths that morning.
Making The Rounds
A nice bonus from the Saturday start: International buyers, who continue to drive the show’s overall traffic gains, were especially abundant and active on the first day.
Kitchenware-and-tableware-dominated McCormick South appeared to be the biggest beneficiary of the extra time independent retailers had to work the show. However, buying teams from several key national retailers were still making their rounds in all three halls on Tuesday morning.
An earlier close on Tuesday could be considered as a potential giveback to exhibitors, possibly helping them trim costs by sending some personnel home a hotel room night and a couple meals earlier.
As with all things new, it doesn’t just take time to get used to change. It also takes time to figure out how to adapt to and optimize that change.
The extended Home + Housewares Show won’t please everyone. As the IHA evaluates the data and feedback from what by most accounts was a successful show, its focus needs to stay on doing whatever it takes to please a good majority of everyone.
Dissecting what Ron Johnson got wrong during his brief, calamitous term at the helm of J.C. Penney is sure to be the focal point of retail strategy and tactics lessons for years to come. But Penney’s future could still hinge to some extent on what he got right.