The crowded winter trade show season culminated for many with the recent International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.
The commitment of many in the industry to support several trade shows throughout the year, when time and margin are at such a premium, validates the importance to vendors in an ultra-competitive arena to optimize face-time with potential retail customers.
It also underscores the importance of an industry coming together to create more valuable and more enticing trade marketplaces.
The collective effort and investment by vendors exhibiting at a show drives retailers and other visitors to the host city and to the exhibit floor. That is why it is patently unfair for vendors that don’t exhibit at or otherwise directly support a trade show— particularly the primary, all-encompassing industry event that is the Home + Housewares Show— to pull retail buyers from the show floor to offsite meetings.
This has been a problem during the Chicago Housewares Show for years. There is reason to believe offsite buyer meetings with non-exhibiting vendors were arranged last week. Some non-exhibitors, including TTI, HoMedics and Lifespan Brands, scheduled offsite media previews; and at least one non-exhibitor, O-Cedar, hosted an evening party during the show.
HomeWorld editors didn’t attend non-exhibitor previews and events. We were in Chicago because of the show, and we were there to cover the show. Even a 30-minute meeting in downtown Chicago can require a two-hour window. Leaving the show to meet a non-exhibitor is not a productive option. Beyond that, it’s just wrong.
The International Housewares Association has come out strongly against non-exhibitors that attempt to rustle buyers, media and other visitors who could and should be devoting their attention to the companies responsible for bringing everyone to Chicago in the first place: paying exhibitors.
Phil Brandl, IHA president and CEO, said retailers have been among the loudest in the call for IHA to enforce philosophy and policy discouraging support of non-exhibitors during the show. “Buyers don’t like being pulled off the show floor,” Brandl said. “They want the most productive format and allocation of their time.”
There are steps the IHA can take beyond its adamant exhibitor advocacy. These include advising hotels offering show-sanctioned room blocks to restrict bookings by non-exhibitors; and monitoring private car and bus services at McCormick Place that might be transporting visitors to offsite meetings.
The IHA can only do so much. Much of the burden falls on retailers to say “no” to offsite meetings with vendors piggybacking the show. It might even help persuade non-exhibitors to exhibit the next time.
Vendors looking to take advantage of the show without exhibiting take advantage of everyone who goes to Chicago because of and in support of the show. And that’s just wrong.