The True Value Of Trade Shows

greg sleterAs an industry, we’ve long discussed trade shows, especially when we’re at, well, a trade show. We have discussed their pros and cons, the continual challenges of traveling to and from our home bases to trade shows and the quality of foot traffic.

Trade shows like a retail operation, a magazine or a product supplier need to constantly evolve. Some of this evolution can be subtle. At times, this evolution can be dramatic. Nowadays, it feels as if the need to evolve is moving faster than maybe ever before.

But in the end, is there still value in attending a trade show?

I would argue yes, especially in today’s digital age.

It’s no secret that we love our smartphones. Some of us, maybe too much. And the digital tools at our disposal such as e-mail and texting are great ways to easily communicate, but they have also diminished the importance of human interaction.

Personally, the best part of trade shows is the ability to reconnect with longtime (not old!) friends and make some new ones. The quality of information I’m able to get from a conversation with someone in their booth is better than even chatting with them on the phone.

For those reading this who are age 35 and under, yes, the phone is also used for vocal communication as well.

This year’s Home + Housewares Show, which is being renamed the Inspired Home Show (evolution), was a great event for me. More meetings, more great conversations, connecting with so many great people. And the bonus was seeing so much great new product.

The same could be said for my visit to the Spring New York Tabletop Market. The opportunity to touch and feel the colorful new collections at Forty One Madison, and see how they are merchandised, provides much-needed inspiration.

Imagine having the opportunity to see your favorite band in person, but turning down the tickets to watch them on YouTube. The experience is hardly the same.

Retailers thinking of not sending their teams of buyers, product developers and even in-store merchandisers to trade shows are missing an opportunity to share ideas and possibly plant the seeds of future inspiration to dazzle shoppers in their stores.

And with retailers looking to keep foot traffic strong, the need to dazzle is as important as ever.