Gibsonton, FL - The annual IISF Trade Show and Extravaganza closed Saturday in a scramble of last minute buying and order taking. MCW had the opportunity to speak with many of the vendors at the show and generally, people were pleased with their experience. While traffic is not as high as it was a decade or more ago, those in attendance were serious about buying.
Jeff Swartz of Hitchhiker Manufacturing said that "traffic was good - especially buyer traffic". Swartz explained that his company had already sold most of their trailer slots for 2008 and were primarily making deals for 2009, although a couple of opportunities remained for 2008. Swartz said his business was about 30% show owners and 70% concessionaires and the show gave him a chance to meet and greet his customers in person as well as introduce himself to potential
Swartz's comments were representative of many of the vendors who attend the trade show. With technology changing in so many ways, telephones, internet websites, cheaper airfares etc, many vendors, especially high ticket-item manufacturers, are making sales all year round. Many vendors commented on the impossibility of delivering products for the season if the order is taken during the trade show but they still see the trade show as vital for introducing themselves to new customers, showing off new products, finalizing orders and plans on current orders and discussing future business.
A parallel might be drawn to the fair meetings. In the past, many carnivals would sign their fair contracts at the fair meetings. Times and technologies have changed over the years and now most contracts are not signed at fairs meetings but throughout the year. The fair meeting is still an excellent opportunity to make new contacts, renew current business and discuss promotions but less frequently is actual new business conducted at the fair meeting. The same may be true of the IISA show.
Theresa Rimes, secretary of the IISA, said attendance was "on par" with last year's show. She said one vendor, Don Stinson of Stinson's band organs, has been coming to the show for many, many years, Mr. Stinson has always seen the show as important to his business, getting his name and reputation out in the industry, but never really expecting a sale. This year, for the first time, Mr. Stinson sold a band organ at the trade show.
Don Stinson was not the only person who had some good fortune at the trade show this year. Paul Dell was announced as the winner of the 2007 Chevy Duramax dually in the raffle. David Brown of Brown's Amusements in AZ was the winner of the Gator. Proceeds from the raffle go to the Museum Building Fund.
There were also some winners among the trade show vendors and exhibitors. The annual "Best Of Show" award went to Bob's Space Racers, Inc. The "Rookie Of The Year" Award went to Oval Framecraft, Inc. "Most Improved" went to Triangle Poster Co. where Al Rosenberg was proudly displaying his award. "Most Impressive Exhibit" winner was Manley Toy Direct/Toy Network. Waymatic was the "Most Beautiful Outdoor" award winner and Peek-A-Boo Toys was the "Most Beautiful Indoor" award winner. "Most Unique" award winners were Lightuptoys.com (indoor) and Pro-Form Trailers (Outdoor). "Outstanding Outdoor" award was given to Fabbi Group, Inc. whose Vortex attraction certainly was an impressive sight. The "Outstanding Indoor" award was given to Chestnut Identity Apparel who was also awarded the "Outstanding Service Award" for their support of the show. Rimes said Chestnut "went above and beyond their duties in support of the trade show". Chestnut provided flag samples and bags for attendees, hat and shirts for show personnel as well as president Karen Arnold. "They did a terrific job for us", said Rimes.
As announced in an article earlier this week, the IISA will move the dates of the Extravaganza one week later next year to Feb. 10 - 14. Super Bowl XLIII will be held in Tampa on Feb. 1, 2009. Hotels, airplanes and rental cars will all be scarce and traffic congestion will be in abundance just as the show would have begun setting up and opening. Recognizing these difficulties, the club decided to move the event one week later.
Steve Ianni, vice-president of the IISA said he believed the date change will actually help attendance. "I'm excited about the change", said Ianni. "People will be set up in Tampa, Kissimmee, Naples and the other fairs in the area and they should have more time to get to the trade show", he added.
Ianni said many of the owners and concessionaires he spoke with were having a tough time getting locations at the fairs and running back and forth to the trade show during set up week. "People were popping in and out all week", he said.
In part two of our wrap-up article, we will take a look at vendors and what was bought and sold at the show. For the full run down, check back for part 2.
Click Here to view photos from the 2008 IISF Trade Show