Trade Show TalesBlog

Annual State of the Company Letter from Kevin Carty

January 19th, 2010 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP of Sales

Kevin Carty, VP of Sales

Thankfully, 2009 is in the rear view mirror. It was a rough but enlightening year.

How did Classic do in 2009? There’s both a short and a long answer. As you may recall, Classic Exhibits began developing a series of affordable hybrid exhibit solutions in 2008, starting with the Perfect 10 Portable Hybrid Display. In 2009, we added the Magellan Miracle, MOR, and Sacagawea. This push will continue in 2010 with the Segue, but more on that later. So the simple answer is . . . as the market downsized and orders for larger exhibits decreased, portable hybrids became our bread and butter. Thankfully, we were prepared to handle this shift with fresh designs and competitive prices.

Now, here’s the longer answer . . . .

Social Media
Social Media was the buzzword in 2009, and Classic wasn’t shy about using it to communicate with distributors and industry partners. I have to admit that I didn’t understand it at first, and I had no desire to “Tweet” or “Blog.” But I have found it to be effective and pretty fun, whether it’s our activity in Twitter, our new Classic Exhibits Group on LinkedIn, or our blog, Trade Show Tales.

Trade Show Tales, in particular, has been quite the hit. Whether we are writing about some of the industry’s most sensitive issues such as Bundling or just posting a whimsical article regarding “Trade Show Fashion Do’s and Don’ts,” the blog gives Classic, Classic Distributors, and Industry Partners another avenue in which to communicate and share ideas.


With a downturn in the economy comes less spending on new exhibits. The ClassicExhibits/Exhibits NW Rental division really stepped up in the past 12 months. Looking back at their creations from the past year, I am amazed at how many of those displays were rentals. It certainly explains why the rental division had such a banner year. Kudos to Jim Shelman, James Sharpe, and the rental crew for their amazing job in 2009.

Rental Exhibits from Classic

Rental Exhibits from Classic

For a peek at the rental designs from last year, go to Past Five Days and type “rentals” in the search tool.

Distributor and Partnership Development

You could feel the love in 2009. There was a palatable sense of “we are in this together, so let’s find ways to make it beneficial for us all . . . without sacrificing our margins.” For companies unwilling to “partner” with distributors or for those who didn’t have a history of reaching out to friends and colleagues, 2009 had to be a painful, lonely year. It was not the year or the market to go it alone.

Partnership development was not just with distributors. Classic spent a lot of time deepening its relationships with existing vendor partners as well as opening doors to new relationships. This manifested itself in the development of new “joint products”as well as partnering on larger inventory buys to help decrease raw costs, allowing us to continue to offer competitive pricing.

ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusions

The ClassicMODUL Division had a good year by deepening its reach into the exhibit building community and into several alternate “Non-Exhibit” related markets. The opening of the new East Coast Distribution facility in Connecticut made shipping metal to East Coast customers more cost effective. Now that the East Coast location has a full year under its belt, we are excited about the increased opportunities for ClassicMODUL.

Exhibit Design Search

Exhibit Design Search

Exhibit Design Search

Exhibit Design Search (EDS) was probably the most dynamic component within Classic in 2009. We are continuing to further refine this industry-leading search tool. New additions include, but are not limited to:

  • Even more set-up instructions to the existing kits
  • Additional graphic dimension sheets for new and existing kits
  • Adding Optima Graphics and Eco-systems Sustainable Displays which many of you sell along with Classic products
  • Photos, Photos and more Photos!! You are all familiar with P5D. Now the photos in P5D are linked to the kits in Exhibit Design Search
  • Five Set-up Animation Videos: Sacagawea, Magellan Miracle, Magellan MOR, Perfect 10, and Aero Overhead Hanging Signs
  • And many more are being added every day!

Finally, if you haven’t noticed, EDS has changed in the past week. We’ve reorganized the EDS Home Page and completely redesigned the Product Detail pages to make it much easier for you and your customers to navigate the site.

On to 2010 Trends

  1. The Hybrid Display market will continue to grow with a renewed interest in the portable, modular, and custom
    modular markets. But to get more than your fair share of that growth, you can’t simply rehash the same tired designs from the past 6-7 years. The designs must look fresh and address the
    functional and aesthetic requirements of the savvy cost-conscious exhibitor.
  2. Islands . . . we expect a slow comeback with significant downward pressure on prices. Similar to 2009, many of
    those who had Large Islands in the past will step down to a smaller island. While those that had Small Islands seem to be trending into multiple inlines instead.
  3. Inline sales will continue to grow rapidly with the significant spike being seen in the 10 x 20’s specifically.
  4. Counters/Workstation/Pedestals/Kiosks were strong in 2009 due to our deep product line. We expect exhibit components to thrive in 2010 as people look to upgrade their existing exhibits from last year or the year before, rather than creating a whole new structure.
  5. Much the same can be said for the use of A/V and Custom Lighting to breathe new life into existing displays. Both of which we plan to offer more of in 2010.
Sacagawea Portable Hybrid Display

Sacagawea Portable Hybrid Display

What’s New for 2010

  1. Earlier I mentioned Segue. Segue is the latest addition to the Visionary Designs line. It utilizes ClassicMODUL profiles, creative CNC Bending, backlighting and the SEG fabric technology. For those unfamiliar with SEG, it is an alternative to Velcro attachment of fabric graphics. SEG fabric graphics have a silicone tape sewn into the edge.
    This edge fits into the perimeter of the ClassicMODUL TSP profiles, giving you a very taut fabric graphic with minimal aluminum framing. It’s popular in Europe and ideal for retail signage and architectural arenas.
  2. Peek-A-Booth is coming soon! We already take photos of every exhibit before it ships, which lets your client see their display in our set-up area. The next logical step is to see the booth in real time via the Internet. Well, it’s coming. Within the next 60 days, you will have access to a password protected web site with two web cams. These web cams have pan and zoom functionality (up 100X) which will allow you to get a closer look at your client’s exhibit. Not to mention, if you log in at 5:00 pm PST every day, you can see the entire Classic staff perform the closing dance sequence from Slumdog Millionaire.
  3. Expect to see frequent additions to our Counters/Pedestals and
    Workstations/Kiosk Galleries. It’s what we do!
  4. Jim Shelman and his rental crew are never ones to sit back and relax. In 2010, you will see our Rental Gallery expand. Rentals are no longer second-class citizens in the exhibit world. They have moved to the forefront.
  5. We will be at EXHIBITOR Show in Vegas. We have a 20 x 30 island planned for that show. Next we will be at TS2 in Boston in July. In October, Reid and I will proudly be attending The Randy Smith Memorial Benefit. Finally, we will be in Florida for the EDPA ACCESS Annual meeting in December.
  6. Shows and Events are not the only place you can expect to see us in 2010. This year we are already planning a handful of GoToMeeting events that you will begin to hear more about soon. Does that mean we are not traveling? Not at all! Actually you will see us traveling even more this year for onsite visits and training seminars. Reid, Mel, and I plan to see as many of you as possible in 2010.
  7. More Social Media. While we are already active on that front, we plan to expand our presence on LinkedIn. If you have not joined the Classic Exhibits LinkedIn Group, I invite you to do so soon. Our LinkedIn group and Classic’s Blog have become our primary vehicles for communicating product updates, company news, and even
  8. Last but not least . . . Creative and Valuable Promotions. You will see several in 2010! One will be a contest involving finding “Reid Sherwood’s Head” again! It’s almost complete. Expect to see the e-broadcast later this week for a chance to win a $150 Best Buy gift certificate.

In Closing

I want to personally thank you for your continued dedication as a Classic Exhibits Partner, for your interest in making Classic Exhibits products better, and for helping make Classic Exhibits Inc. a better company. When we “re-branded” Classic about 5-6 years ago under the theme of Shared Success, it was not just a tagline.  Your Success means our Success. So
thanks again for everything!

Lastly, to the family of employees I have the great fortune of working with each and every day which includes Classic Exhibits, Exhibits NW Portland, Exhibits NW Seattle, and ClassicMODUL, thank you for your continued dedication, hard work, and friendship. I always tell people how “different” of a place this is to work. It’s not just a “job,” and you are the reason for that.

Here’s to a prosperous 2010!

–Kevin Carty

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