Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for January 19th, 2013

2012 “State of the Company” Letter from Kevin Carty

January 19th, 2013 6 COMMENTS

State of the Company

Kevin Carty, Classic Exhibits Inc.

2012 is in the books! The Oregon Ducks are the Fiesta Bowl Champs, and the Mayans left for the golf course rather than finishing their calendar.

The basics. Q1 and Q2 were huge for Classic Exhibits with increases of 19% over 2011. Summer started slower than usual, but finished OK leaving us at a 15% increase through 3 quarters. Then Q4. Oh Q4, how strange you were. October was the second largest month of the year. November was flat. December started out steady, but the last two weeks, with the holidays falling on Tuesday, were mostly silent. In the end, we ended the year with an 11% increase over LY.

The Mix

2012 was a tale of two seasons with one common thread — iPad kiosks! iPad kiosks sold throughout 2012 in unheard of numbers thanks to you. We started with two models in February. That quickly exploded into more than 18 iPad solutions. Aside from Sacagawea, we’ve not seen a product take off and grow so fast.

MOD-1338 iPad Kiosk

But it was the MIX that was interesting. The first half of the year we sold kits. And a lot of them! Be it a 10 x 10 SEGUE, a 10 x 20 Sacagawea, or a 10 x 20 Visionary Designs. You couldn’t walk by the Set-up Area the first six months without seeing a sea of kits.

All the while, we were designing more custom island designs. Some based on older Classic designs that needed updating, but most from scratch by our talented internal team, Mike and Katina, and by two outside contract designers.

The result. In the final six months of the year, Design and Production have been busy building more custom island and inline exhibits. And Design has been especially busy designing new island projects for 2013 Q1 and Q2 shows. Just recently, we were reviewing the builds currently in Production and the ones slotted for late January. Custom Hybrid Inlines and Island Hybrids seem to be the lion share of what we we’re seeing.

Having said that, kits are still our bread and butter. Kits are projected to hold steady in the first six months. All this adds up to a great Q1 for us and for you.


Like 2011 and 2012, 2013 should be another growth year for our Retail build business. That is in large part due to your design teams reaching out into that segment and bringing these unique projects our direction. It’s been a great fit for our capabilities and a healthy layering to our normal trade show builds. This segment of our business, which gets processed and project managed through a different path than our trade show orders, follows a different cycle from our traditional business. This allows us to add capacity and volume without adding expenses. In other words, it’s a “win-win” for Classic and for our Distributors.

New Employees

Katina Rigall joined the Classic Design team in January of 2012. She has become a great face for the department while bringing exceptional design vision and talent.

Jeff Garrett joined the Classic Project Management staff in 2011 actually, but in 2012 moved from Set-up Instructions to a full-time Project Manager. The addition of Jeff’s personality and his attention to detail has given a great boost to an already exceptional team of PM’s at Classic Exhibits. To replace Jeff, we hired Cynthia Geddis, who has transitioned into that role seamlessly.

Jen LaBruzza joined Classic Exhibits in June 2012. She joined as the Western Regional Sales Manager. Her impact was felt immediately. Not just with in the network of distributors, but also internally at Classic. Her bright outlook and approach to business is refreshing, and her customers love her! But we all knew that would be the case.

Tony Bennett joined Classic Exhibits in 2012. Many of you worked with Tony in the past on Exhibit Design Search, but was on a contract basis. Somehow, Mel talked him into joining our crazy family permanently, and we are very grateful. I get comments from distributors weekly that Classic now has someone on staff to help with web-related needs. And Tony is a pro in that arena, especially when it comes to Exhibit Design Search and working with Classic distributors on their websites. It’s a service were proud to offer to Classic Distributors.

SKU (Shared Knowledge University)

Shared Knowledge University

Thanks to the 60 plus distributors who participated in onsite training at Classic Exhibits. We held two SKU sessions: one in April and a second one in September. SKU attendees were immersed in Classic Exhibits, Exhibits NW, ClassicMODUL and Eco-Systems Sustainable over a two-day period. The SKU program combines hands-on product training as well as classroom training.

We will host two SKU sessions in 2013. Please stay tuned for the dates and make plans to attend. Not only will you leave having a better sense for Classic and its family of companies, but you will also get to understand the true meaning of “Portlandia.” [Keep Portland Weird]

Custom House Partnerships

A big focus for us in 2012 was partnering with more Custom Houses as their inline, small island, rental and extrusion provider for their in-house clients. As in much of business, relationships are the key. Mel, Reid, Jen, and Jim Shelman did a great job forging new and reinforcing existing Custom Partners for Classic Exhibits this past year.

The Classic Town Calls were created in 2012 as a quarterly webinar to talk about the previous quarter and what to expect next quarter.

Kudos to Mel on this. The Town Calls are designed to be an hour long “checking in” from us to you and from you to us. It’s a really helpful way to connect off the show floor and out of the normal course of business and see what’s going on. Our goal is to provide nuggets of content that you will find useful selling Classic products and running your business in general. And, to get “immediate” feedback from you on trends and issues.

In addition to the Town Calls, Classic conducted educational webinars throughout the year on Hybrid Displays, New Designs Trends, Rental Trends, Exhibit Design Search Tricks and Tips, and Social Media.


ClassicMODUL expands yet again! The latest ClassicMODUL depot opened in August in St Louis, MO. The new operation provides not just raw metal access to builders in the Midwest and parts of the East, but also provides CNC bending like our NW facility! This is a HUGE addition for Tom Jones and his staff, giving them an even broader reach and capabilities.

ClassicMODUL also modified its Pricebook in 2012. If you have not taken the time to review the new prices, please do. In conjunction with having material in virtually every part of the USA (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West Coast), saving you shipping dollars, the prices of many extrusions and accessories dropped a bit as well. Contact Tom if you have any questions or projects you would like to compare against your existing provider of engineered aluminum extrusions.

Classic Rentals

Island Rental Exhibit

Jim Shelman and James Sharpe, along with their great staff, should take a bow for another strong year in the Rental Division. Their success reflects their willingness to take on new challenges and innovative designs that other suppliers reject as “non-rental.” We expect the Rental Division to continue its double-digit growth this year as more and more Classic Distributors turn to hybrid rentals as a viable and cost-effective solution for their clients.

Thanks guys for all your hard work

Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits

In 2012, Classic Exhibits acquired an even larger share in this great company. While all Marketing, Sales, General Management, and Accounting are in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Production and Project Management has shifted to our facility in Portland. Tim Hanley is the Project Management Lead onsite at Classic and another project manager has recently been added. We expect Eco-Systems Sustainable sales to continue to grow at a rapid pace.

Much of Eco-Systems prosperity has been the result of their innovative designs. They have a unique vision on hybrid displays, one very different from Classic. They added a new Director of Design, Lisa Koskela, in 2012. Her eye for design and creative sense is continuing to chart a great course for Eco-Systems along with Eric Albery’s focus on relationship sales. We are very excited and proud of our relationship with their group.


Classic participated in three major events in 2012:  EXHIBITOR, the inaugural E2MA Conference, and EDPA ACCESS.

EXHIBITOR Show was nothing short of spectacular. As a company, it was clearly our best presentation in 20 years. We showed off not just our inline creativity, but also our large scale island capability. Thanks to those who attended EXHIBITOR and stopped by to see us on the floor and at our hospitality suite. It was a pleasure seeing you and hearing your thoughts on the industry. Your input makes a big difference in how we plan our future.

The E2MA Conference was in July in Chicago. This was the first event for the new formed association, a marriage of the former TSEA and the EACA. Jim Wurm and his entire group did a terrific job of providing compelling content. But more importantly, they did a great job of listening and then taking what they heard and applying it to the association’s mission moving forward as evidenced in their recent publishing of “The Rising Costs of General Service Contractors Services” study. Very well done!

EDPA ACCESS. My favorite event in so many ways. I once again left ACCESS 2012 inspired by my peers and by the direction of our industry. I truly believe that there continues to be an “out with the old and in with the new” push in our industry which is much needed. And EDPA and all its members seem united in moving forward in a positive direction.

One more event that I would like to reflect on from 2012 . . .

On September 23, 2012 “The Club” rode . . .  Club 815 Powered by the EDPA Foundation. It was a motley crew of exhibit industry folks, and one stepdad (mine), who joined together to raise money for Mike Swartout, our Design Director at Classic Exhibits. And of course we were supported by you through your well wishes, prayers and donations. We raised a very large chunk of much needed money for Mike and his lovely wife Janet to offset their rising medical bills.

And yes, we rode up a several multi-mile hills with a steady 45 mph head wind with gusts up to 75 mph on occasion. While I have thanked all the men and women who rode with me, I want to thank you for making that event an opportunity to help out a family member in our industry. You did amazing work.

Onto 2013 and let’s get excited about it. The simple fact is that we are on a slow recovery from the recession, but we are recovering a bit at a time.

Thank you for your support of Classic Exhibits, ClassicMODUL, ExhibitsNW, Classic Rentals, and Eco-Systems. We could not do what we do or put food on our families plates without your support and trust in us daily. So on behalf of Classic Exhibits Inc., thank you for a great 2012!

Here’s to an exciting and profitable 2013 together!!!!

Kevin Carty
Vice President
Classic Exhibits Inc.