Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Some Thoughts… After Visiting Classic Exhibits Distributors

February 3rd, 2017 COMMENTS

MelBlog

Southwest Ohio and Chicago

ValleyExpoIn January, I had the pleasure of visiting Classic and Eco-systems distributors in Southwest Ohio and Chicago. Reid Sherwood was my tag team partner in Ohio (Thanks Reid). In Chicago, I met up with Jen LaBruzza, our Regional Sales Manager. On our last two days, we were joined by Colleen Crawford from Eco-Systems Sustainable. By that point, we were a pretty formidable superhero team.

It’s been a few years since I had to pack a suitcase for two weeks. I’ll be on the road again later this month. Then you’ll see me at EXHIBITOR. Oddly enough, my wife has been very encouraging. Let’s just say my suitcase was partially packed before I’d even checked my departure date and time.

So, what did I hear from these distributors? Industry trends, of course, which Jen covered in her excellent video post last week (I was the dude holding the camera). Allow me to share my perspective, while not stepping on Jen’s toes.

blogheaderRentals

Rentals

Honestly, I was a little surprised by this topic. But, then again, my perception is tainted by Classic Rental Solutions, which has been crazy busy for several years. Most distributors have embraced rentals, using internal stock and external vendors such as CRS. However, not everyone sees rentals as a viable alternative to purchase. Don’t misunderstand me. I get it. If your only experience with rentals is portables or General Show Contractor kits, then rentals are a lesser option.

If I had to guess, I would say that 20-25% of larger inline and island booths at major shows are rentals — extrusion, modular wall, or custom. And it makes sense. A trade show exhibit is a marketing vehicle, and just like a car, we often want to try it before we buy it. And in many cases, we don’t want to buy it at all. Leasing makes more sense. I read recently that nearly 40% of all vehicles are now leased.

With that in mind, I would encourage you to discover if your client prefers to purchase or to rent. Give them the pros and cons of both options, then they can make the best decision for their budget and their marketing goals.

Bull vs Bear Market

This topic was all over the board. Some distributors had more business than they could handle. Others were busy, but not overwhelmed. Others were chasing orders. However, there were no “boo hoo’s” about business in general. For many of us, the Great Recession is still visible in the rear view mirror (objects in the mirror are closer than they appear).

What I heard was a variation of two themes — “My clients are getting what they need. Not necessary what they want.” OR “My clients are finally getting what they want. Not just what they need.”

If I had to guess, and this is truly a guess, it has everything to do with a client’s commitment to trade show marketing. IMHO — When you know what you want to be successful, you get what you want. When you don’t, then you get what you need. Yes, that’s oversimplification. Clearly, every business is different. But you are either passionate about trade show marketing… or you are not.

chargingstation9-16The Other

Pat yourself on the back. You are a lot smarter than you used to be. Which means, you no longer focus all your efforts on trade shows. Some distributors are heavily into events. Others are designing corporate environments. Still others make as much on graphics, if not more, than selling or serving exhibits. More and more are storing crates. Or handling show services for their clients. You are selling lightboxes in retail or corporate environments, and pitching charging stations for lobbies and events. The list goes on and on.

It’s refreshing. Because as your business evolves, so does ours. We now do more retail, corporate, and event work than ever before. And we love it. Better yet, it rarely follows the same seasonality as the trade show business. June and July are busier. There’s a boost of business in September and October. We all win. Well, except for November which continues to suck.

GraviteeBanner

Modular Wall Systems

This came up in every conversation with distributors. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had a case full of Gravitee Modular Wall panels and connectors. 😉 Modular walls are becoming the backbone of rental displays and many modular designs. We’re not naive. There are several systems in the market with a head start. Gravitee will have to earn your business largely through creative purchase designs and Classic Rental Solutions orders.

That said… Every distributor felt that Gravitee was the smartest, easiest, and best engineered modular wall system on the market. Now, that may sound like boasting and hyperbole, but I heard it again and again and again during the visits. No tools. OK. No loose parts. Really OK. No holes. Really, really OK.

We’ll win you over in time. We know that. We encourage you to see us at EXHIBITORLIVE.  We will be featuring Gravitee. And if you are especially nice, you just might get a special treat. But, I’ll save that surprise news once we’re a little closer to the show.

Kick ass my friends. Business is good!

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite
https://www.facebook.com/Classic-Exhibits-Inc-113601405319757


 

What You Missed at The Red Diamond Congress

August 3rd, 2013 1 COMMENT

Red Diamond CongressLast week, I attended the E2MA Red Diamond Congress in Chicago. Now, in my head I can hear you saying, “What the heck is the Red Diamond Congress (RDC) and how does it compare to the more famous White Diamond Festival? Or the regional Purple Diamond Jamboree.” I’ll explore those comparisons in a future white paper.

First, a little explanation — The E2MA, or the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association, was formed about two years ago when the Exhibitor Appointed Contractors Association (EACA) merged with the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA). Merged, the E2MA represents all stakeholders in the event and trade show community:  exhibitors, labor contractors, show managers, and suppliers. As you can imagine, it’s a brilliant concept where all parties depend on and interact with one another . . .  yet all have an ax to grind and incriminating information on the others. Basically, your typical dysfunctional family (i.e., every family). While other industry organizations represent a subset of these groups, and do so for a valid reason, E2MA is the only one that does a collective bear hug. Scary, wonderful fun.

McCormick Place Chicago

The Red Diamond Congress is the association’s annual three-day meeting. It was my first. Kevin Carty attended last year on behalf of Classic Exhibits. So what’s the RDC. It’s not a trade show like EXHIBITOR. Nor is it a meeting with colleagues held at a resort like EDPA Access. Instead, it’s in Chicago at McCormick Place. About 200+ attended, which meant it was nearly impossible not to meet everyone. That was two-thirds of the fun.

During those three days, I attended educational sessions (65%), listened to keynote speakers (10%), and ate, partied, and socialized (25%). The percentages may have been skewed higher or lower for others (and yes, I’m talking about you Chuck). One night I went to a “Dinner with Strangers.” Something I’ve never done at EXHIBITOR, but did at RDC. All together, including the keynote speakers and breakout sessions, there were 49 opportunities to learn about our industry. For example:

  • Integrating Social Media into Live Events
  • Branding for Exhibits and Events
  • Why Your RFP Isn’t Getting the Results You Want
  • International Must See Trends
  • Selecting the Right Trade Show
  • Basics of Lead Management
  • Does this Yarn Make My Carpet Look Fat (great session)

What made the session and speakers relevant and beneficial, at least to me, was the mixed audience. I don’t often get the chance to interact with show managers, association directors, union labor, and event managers. Their perspective on industry issues and trends was refreshing and often surprising. We often forget that they have frustrations too, ones that impact how we do business with them. What surprised me was that their frustrations mirrored mine:  drayage, excessive regulation, a poor understanding of exhibit marketing by CMO’s, and a lack of transparency and predictability on all levels. These were people who have devoted their lives to the exhibit and event industry. They have a passion for it and are sincere in their efforts to improve and reform it.

So, why weren’t you there? Seriously . . . Why Weren’t You There? Chicago is close and convenient. The price of the event and the rooms at the Hyatt were reasonable. The food was mostly included. Ditto the booze. And the education and the social events were very, very worthwhile. I’ll give you a pass this year — but not next. I strongly encourage you to attend the Red Diamond Congress. The educational sessions will benefit you. And when did you ever turn down an open bar with tasty appetizers?

2013 Red Diamond Congress

Picture 1 of 13

Next year . . . Chicago . . . McCormick Place . . . July . . . 3 Days . . . Red Diamond Congress. See you there.

My compliments to Jim Wurm, Executive Director of E2MA, and his team for all their hard work on this successful event.

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

Classic Exhibits has a NEW Chicago Rental Depot

July 16th, 2013 2 COMMENTS

CLASSIC HAS A CHICAGO RENTAL DEPOT
by Jim Shelman

Yes, you read that correctly! We’re excited to announce that we have added a rental depot in Chicago. We’ve teamed up with ELITeXPO to produce rentals at their corporate headquarters in Elgin, IL (right outside of Chicago). We’ll work with you on the sales end, and they’ll handle the fulfillment. And you’ll save big time on shipping costs!

Over the past several years, our rental division has grown at a rapid rate, and with this growth, we’ve expanded our capabilities and added an enormous amount of inventory. But one question keeps coming up, “When are you going to open an East Coast rental depot?”

This is something that we’ve been mulling for quite some time. Our main concern was duplicating our Portland production process so we could offer the same quality rentals elsewhere. When the opportunity presented itself to work with ELITeXPO, a company we respect and admire, we knew it was time to act.

Founded in 1987, ELITeXPO began as a carrier of computer hardware, software, and high tech materials. Then in 1990 transitioned into trade show materials. From that point, the trade show industry has been the focus of their company. And in 2009, they launched their Tradeshow Services Division, which has been a perfect compliment to their founding core. With over 26 years of experience, Dave Mihalik (President & CEO) understands our industry and recognized this as a great fit for his company. According to Dave, “We already had all of the key components in place to duplicate Portland’s production process, and we were in the process of expanding our warehouse space, so it was perfect timing on our end. We’re excited to already have several rental projects lined up and on our production schedule.”

Chuck and Dave in Portland

Dave and Chuck Michel (Vice President Tradeshow Services) recently spent time in Portland at our production facility to gain a full understanding of our production process and inventory management. A few weeks later, Jim Hayes (Executive Vice President/COO) flew out for more intensive training and planning, so he could implement our system with his staff at their facility. As a side note, I want to express that these are really good guys! It’s great to work with people you consider good friends. And that’s the type of relationship we have. Quite honestly, that’s the only reason we decided to move forward with this. We knew they were the right people/organization to team up with!

Chuck Michel jumped on the opportunity. “We’ve worked with Classic as a distributor for over four years, and with Jim on a ton of rental projects,” said Chuck. “We’ve always been impressed with their operation, quality, and high service level.  So when I heard that there was interest in setting up a rental depot for East Coast rentals, I was all over it.”

We’re also offering round trip delivery services and I & D supervision for local Chicago shows and events (Quoted on an individual project/event basis).

For those who may have reservations knowing that ELITeXPO is a fellow distributor, please don’t. This organization is a class act, and they have no interest in competing with you. It’s a small world in our industry, and we completely understand how important it is to honor your relationships with your clients. We’re in this for the long haul, not for short-term gain. Dave and Chuck ask that Classic distributors reach out and discuss any concerns you may have prior to any rental project. Dave added,”We could also partner with distributors to assist with shipping and logistics. And there are preview and storage opportunities in our second warehouse, which would work well if there are any concerns about coming to our main place of business. The bottom line is we want this to work for everyone!”

All Classic Rental sales will continue to be channeled through Exhibits Northwest in Portland (Exhibits Northwest is a division of Classic Exhibits, Inc.). Continue to contact me for designs and quotes at (503) 624-2905, or jshelman@exhibitsnw.com.

Classic’s Portland Rental Depot

Whether we ship from Portland or Chicago, you can count on the same high quality service. Every order gets staged and photographed before it leaves our dock. And we’ll continue to email setup diagrams and staging photos before shipping, so you can share them with your clients. And we’re always available in case you have questions.

UPDATED WHOLESALE RENTAL GALLERY

We just added a new feature to the Wholesale Rental Gallery that should help you gather pricing information for your clients. Along with the wholesale hardware and graphics rental price, we’ve added a “Retail Pricing Calculator” that shows our wholesale rental price, wholesale graphics price, and retail prices calculated at 40% and 50% margins. You simply click on the button underneath the wholesale price shown in each of the individual rental designs, and you’ll see the detailed pricing information.

We look forward to working with you! And for those who we haven’t worked with, please consider contacting us for your next rental project.

You have our full commitment to a quality experience from start to finish!

Jim Shelman
General Manger of Exhibits Northwest & Classic Rentals
jshelman@exhibits.com