The level of show-floor activity at last week’s PPAI Expo in Las Vegas was a testament to the fact that distributors are optimistic about their businesses.
Despite the recession, aisles were full and attendance was down less than 10 percent according to preliminary figures says PPAI President and CEO Steve Slagle, CAE. At the same time, the ratio of distributors to exhibitors was better than it’s been since 2007 and education sessions were at peak attendance. The Association has already started planning for next year’s PPAI Expo held in Las Vegas, January 10-14, 2011.
“This year I sensed a very positive attitude by members,” Slagle says. “Sales are not robust yet, but they’re seeing little signs of growth in orders for suppliers and interest by distributors.”
The distributor density, or the number of distributor companies compared to exhibitor companies, was better than in the past three years, says Darel Cook, PPAI director of expositions and meetings.
“For the supplier, that’s a benefit,” he says. “They see more distributors in their booths. For distributors, it meant more time to spend with each supplier.”
Attendance at PPAI’s education sessions was also at a record high this year with more than 15,000 attendees registered to attend one or more education sessions.
“Record attendance was a result of the rich and varied curriculum offered that was highly targeted to address key business issues our industry is facing today,” says Melissa Hendrick, PPAI director of professional development and business media.
PPAI Immediate Past Chair Sherri Lennarson, MAS, says she received “excellent feedback from members.”
“The PPAI Expo was the place to be to start 2010,” she says. “Suppliers were elated that distributors were coming to their booths with specific product requests.”
Laura Lee Pullara, director of new business development for Woodside, New York-based supplier Bulova (UPIC: BULO0001), says her company also had a positive experience at The Expo.
“This is probably the best show we’ve been to in quite a while,” says Pullara. “Attendance in the booth was up and there was serious intent with distributors of product-specific needs.”
Luke Campbell, president of Versailles, Missouri-based distributor CDI Screen Printing (UPIC: LUJ09427), says he was amazed at the energy of the show.
“With the economic downturn, I was afraid the tradeshow would be smaller and fewer people would be attending,” he says. “But it was business as usual.”
“Cautious optimism,” was the way Paul Christensen, president of Provo, Utah-based supplier Natural Trends, LLC (UPIC: NTRENDS) characterized The Expo.
“There was less uncertainty and a little more cautious optimism for 2010 than last year,” Christensen says. “Traffic was down just a little bit at our booth, but the quality was excellent. We had time to talk and engage with distributors.”
Distributors liked the advantage of more time with suppliers as well. “The show floor traffic was not as crowded as some previous years,” says Houston Hale, regional vice president at Sterling, Illinois-based distributor HALO/Lee Wayne Corp. (UPIC: LEEWAYNE). “This allowed me more time to spend talking with suppliers and getting more in-depth production knowledge. The quality of suppliers was also better this year.”
Joy Smith, MAS, owner and president of Torreon, New Mexico-based distributor Joy of Advertising (UPIC:JOYOFAD), agrees.
“Shows in the past were so jammed packed; I couldn’t visit with the suppliers,” she says. “This year at The Expo, I was able to connect more with suppliers.”
Smith says she saw the industry reinventing itself at The Expo with more companies expanding their services to offer full-service marketing for clients. “I saw the whole focus of the industry changing,” she says.
“I spent 2009 changing the thinking of my clients to see that we were actually marketing. I saw at the show that we’re all looking at ourselves in a more distinct way.”