The Inaugural SAGE Show Gets Off To A Strong Start

SAGE Show attendees visit during the opening reception.

Exhibitors and distributors from around the country gathered last week at the Fort Worth Convention Center for the inaugural SAGE Show and Education Day. The event, which ran February 26-28, replaced the 22-year-old MAPPS by SAGE show, traditionally held in late summer or early fall in the Dallas area.

“We changed everything,” says David Natinsky, CAS, SAGE president. “It’s a new location and venue, it’s a three-day show versus a single-day show, we’ve added an end-buyer element and we’re partnering with PPAI to bring in the education and to help sell the show. “From our standpoint, it’s met our expectations and we’ve received really positive feedback from our exhibitors and attendees. We’re devoted and dedicated to it; it’s going to be here for a while, so it’s only going to grow and get bigger.”

The SAGE Show began with an education program, produced by PPAI, featuring more than a dozen courses, while the SAGE Conference ran alongside the education sessions, offering a full day’s lineup of SAGE-based courses. And on Wednesday morning, Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group, author, real estate contributor to NBC’s “Today Show” and panelist on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” delivered a keynote presentation “How To Build A Business – Using Innovation, Branding, Leadership And Guts.”

Debbie Mahoney, vice president of SACS&BOXES2 (UPIC: SACBOX) in St. Joseph, Missouri, exhibited at the MAPPS show a couple of years ago and came back this year and was glad she did. “Fort Worth is a great venue, it’s so clean and everyone is so nice,” she said. “And it’s reasonable to exhibit here. We got to our booth and there were two tables here, so I was able to cancel my counter-height table, which saved me $300. We tied the education in and it felt like a PPAI show. My overriding point is we have so many options for shows, and we have to spend our dollars where they will matter the most. This was a great option, and I’m so glad we did it.”

Barbara Corcoran, the SAGE Show's keynote speaker, visits with exhibitors on the tradeshow floor ahead of the show's opening.

The distributor-only tradeshow floor opened on Wednesday with more than 270 exhibitors. The range of products and companies on display drew attendees from 27 states, from California to Maine and points in between, as well as distributors from Mexico and Canada.

“We’ve seen a lot of people from outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” says Natinsky, “which is a great start to this show, considering it was envisioned as a central U.S. show. If you’re a distributor and you’re going to take the time to fly down to the show, you’re devoted and dedicated. These people may or may not attend The Expo or Expo East—our goal is to serve the market in the center. People are seeing this show as a national show and not a regional show.”

Evan Krofchick, MAS+, president of Artmetal Promotional Products (UPIC: ARTMETAL) in Toronto, Canada, was a first-time exhibitor. “We’ve never done the MAPPS show before but saw PPAI was getting involved and thought this would be a good opportunity to show our products here. The people that have come by have spent time with us and I’m quite happy so far.”

One distributor who traveled a long way to attend the show was Howard Aston, president of OCM Promotional (UPIC: knight2) in Southfield, Michigan. Spotted at the Thursday morning education program, he explained that the show appealed to him because it wasn’t as large at The PPAI Expo but had similar quality components. He appreciated being able to cover the entire show floor within a couple of days—and partake in the array of educational workshops available as well.

The final day of the SAGE Show tradeshow was open to distributors’ invited guests. David McBee, president of DLM Branded Promotions, LLC (UPIC: natlmktg) in Richardson, Texas, walked the show on Wednesday and brought his clients in on Thursday. “This is the one opportunity where a client can be amazed with all of the products. This is my first show with a buyer component—so far, so good.”

His three buyers who accompanied him on the show floor were equally impressed. “We market directly to high school students, so I’m looking for cool things they might be interested in purchasing that might have a two-to-three-year lifespan, because we are looking for a future date two to three years out. This is just a starting point to get some ideas going,” said one buyer. Another chimed in, “We’ve been here five minutes and she’s already come up with 20 different ideas. This was so worth it. My distributor can see what I’m looking at and what I might be interested in. We drove 300 miles to be here. David scouted the show yesterday and knew what he wanted to show us.”

Kerri Gorman, CAS, vice president of Gorman Foy, Inc. (UPIC: gormfoy) in Plano, Texas, brought clients from a local service company to tour the show. Seeing so many promotional products choices reinforced the medium’s potential for her clients. “Getting our name out there on something that a potential customer or existing customer can use is something we really believe in doing,” the buyer told PPB Newslink.

Phyllis Catton, president of distributor Fluff, Inc. (UPIC: Fluffy) in Southlake, Texas, who was accompanied by her client of eight years, explained what brought her to the show. “I love the idea of bringing clients to the show because the exhibits give a bird’s-eye view of what our industry is all about. It’s impossible to show our clients 750,000 items that can be imprinted. I try to come to shows because there’s always something new—it keeps us up to date. In addition to the products, it makes a difference as to how you place the logo on the product. I like to do something different—that’s part of the professionalism of the industry. And, I like to find creative products. I probably take more time than I should, but it’s important to me.”

Her client, who works in the title industry, added, “I think it’s a value to have someone like Phyllis, who knows promotional products. In comparison to buying online, there’s a huge difference in what you are getting. As someone who is not an expert [in buying promotional products], you don’t know what to look for.”

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