Distributor attendees from across the industry traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, last week for The PPAI Expo 2015 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Despite shifting ahead a day to a Sunday-Thursday pattern, the industry’s largest and longest-running trade show drew strong crowds to its education and networking opportunities, and to the show floor.
The results of Expo point toward a strong year in 2015. More than 1,300 exhibiting companies in almost 3,200 booths filled the show floor, meeting with industry practitioners from around the country and abroad.
“The PPAI Expo once again met the highest expectations of our more than 20,000 exhibitor and attendee guests,” says PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. “Education sessions were at capacity and daily functions and events were well attended and energizing. The PPAI Expo is more than just a trade show. It is the industry’s premier event where tens of thousands of professionals come to learn, network, source product, recognize and reward professionalism, build relationships, have fun and start the year off right. This year’s Expo will be regarded as one of the most successful in the event’s long history.”
For exhibitors and attendees alike, Expo is an opportunity to connect in person with business partners and customers who are often just a voice on the other end of the line or a name in an email. Harvey Mackler, MAS, president of Tampa, Florida, supplier Gempire and a long-time Expo exhibitor, says, “We always like to find a reason to ‘touch’ a (prospective) customer. The PPAI Expo is the best forum, and this year brought us another wonderful opportunity—our social media footprint has increased substantially. As a result, many Facebook friends made it a point to learn more about us face-to-face. It was phenomenal for all involved.”
The Expo show floor has always had its surprises and delights. This year, strolling through the aisles uncovered the original Batmobile at exhibitor RMK Worldwide’s booth, and “Shark Tank” investor and FUBU founder Daymond John, among other discoveries. John was at Expo to help Dynamic Solutions Group, Inc. introduce its new product, Magic Cook.
The Product Pavilions and brand. displayed some of Expo’s most popular products. The pavilions brought together the show floor’s most exciting products, organized into categories—New Products, Green Products, Made In The USA and Express Ship—to make them easy to explore, while brand. remained Expo’s popular premium and incentive-focused product destination.
“I have actually been a member of PPAI for 19 years and while I read and keep touch with things overseas, I’ve never been to Expo before,” says Gill Thorpe, CEO of UK-based distributor The Sourcing Team. “I loved the education program and I came here in particular because I wanted to see its product safety aspect. I’ve made some good connections here and cemented connections I had before. The show itself has been excellent, particularly the product showcases. Overall, it’s been brilliant and demonstrates how huge the U.S. market is, compared to the UK market. And there have been some really good ideas and everyone here has been quite proactive and friendly.”
In a strategic alliance with PPAI, for the second year Recognition Professionals International (RPI), a nonprofit association focused on workforce recognition, co-located its annual conference with brand. Also in conjunction with Expo, SAGE hosted its annual SAGE Conference, a day-long event including a lineup of education sessions focused on the latest developments in SAGE products and services, industry trends, business guidance, personal training and more.
Bringing so much of the industry together, Expo is fertile ground for new business and new connections. “We are looking to build a database of suppliers in the U.S. to help support us in serving our customers’ needs,” says Alec Pettigrew, managing director of Asian Sourcing Link. “I’ve met some new friends and seen a lot of old friends. It’s a great place to see all of the movers and shakers in the industry and get a pulse of what’s going on in the U.S.”
Attendees have come to expect an extensive and in-depth education lineup at Expo, and this year’s offerings did not disappoint. They had more than 100 education sessions from which to choose and earn credits toward MAS or CAS certifications. Standing-room-only keynote sessions included author and television personality Troy Hazard, Trendhunters.com founder Jeremy Gutsche, and Golden Globe winner and “Arrested Development” star Jeffrey Tambor. PromoKitchen Chefs Mark Graham, co-founder of commonsku and CEO of RIGHTSLEEVE Marketing, Inc., and Bobby Lehew, CAS, chief branding officer for distributor ROBYN, hosted a Q&A session during Tuesday’s keynote luncheon with Jo-an Lantz, MAS, COO of distributor Geiger, and Marty Lott, owner and president of apparel supplier SanMar. Lantz and Lott shared their tips on managing stress, advice for someone new in the industry, their concerns looking ahead, and more.
Find more coverage of Expo in the PPAI Expo Daily digital edition, including award winners, and look for a full recap of The PPAI Expo 2015 in the March issue of PPB magazine.