Trade Shows: Vendors, Retailers Go Lean

Trade show budgets took a hit in 2008, and even more industry players are expecting to cut back in the new year, according to an exclusive Footwear News poll.

Of the 251 retailers and vendors who responded to the survey, which was conducted online from Dec. 3-11, 57 percent of respondents said they spent less on shows this year, and 66 percent said they will trim allowances in 2009.

The poll showed WSA had the strongest turnout, with 75 percent of respondents reporting attendance. FFANY came in second place with 54 percent in attendance, while Magic roped in 27 percent. Sole Commerce had 7 percent attending. On the European front, 11 percent showed up at Micam, GDS had 9 percent, Bread & Butter got 6 percent, and only 2 percent shelled out for Premiere Classe in Paris.

“Regional shows are becoming more important,” said one vendor manager. And indeed, 34 percent reported attending “other” trade shows.

While some said they would continue their normal circuit in 2009, several indicated they would bring fewer staff members and/or occupy a smaller booth. Others expressed disappointment with low overall attendance, as well as a lack of senior management presence.

One sales rep offered another reason to bow out: “Duplication was the biggest reason to cut our trade show budget. So many shows have the same major players.”

In critical times, many industry execs are retooling their sales strategies. “Less business is being done at trade fairs,” said a vendor director, who added that more is happening through “regular visits with retailers.”

The president of another footwear company vowed to focus spending on “customer relationships with our most important clients.”

Still others showed concern about WSA’s timing and the high cost of Vegas. “WSA and FFANY in the same month is a disaster for the industry,” said a vendor/retail manager. “Business is tough — we do not need the additional expense.”

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