One word describes the recent ASD Las Vegas show: “Fantastic” says Karalynn Sprouse, executive vice president of merchandise group and international sourcing at Emerald Expositions. This August many of their legacy exhibitors reported a much stronger August versus 2013 and the show continued to be one of the strongest in order writing in the industry.
As the show kicked off attendance was a concern due to uncharacteristically wet conditions. Flash flooding delayed flights and temporarily closed the I-15. “We started out a little lighter than expected on verified attendance but we saw more new stores in attendance, which was very exciting and we were about 2 percent ahead of last year with our VIP buyer base.”
Emerald recently invested in a full time attendee development team and it showed, particularly in their international attendee development. “We have several bi-lingual attendee development people on staff full time, working directly with buyers from Latin America and we saw the results of this with an uptick from these regions at this event,” explains Sprouse. Regions included Mexico, Honduras and Panama.
This season, ASD conducted an extensive study with an outside firm to verify what they must do to improve the overall show experience both for attendees and exhibiting companies. Out of that study, they found that signage was an issue. “We tripled our signage and everyone noticed and appreciated that.” In addition, they launched a business matchmaking program, which was already launched last season in SourceDirect. “When an attendee is looking for a particular product category or new company there are people they can speak to directly on the show floor that can even walk them to that exhibitors booth. We will continue to expand these services year round and will take a more consultative approach with our sales and marketing team.”
To additionally help connect buyers and sellers as quickly as possible ASD will launch an app for 2015 in response for the need to better navigate the show floor. “The show has been known in the past to be a ‘treasure hunt’ and buyers still want that treasure that they only have in their store, but they don’t have the time that they had in year’s past to go from booth to booth. So, that’s our main goal now to connect buyers and sellers more quickly and more frequently,” notes Sprouse.
Independent Retailer Conference
The second edition of the Independent Retailer Conference with Nicole Reyhle was well attended according to Sprouse. This year, sponsor, The Six Degrees Organization, developed videos that small independent retailers could customize and use to help promote independent retailers in the U.S. On the education front, for the first time ASD offered pre-show education for new exhibiting companies teaching them how to prepare, how to show up and how to follow up after show. In addition, they hired a Brand Ambassador, Mercedes Gonzales, to do a first time attendee session on site both in English and Spanish.
“Mercedes represents over 225 companies that she buys for and has key connections with stores in Central and South America and Mexico and will work for our brand year around educating these stores on not only why they should attend the ASD events but how to make the most of their shopping experience at the shows,” says Sprouse.
Emerging and growing categories
Value & variety, as well as gift & home continued to be key growth areas for ASD. They also saw extensive growth in convenience store and smoke. In style and beauty, affordable apparel and footwear have grown in the past several seasons. “These continue to be our largest growth categories, which is a great compliment to the vast array of fashion accessories the show offers,” remarks Sprouse. “We launched a ‘hand crafted’ area in jewelry and these exhibitors did extremely well. Cash & carry is always a hit with over 500 companies participating and we have plans to launch into new categories outside of jewelry to continue to give buyers more reasons to shop this area in the future.”
The next ASD Las Vegas event will be held March 1-4, 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
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