Attend a Christmas Tradeshow?

Attend a Christmas Tradeshow?

Tradeshows.  Seems every industry has them.  I’ve been to more than I can count but are they worth the time and expense?  It depends.  Let’s focus on Christmas.

If you only think about Christmas in November and December, you don’t need to waste your time and go to a Christmas tradeshow.  Walking through the holiday aisles at the local big box store is fine.  You’ll learn everything you need to know in just a couple of minutes.  The only drawback is you’ll look like everyone else.

If you have random thoughts on decorating throughout the year and start getting excited about the upcoming holiday season during the summer, you’re not a typical decorator.  You take this seriously and should consider attending a Christmas tradeshow.

Contrary to popular belief, tradeshows are not about endless parties where companies wine/dine you to buy their products.  The shows are really about education and meeting others, including potential new vendors.

Why go to a tradeshow?  There are three fundamental reasons.

  1.  Learn.  You attend classes taught by the experts.
  2.  Socialize.  You meet people with the same interests and exchange ideas.
  3.  Visit vendors.  You see the latest from companies selling products.

Show producers realize they must carefully balance the education, socializing and vendor aspects of their event.  Each component is independent yet needs the others for success.  Much like a three legged stool, it’s great when all three legs are there but just about useless if you lose one.

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many tradeshows in the Christmas business.  The biggest is ChristmasWorld (christmasworld.messefrankfurt.com) in Germany, usually in late January.  Seems like an odd time but it makes sense for big retailers as they try to identify trends far enough in advance so they can order huge quantities of products for timely delivery.

There are other permanent events in the U.S.  These are designed specifically for resellers and typically held at year-round expo centers.  The AmericasMart in Atlanta and Dallas Market Center are a couple of good examples.  These venues are like never-ending tradeshow exhibits with a rotating focus on market niches, including Christmas.  I’ve been to a few and can never get used to people following me around with order books constantly suggestion how I needed five gross of black Christmas trees or a container of LED strings.

What if you aren’t a Christmas business but love decorating?  Luckily there are options, but you have to look hard for them.

My favorite event is PLUS/Christmas Expo (www.ChristmasExpo.com) because it is designed specifically for the decorator instead of the reseller, draws people from all around the world and has a good representation of vendors.  Other events have popped up over the years but they are more regional or city based.  Texas has some very good ones (www.lone-star-holidays.com) and then there’s the Chicagoland Christmas Conference (look for the Facebook page) as well as other miniPLUS events scattered around the country.  The trick is finding one that’s right for you.  My rule of thumb is you get what you pay for.

Full disclosure: I used to produce the PLUS (PlanetChristmas Lights Up Symposium)/ Christmas Expo tradeshow.  Not anymore.  Too much work.  Now I just go to shows, sometimes teach, always learn and enjoy seeing the latest while socializing with others of like-mind.

Many attendees build a family vacation around a Christmas tradeshow event.  While you’re learning all the latest decorating tricks and trends, the rest of the family is nearby having a great time doing all the touristy stuff.  Sounds like the perfect mix to me.

So… should you attend?  Travel expenses can become costly, not to mention your investment of time.

Here’s how I view Christmas tradeshows.  If you don’t want to look like everyone else during the holidays then you really need to attend one of these shows.  Listening to the experts can save countless hours of headaches.  Talking to other people with the same decorating passions can be so life affirming.  Seeing the latest from the vendors and establishing personal relationships with them is invaluable when you have an issue the day before your reveal.

The bottom line:  attend a Christmas tradeshow.  It’s worth the investment in so many ways.

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