Who’s excited to spend the weekend in Oaks, Penn.? Yes, I’ll be attending the American Equestrian Trade Show association once again – booth 120, come say hello. After my “What’s Happening to Equestrian Trade Shows” article, I received plenty of feedback from business owners across the industry. Going into this week’s show, I thought I would share additional thoughts.

The way these buying trade shows are built (AETA, BETA, Spoga, etc.), they are centered 100% on sales. What makes a great show? Great sales. Bad show? Crappy sales. It’s straight math. There’s no other ‘experience’ or value extracted in the way those trade shows are designed right now. Which is fine, but it puts the onus on the event to deliver those transactions.

What needs to happen is three things: 1.) ensure as many buyers as possible show up. 2.) ensure they make purchases. Or if any of those variables decrease… 3.) make it more cost effective so the return on investment makes sense. These are all ‘duh, obvious’ but I’m stating them nonetheless. Here’s some more food for thought. 

What retailers can do:  Want new things? Visit the smaller companies.

I’m not a retailer but I’m a consumer. And the No.1 reason that will make me get into my car and drive to a specific store is the selection. It’s difficult for a small retailer to compete with the big outlets on price, so it’s counterintuitive to have a similar offering. The way to differentiate is with unique goods.

Therefore, it’s important for AETA to be the place to discover new brands and new products. The problem is that the new exhibitors, which bring that innovation, are usually the less busy booths. They come one year and never come again.

If you’re an independent retailer, spend time with the new companies. That’s the only way to ensure innovative brands keep coming. They risk having minimums you can afford and products equestrians won’t be able to find at your larger competitors.

What exhibitors can do: Give retailers a good reason to come to AETA.

Whether it’s a special deal, the unveiling of something new, or even product training sessions, exhibitors need to offer an incentive that buyers cannot get anywhere else.

  • Little plug: I’ll be there at booth 120 with Heels Down Media and will have a product line no one has ever seen before.

Here’s what AETA can do: 

1.) Provide clarity.

We need to stop the uncertainty of dates and whatnot. If it’s always been the second weekend of August, keep it the second weekend of August. At this point, I don’t think changing the location is going to make a significant difference in the return. Uncertainty is more detrimental than anything.

2.) Create a communication plan.

I was just informed last week that on Saturday at 5 p.m., there will be a panel of industry experts followed by a wine & cheese. *Insert surprise emojis.* It’s a great initiative but I would have missed it if I hadn’t been told last week.

Super awesome event should be advertised here.

When I booked my booth and paid for it months ago, I never received a confirmation but I kept getting emails prompting me to reserve a booth. Without clear communication, an event looks disorganized which doesn’t inspire confidence. The good news is that it’s not that hard to fix.

3.) Respect everyone’s time.

Walk around any trade show and you’ll see booths that are busy 5-10% of the time. Is there any value exhibitors could extract when they’re not busy? Do small businesses with one product really need to be there three days? I think we need to find creative solutions to maximize everyone’s time. As an organization, you cannot control buyers showing up or how much they are going to spend but you can control your event. The wasted time is what kills you.