Where We Show our Best – A 30 Year Retrospective
Trade shows are where we grew up. We started in 1982 selling our wares at Craft shows and Farmers Markets leading up to the holidays, an opportunity to meet our customers. After about 3 years, as our hobby grew into a cottage industry, we started to take our products to trade shows to get some wholesale business. Back in the mid 80’s, in Canada more than the United States, there was really only two choices of markets for our products. Grocery stores which really did not understand or appreciate Specialty Food back then or Gift stores which had an assortment of everything, from picture frames, to Candles, lots of decorative items, but very little, if any, food. But they did appreciate Handmade, Crafts and Artisan products which described our products perfectly. So from the beginning, gift packaging became a key element. Our products always had to stand out in the little cluttered gift stores and especially at the Gift Trade shows which featured literally hundreds of other exhibitors each of whom was competing with us for the limited shelf space in those tiny little gift stores.
At first our trade show booths were very modest just a single 10’ x 10’ homemade booth packed in the back of a trailer pulled behind our family station wagon, filled with antique furniture from our home.
As time went on our homemade booths became more elaborate we won the best Booth 1-3 booths for this one. We built a complete store front 30 feet long, complete with bay windows, on a painted cobblestone street we built 2 full size Market Carts.
Our booth designs became more and more elaborate. Always focusing on our name ‘Village’ we built complete streets of stores with clock towers, bay windows, bow windows, archways & doors. During that period at the CGTA (Canadian Gift and Tablewares Association) show in Toronto, we won the ‘Alan J Bowne’ Trophy for Best Booth in the show 3 times, a record that no one has beaten to this day.
As our product line got bigger as our business grew, the number of shows we exhibited in grew, the size of our booths grew. We exhibited in every gift show in Canada each season Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, we had our traveling booths stored strategically across the country. In the United states or business began to grow too, we exhibited in gift shows in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta. ‘I remember one year I counted up 110 days on the road away from home at trade shows’ said Mike.
More recently the emphasis on marketing and trade shows has changed, many of the shows have closed, there are less shows, buyers are more cautious with their budgets, they travel to less shows, they take less staff with them, they don’t stay as long. So we have less shows for less days, we are more focused on the product and catering to the limited time buyers have to spend.
Some of our most important shows are now in the USA especially the Specialty food shows, we get to meet some of our best Canadian Specialty Food stores at shows in New York and San Francisco, they travel to find the best, we have to be there.
Shows today are an opportunity to showcase our new products, to sample them and to share display ideas.