Trends & Features

The importance of trade shows

I’ve always loved a trade show. There is a buzz, an optimism. New products to see, old friends to meet and a chance to gauge the current and future state of the industry.

Back in the 1990’s there seemed to be an endless stream of shows – Bournemouth, Birmingham, the summer and winter ISPOs,the global Super Show in the USA.

The number of brands was less and the customer base much bigger. More reps covered more customers and the opportunity to connect directly with the end consumer was through “traditional” marketing methods such as print.

Today, at a UK and Ireland level, Intersport and STAG still pursue a trade show strategy, there is no domestic show, and ISPO (certainly the European show) has settled on one date a year – albeit with over 2,800 exhibitors and 84,000 visitors in 2018.

Dead or alive?

Much has changed but are the fundamental elements behind a trade show still relevant today? Many would argue that trade shows are dying but it remains a fact that they are one of only two ways we marketers can get in front of our prospects and customers face-to-face. The other is a direct sales call, and according to Sales and Marketing International, we are making less direct sales calls today than we did five years ago. All other marketing-communications vehicles are indirect.

Whether you are a retailer or a supplier, there are many advantages to attending trade shows. While cost is of course an issue, since you typically will have to travel to attend these shows and pay for registration fees, there are many reasons to participate in trade shows;


New products, new ideas, new suppliers – shows allow you to connect personally and directly.


Gain knowledge and exposure to new trends, products and resources that are available for your business – whether it be as a retailer or as a supplier.

This is a great way to learn about what’s hot, what’s fading and what your company needs to have or do right now.


Stimulate new ideas and creative ways to support your business despite the economy, past seasons and more. Where you will gain this knowledge is endless – your competition at the show, your general experience at the show and even your participation at the show will make an impact.


Meet other suppliers, retailers and colleagues who you can lean on, learn from and possibly gain business from that you would not have had the chance to meet had you not attended that trade show.


Learn what your competition is up to without having to go to great lengths since their business information will be easily accessible. Ask yourself how do you compare to your competition and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to best support your business.


Generate leads for strategic alliances and most importantly, potential customers. Collect business cards, refer to the directory and use all other outlets provided to you during the show to create a list of contacts for your files – and your business outreach.


Participate in educational seminars, networking events and surveys that only take place at trade shows and will expose you to new people, new business and new ways of thinking for your business success.

These will also enable you to gain additional knowledge to the benefit of your clients and customers.


Get answers right away, whether from a vendor or a retailer, since trade shows allow for immediate communication and easy, accessible outlets of exposure for both vendors and retailers.


Organisations and their marketing departments are always looking for opportunities to expand their brand and build awareness.

Either as an attendee or as an exhibitor, there are numerous ways to get the brand in front of existing or new customers. Certainly as an exhibitor, there are methods of connecting the brand with the trade show visitors like booth design, booth placement, advertising and others. As an attendee, there are also ways to connect the brand and make it visible through wearing company attire, hosting a training session during the event, sponsoring an organisation and others


Nothing gives a business owner more energy than a good time while working to keep them motivated to want to work more!

Its part of my annual cycle now to attend relevant trade shows. These tend to occur at the end of a year and beginning of the next year which gives me a great opportunity to review what’s gone previously and what needs to be done going forward.

Its easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges that we face on a day to day basis, however a trade show can often help to re-boot and recharge ideas and assist in the development of future strategies.

I have several colleagues who have questioned whether they should, for example, attend ISPO.

Sure there are costs involved and it may not, ultimately, benefit their businesses. On the other hand, look at the list above. If any of these points resonate then go.

I’ll see you next year in the Hofbrauhaus!

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