Winter 2011
Tradeshow Time

A tradeshow is a perfect vehicle to hone your professional skills, make new contacts in the industry and refresh old ones.

As a specialty retail professional, attending a tradeshow can be an extremely valuable experience. This is your opportunity to meet face-to-face with retailers, manufacturers, specialty leasing managers and property managers to make new connections and deals; and to see new products in person and attend educational seminars.

While shows like the Specialty Retail Entrepreneur Expo & Conference (SPREE) offer all of these benefits and more, it can be difficult for some specialty professionals to justify the time away from work and the expense of attending a show.

Why attend

Whether you’re a retailer or a specialty leasing manager, finding new products for your location can be a time-consuming process. At a tradeshow, everything is under one roof and there are hundreds of new products for you to see, touch and try. Many new products launch at shows, offering you the opportunity to see the hottest products before anyone else. Even better, you can speak to the product’s representative and even sign deals right on the tradeshow floor, eliminating what typically could be hours of research and back-and-forth with manufacturers.

Debbie Lahti, the tradeshow director for SPREE, says that the show allows leasing managers to meet with prospective tenants from all over the country who could possibly fill multiple locations. “This takes away that other piece of the manager’s job of having to go out and find tenants—they’re literally coming to you at SPREE.”

Star Cumming, a consultant with Specialty Retail Solutions LLC, has worked in the specialty retail leasing industry for the past 13 years. Last year was her first time attending SPREE, where she represented two of her clients, worked a booth and also served as a speaker on a panel.

“It was a great event and worth every penny to attend. We’re all going through the same thing and dealing with the same challenges in this industry, so it’s nice to hear how other people solve certain problems,” she says.

Cumming, who helps guide manufacturers in the cart and kiosk industry, said the networking aspect of tradeshows is one of the best reasons for attending. “I love sharing my experie nces with people from all over. The networking events are just fun; you get to talk with your peers in the industry and it’s a casual time to talk with competitors that you often can’t find anywhere else. It’s also a great way to meet up with old colleagues.”

Make the most of your experience

To ensure your trip to a tradeshow is a productive one, do your research before attending. With many people to meet and sessions to attend, you’ll want to have a game plan to maximize your time. Most shows—including SPREE—will post a list of exhibitors in advance so you can research each company and decide whom you’ll want to check out once you’re there.

“Before going it’s a good idea to set up appointments with people, whether you’re a landlord, operator or manufacturer,” Cumming says. “You walk in and there’s hundreds of booths and you only have a few days. If you don’t have a plan, there’s simply not enough time to do it all.”

Cumming advises tradeshow attendees to set goals for each day of the show. If you’re not able to make an appointment with someone during the show, try to arrange an early morning coffee meeting or grab a drink after dinner. “Don’t limit yourself to the show’s hours,” Cumming says. “People are usually pretty flexible about meeting outside of the tradeshow floor.”

You’ll be meeting many people, so come prepared with plenty of business cards. Cumming suggests bringing a simple one-sheet flyer to hand out that summarizes who you are or what your product is about.

You should plan to come to the show and stay all day; don’t waste time going back and forth to your room to drop things off. Wear good shoes and don’t weigh yourself down with paperwork,” Cumming says. “If you have a booth, ask people if they want information mailed to them so they don’t have to carry it around all day.” Then get their possibly invaluable contact information.

Cumming suggests that mall professionals talk to everybody—even if you already have that product at your location. “Another operator might be better, or offer a better deal. You never know.”

She also recommends that out-of-town show attendees check out the local shopping scene. “This is a great way to see how the malls in a different area from where you live are doing—see what types of visuals and products they have.” From The Forum Shops at Caesars to Fashion Show Mall, SPREE attendees can take advantage of one of the busiest shopping areas in the country and bring home new ideas for their own businesses.

SPREE 2011

SPREE will return to Las Vegas this year for its biggest show to date from April 12-14 at The Sands Expo Center at the Venetian. SPREE, produced by Specialty Retail Report, is the world’s largest event for the specialty retail industry and welcomes attendees from around the globe for informative seminars, networking events and the opportunity to walk the tradeshow floor and see new products. Best of all, registration is free.

“This year there is the opportunity to see more products and exhibitors than ever before. You can’t go anywhere else where you have free education or free networking events with people in the specialty retail industry,” says Debbie Lahti, the show’s director.

International outlook

Lahti says this year attendees can expect a wealth of new and different offerings at the conference. One of the biggest changes is a new international focus.

“While specialty retail is huge in the United States, it’s really taking off in other countries as well,” she says. “We’re setting up several seminars that are internationally focused. The most exciting one is going to feature the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles and cover how to break into the Canadian specialty retail market.”

Other seminars will focus on importing and exporting, cultural/social differences from region to region, retail trends in Asia and Europe and a panel discussion on the global market.

Another addition will be the launch of the first ever Specialty Leasing Summit. The summit, which has an additional registration fee, is an intensive day-and-a-half educational program for leasing professionals that will take place before the SPREE show starts.

“In today’s world, leasing managers aren’t the only people out there looking for new tenants and products. Marketing directors and property managers are increasingly taking on these responsibilities as well,” Lahti says. “The summit will be a valuable training session for those new to the industry, and will serve as a refresher for older professionals.”

Lahti said a designation program for specialty leasing managers is also in the works. Any person who completes 36 credits of education would be able to receive a certificate and a designation that they’ve completed the program. The summit will give attendees 12 credits.

In addition to the educational and business opportunities, SPREE attendees can look forward to having a lot of fun, too. A welcome reception on Tuesday night will feature drinks and appetizers while the winners of SRR’s Hall of Fame are announced. Wednesday night will feature a party at the world-famous Madame Tussauds wax museum.

There also will be a charity golf tournament at Las Vegas National Golf Club on Monday, prior to the show’s start. All proceeds from the event will benefit Camp Soaring Eagle, a special camp for sick children.

What happens in vegas

From nightlife, dining, gaming and shows to shopping, spas and museums, Las Vegas has plenty of activities to keep SPREE attendees busy before and after the conference. Here are our top three things to do in Vegas:

Take in a show

Las Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world, and this year there are more options than ever. 
Viva Elvis, a new Cirque du Soleil show, pays homage to “The King” with elaborate acrobatics and dance routines set to his music. Sinatra fans can check out Sinatra Dance With Me, a lively new dance show at Wynn Las Vegas featuring some of Sinatra’s greatest hits. Also, The Blue Man Group continues to dazzle audiences at the Venetian nightly with comedy, music and theatrics. SPREE attendees can purchase special discounted Blue Man Group tickets by visiting the 
SPREE website.

Experience first-class dining

From trendy hotspots like Tao at the Venetian to posh restaurants like L’atelier de Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand, Las Vegas is one of the dining capitals of the world. “Over the years, Las Vegas has transformed itself into a destination where the most celebrated chefs choose to open restaurants and showcase the very best in fine dining. Along with our spectacular resorts and world-renowned entertainment, dining has grown into one of Las Vegas’ most important amenities,” says Jeremy Handel, spokesperson for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Explore the city’s museums

While Vegas is widely known as a gaming, entertainment and nightlife destination, it also has plenty of museums and cultural experiences as well. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art hosts exhibitions of the world’s premier art collections including pieces by Renoir, Degas and Picasso, and the Gallery at CityCenter showcases the work of renowned artist Dale Chihuly. For a taste of history, check out the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor to see actual artifacts from the ship and hear the stories of its passengers, or visit the Tropicana’s new Mob Experience to learn about the rise and fall of organized crime in Las Vegas.

Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for examiner.com.
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