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Summer 2010 SPREE Vegas 2010: One for the Record Books

This year’s SPREE was a spectacular success. The annual tradeshow for the specialty retail industry recorded a 30% increase in attendee traffic and nearly sold out of booth space. Attendees created a positive energy on the show floor that clearly signaled good things ahead for specialty retail and the overall economy.

Last year was Dawn Spisak’s first year at SPREE. Her company, Name in the Frame, which helps retailers customize a wide variety of prints—including popular sports themes—had a great show and Spisak was delighted by the leads she went home with.

This year was no different. “Of all the tradeshows, SPREE has always been the best one for us,” Spisak said, reporting that the sixth annual Specialty Retail Entrepreneur Expo had once again proved to be a great one for the company.

SPREE participants dealt a winning hand

Spisak was just one of many at SPREE who were delighted with the show’s energy and many qualified leads. Specialty Retail Report’s SPREE attracted more than 1,500 qualified attendees as they shopped for new product ideas to add sizzle to existing specialty retail businesses, or to rekindle relationships with long-term vendors. In fact SPREE is becoming a network focal point for those in the know in specialty retail.

Held over three days from April 13-15 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, SPREE recorded more than a 50% rise in number of exhibitors from last year. The thousands of attendees who participated marked a 30% rise in the number of attendees. What’s more, this year, attendees came from more than 20 countries all over the world—including Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and England.

“The show was just a great success,” SPREE tradeshow director Debbie Lahti said, “the energy on the floor was palpable. You could tell there was a lot of deal-making going on.”

Old favorites return

Among the many dealmakers was Rick Hanson, the sales manager and CFO for SPREE’s premier sponsor, Bellapierre. SPREE has become the place to unveil new products and the 2010 version was no exception. Bellapierre, a veteran of SPREE, debuted several new products including the “On the Go Trio.” The Trio puts together three different colors of lip gloss or eye liners in one package. Another version combines lip gloss, eye liner and mascara into one triangular pack. Hanson reported that the products have been doing really well since their release.

SPREE associate sponsor, I-Wrapz, which had a successful show at SPREE last year, unveiled a new cellphone dash mat called the Dashboard Gripper. The new Dashboard Grippers allow for stable storage of cell phones on car dashboards. The mats are available in a variety of different styles including those with professional sports logos.

Owners Joe Montalvo and Oscar Cano were excited about the new introductions as they look to build off their already successful line of cell phone covers.

“Last year worked out really well for us because of this show, but this year we have a lot more product, [so] display’s a little different; we’re hoping that it’s going to create a lot more buzz,” Montalvo said as the show kicked off on April 13.

Making specialty retail work

POS systems are the backbone of any good specialty retail business and SPREE had a number of POS vendors exhibiting at the show.

LivePOS, one of SPREE’s associate sponsors, has seen unparalleled success thanks to several key additions to its company and product line. The company’s point of sale system was recently featured in the Spring ’10 issue of Specialty Retail Report. The LivePOS system is a unique hybrid of software at the location (to allow offline capability) and a web-based backend (called the Online Dashboard). When a sale is made, the transaction uses a secure Internet connection to travel to the LivePOS data center. Within a few seconds, the information (items sold, prices, employee names, etc.) is available to be viewed on the Online Dashboard from any laptop, anywhere in the world.

Liad Biton, the company’s chief sales officer, reports that business has been on a rapid growth curve. “We’ve sold another 150 units in the month and a half since that story,” Biton said. He added that he was confident the business would continue to grow in the coming months especially given attendee interest at SPREE.

Makeup magic

The specialty retail business has some reliable product categories that are especially suited to the field. Skincare and makeup, cell phone accessories and products for children are among them.

SEACRET, an associate sponsor, brought a little science with it in the form of nanotechnology in a mud mask. According to Sheena Hinds, leasing manager for the company, the Re-cover mask uses advanced scientific techniques to help erase wrinkles, and cleanse the skin of impurities. SEACRET also gave interested attendees a sneak peek at its yet-to-be-released Magnetic Mud Mask, which promises to even skin tone and clean pores. “The big thing is that there’s no water required and it doesn’t get messy like a normal mask,” Hinds said.

A new entrant in the makeup department was Mistura Beauty Solutions. President Andi Marcus said the company’s 6-in-1 Beauty Solution offers a single shade formula for all skin types and colors. This would take the hassle out of inventory guesses for specialty retailers.

Incoco, a company based in Clifton, NJ, presented a new concept—self-stick nail polish strips in a variety of colors. The concept which has been tested in Las Vegas eliminates the need for nail polish—the customers overlay painted “nails” on top of their existing ones.

Also new in the accessories department were the variation on hair extensions offered by TOL products. The Diamante hair accessories allowed customers to attach the extensions higher up on the head allowing for a more natural look.

Child appeal

Another category staple—children’s products—was also hugely successful at SPREE. With everything from an electronic train concept (True American Classics) to CJ Products’ Pillow Pets that turn plush into pillows—there was something for everyone.

One company looking to break into the specialty retail market was LisaLeLeu. The company’s products include a portable puppet show theater. The puppets are paired with books to create excitement for children learning how to read.

Lisa Lloyd, president of TC Pets, introduced a range of plush animals that doubled as storage devices for jewelry, CDs, iPods and much more. Her concept proved to be such a hit at SPREE that she had many requests to sell floor models to participants. This was TC Pets’ first year at SPREE.

Demonstration darlings

Demonstration concepts have always been a key product category in specialty retail and at SPREE too, they were showcased in large numbers.

Of the many popular ones were Pinook’s portable massagers. SPREE associate sponsor, Pinook, is hoping to gain a larger slice of the portable massager market and that big splash may come in the way of its new MP5 massager. According to company president Dvir Lev-Ran, the device is the first audio/video/browser/massager on the market. The device builds on the popularity of iPods, which, depending on what version you own, can play everything from music and videos and are capable of connecting to the web via a Wi-Fi connection. The MP5 massager combines all of those functions and adds a massager. The massagers come with several attachments including a slipper-style feature for a foot massage.

“We’re looking at growing into 200 carts by the end of the year,” said Lev-Ran. “We’re looking to launch new products every six months. Right now, we’re mostly in the East, but our main goal here is to gain exposure on the West coast.”

Ringing off the hook

Building on the popularity of smart phones, cell phone accessories have been gaining in strength in the industry. The success of i-Wrapz is a great example.

Companies like Cellairis showcased their high-end crystal-embellished cellphone covers at SPREE. Gregory Myers, CEO of Mobigrip, presented a product that attaches to a customer’s finger or thumb and prevents cell phones from falls and damage.

The accessories company iStyle Originals takes the iPhone and i-culture craze one step further. It unveiled a whole range of T-shirts with quirky slogans like iRock and iCandy—the concept was a hit at SPREE.

Networking opportunities

For mall developers, SPREE provides a great venue to sign up retailers and also shop for new concepts in their locations. It is what makes the show such a valuable opportunity for mall developers like Taubman.

“Last year was a very positive experience, which allowed us to come back,” said Anita L. Saleh, vice president of specialty leasing for the company, a SPREE associate sponsor. Saleh was encouraged by the strong response this year as well, which indicates an improvement in the economy, she reported.

Wendi Nepute, a regional manager for CBL Properties, also a SPREE associate sponsor, saw plenty of traffic in 2009 and so came back this year with some extra help. “Last year we were crazy busy,” she said. “We brought four people this year, which is typically two more than the prior years. And we also found that our coupon—which gives kiosk owners 40 percent off one month’s rent at any of CBL’s 88 properties—that we offered last year was utilized in the centers so people are getting here and sharing those in the field.”

“Another thing we really like is we get to see a lot of products,” Nepute said. “So we’re able to take back some of those brochures and fliers back to our centers and share them with everybody so if we have an operator that’s looking for additional uses they can connect with the operators here.”

And, as always at SPREE, many came just for the chance to network and catch up with clients they rarely see in person.

“Really, most of the people in here are already our customers so it’s nice to keep visiting, have a presence,” said Louise Orozco of Arizona Central Insurance, SPREE associate sponsor. “These are people that we talk to on the phone across the country. We provide insurance across the country so it’s kind of fun [to see our customers in person],” Orozco added.

Networking was also key for Pat Yates, president of Happy Feet. The company is currently looking for new ways to increase its revenue by developing products that customers want year round. “We end up looking [for retailers] in May, June, July, but we’re showing the product, trying to find leads on people that would do them all over the country and be able to stay in touch with them,” Yates said.

Happy Feet used SPREE to debut its new sandal-slipper house shoe that builds off its successful product line of professional and collegiate sports-themed slippers. The sandal-slipper, which resembles a furry flip-flop sandal is available in a variety of sports logos. Happy Feet has also recently added bedding and pillows to its existing lines.

Seminar sessions

Off the tradeshow floor, attendees took advantage of the many seminars offered. Deborah Kravitz, president of Provenzano Resources delivered well-attended seminars about the nuts and bolts of the specialty retail business. Her lively sessions addressed leasing arrangements, how to choose a product and the mechanics of running a specialty retail business in addition to other topics. Kravitz advised retailers to carefully evaluate the profit margin on their products and cautioned them against operating carts or kiosks with too little product on hand.

Technology was a popular topic at the seminars. Tom Hennigan of InvenTrak POS reminded attendees about what was most important with each transaction—MSIB (More Stuff in The Bag) and pointed out that relevant data could increase not just the number of transactions but also the total value of each.

Social media and email marketing were popular topics of interest as well. Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, coached attendees about the strategies behind running a successful email marketing campaign. Popular social media tools including Facebook and Twitter were also discussed as part of a seminar by Corey Perlman, president of eBoot Camp.

A resounding success

As exhibitors wound down after three days of extensive leads generation and networking, many pronounced SPREE an unqualified success. “SPREE really is the place to be for any professional in the specialty retail industry and the numbers here proved it,” Debbie Lahti said. Lahti encouraged everyone to sign up for SPREE next year. “This is a show that just keeps delivering on its promise. It really is a no-brainer for anyone in specialty retail,” Lahti added.

Jason Denman, operations manager for Cashmere Elegance, perhaps best exemplified the vendor response at SPREE. The Erie, PA-based company showcased its wide array of scarves at the show and the booth was “slammed” according to Denman. “Oh man, this has been so great. We have been so busy—the show has just been awesome for us,” he added.

SPREE’s Treasure Trove

Every SPREE attendee this year received a special key. Many used the key to try their luck at opening the SPREE treasure chest. A Flip Mino camcorder and $250 Visa gift cards were among the many great prizes awarded. Las Vegas resident, Madeline Ravelli, won the grand prize of $1,000.

Rocking social events

After long days at the tradeshow, SPREE attendees got to unwind at a variety of social events. The awards for the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame were awarded at a special ceremony on the first day. The award for Best Specialty Leasing Manager went to Dina Simcox at CBL Associates & Properties. Max James, CEO of American Kiosk Management, whose principal product is the Proactiv line, won the corresponding award for Outstanding Retailer.

Day two saw more networking as attendees participated in a social mixer at The House of Blues restaurant at the Mandalay Bay. The event, co-sponsored by Jones Lang Lasalle and Specialty Retail Report, also hosted a silent auction. There was a bidding war for TOL Products’ Jose Eber kit, which included among other things, a flat iron. To make both high bidders happy, TOL Products offered to donate another complete package. Several mall developers including Simon, Taubman, GGP, and DDR donated gift cards to their mall locations. American Kiosk Management donated a Malibu Pilates Chair and several baskets containing Proactiv and Sheer Cover products.

Proceeds from the auction ($5,000) went to Camp Soaring Eagle—a camp for children with terminal and life-threatening diseases. The camp is founded by Max James, winner of the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame award for Best Retailer.

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Nurturing New Growth

When Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, handed the Specialty Leasing Hall of Fame Award to Max James, she couldn’t have expected what was going to come next. James, who won the award for Best Retailer for his work at American Kiosk Management, turned right around and presented Norins with a check for $100,000. The check was to institute a new SPREE scholarship fund and encourage new talent and innovation in the industry.

In his speech at a special social event on the first day of SPREE, James thanked Norins for her help and encouragement as he took his beginning steps in the field of specialty retail many years ago. He said the institution of this fund was in keeping with his company’s corporate philosophy: If you give, it comes back to you ten times over.

James acknowledged that he made many mistakes in specialty retail. He added that valuable resources like Specialty Retail Report helped him on the road to success. Among the mistakes he made, James says, was investing only in seasonal products and also ones that did not have enough marketing support. His company’s Proactiv line was the solution to both those problems.

Plans on how to invest and spend the money are still being fleshed out but the three main approaches being considered are:

  • Creating scholarships ($50,000) up to $2,500 per person for young students looking to hone their skills in the industry.
  • Awarding business grants to promising business proposals in the field of specialty retail.
  • Funding industry-specific research that will help all industry professionals—retailers, mall developers and retailers—achieve business success.

Patricia Norins was excited at the prospect of nurturing more growth in the industry. “This is what Specialty Retail Report and SPREE has always been about,” she said, “and it fits right in with our mission—to educate and ensure the business success of every industry professional in the specialty retail business. I’m grateful to Max James for this generous donation to a cause so meaningful to all of us.” She said she looked forward to developing concrete steps and to growing the fund into a tool that will really help nurture new ideas and talent in the field. “If we plant the seeds of growth now, we can be assured of a healthy and vibrant industry for years to come. I’m grateful to Max James for this generous donation to a cause so meaningful to all of us.” Norins added. She emphasized that she believes fully in the promise of the tag line in the check: Investing in the Future of Specialty Retail.


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