CHICAGO — No one shed any tears this month for the demise of the old Association of Retail Marketing Services organization and show, which was dissolved last year. ARMS would have been 50 years old in 2007.
Many of the same buyers and vendors gathered in the same McCormick Place location for the new Promotions in Motion exhibition that was launched this year as part of the International Home & Housewares Show, owned and operated by the International Housewares Association, Rosemont, Ill. Although IHA reported the number of exhibitors was down slightly, from 38 last year to 37, which in turn was a significant decline from prior years of the ARMS show, retailers and exhibitors were generally upbeat about the event's continuing value.
Besides the new name and management, the exhibition featured more space; it ran the same days as the Housewares Show; it featured some new companies; and, most important, according to exhibitors, it benefited from more promotion to draw a wider variety of retail buyers. The event featured mostly general merchandise promotional programs, sold either as in-and-outs or continuities.
“We come here to look for new promotional items that we can sell. This is probably one of the best shows that we go to,” said an executive with a West Coast retailer.
“So far we've only been through about 20% of it, but we are very excited about the show,” said Art Ingold, director of merchandising, Buehler's, Wooster, Ohio.
Based on past dealings, “we have had very successful promotions with some of the vendors” at the exhibition, said Paul McGillivray, vice president, sales and marketing, Roche Bros., Wellesley Hills, Mass. Roche executives also visited the main Housewares Show and found many products that would appeal to the company's upscale customer base, he added.
The exhibition was similar to past years, said Doug Barnett, director of GM/HBC, Brookshire Brothers, Lufkin, Texas, which was a good thing. “Overall, the sales floor has been very good for us,” he said.
On the other hand, a nonfood executive with a Midwest retailer said, “It seems like it is a little better attended and has better displays than it did a year ago.”
IHA provided the space after the exhibitors approached the association last summer, saying the former supporting organization was no longer viable, said Perry Reynolds, vice president, marketing and trade development. That was late in the show-planning cycle, he noted.
“I think promotional merchandise is an extremely important part of most retailers' mixes, to give the customer something new to look at each time they come in the store. Our hope is, presuming the retailers agree, is that we will be able to continue to serve them,” Reynolds said.
Although traffic peaked on the first day of the three-day event, exhibitors told SN they were pleased with the buyer turnout.
“It has been a much better show this year compared to the past. There are a lot more buyers,” said Paul Stults, national accounts manager, Branded Apparel, Marion, Iowa.
“We had a very good number of appointments with quality people, and we were able to lay the groundwork here for some nice business down the road,” said Alan Levin, president, Fine Arts Industries, Denver. There seemed to be more traffic in general, and Levin saw buyers from other channels besides supermarkets, as well as from some other countries.
“We are getting more foot traffic this year from non-supermarket retailers than we ever had, and that's due to the synergy with Housewares,” said Adam Napell, principal, Hog-Nap Promotions, Warren, N.J.
“It's going good. On the first day, we saw some major chains,” said John Tucker, president and chief executive officer, VAM Corp., Southboro, Mass. The traffic was better because “IHA pushed it a little more than ARMS did in the past.”
On the first day, “we saw 90% of the accounts that we do business with,” said Adam Morgan, president, Advance Publishers, Maitland, Fla.
“I've seen a number of my wholesale-retail members here, and they are happy to see all these different manufacturers and providers in one location that is easy to find and meets their needs,” said David McConnell, president and CEO of GMDC, Colorado Springs, Colo.