NEW YORK -- The School, Home, & Office Products Association's annual back-to-school show is gearing up for another A+ run, with an expansion of its Latin/international membership, e-commerce trade, and commercial business, SHOPA President Steve Jacober told SN during an exclusive interview at Fairchild Publications offices here.
The show, to be held on Nov. 15 to 18 in Miami Beach, will have a Latin flare especially as a result of the Dayton, Ohio-based association's participation in a number of international trade shows this year in Mexico City; San Palo, Brazil; and Buenos Aries, Argentina, as well as in Milan, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Valencia, Spain and Warsaw, Poland. This will be reflected in the 150 Latin-American and European exhibitors expected at this year's show. "It's becoming a smaller world," said Jacober.
SHOPA will have 641 exhibitors, a 9% increase, from 588 at last year's show in New Orleans. The exhibits will have more floor space too, encompassing 268,000-square-feet of space, as opposed to 251,000-square-feet last year.
"This year, all of our special services, like the new product showcase and the focus groups, will be off the main floor but still accessible from the floor," Jacober said.
In the world of e-commerce, Jacober said that area is growing as well. There will be one or two dot-com exhibitors this year, and an increase of dot-com companies attending the show.
"This past year we formed an e-commerce task force, which will become a standing committee of the association next year, and we will have representatives on that committee not only from pure dot-com companies but also from the brick-and-mortar suppliers and retailers who are conducting e-business," said Jacober.
SHOPA's president hopes to make good use of computer technology by allowing attendees and exhibitors the opportunity to plan everything from their itineraries to booth sign-ups. Jacober even looked ahead to the possibility of a virtual trade show, where retailers can look at the exhibitor's products and service on-line.
"The virtual trade show is certainly not meant to take the place of an actual trade show, but to enhance it," Jacober told SN. "You really need to see and touch and look at and talk to people at trade shows, because you're not only looking for product, you're looking for programs."
Jacober said he projects fashion items will be big this school year, with continued strong attention to the latest styles and colors. He predicted that "Imac" frosty colors, products that take advantage of space constraints and organization, such as stand-up staplers, will continue to be the big sellers. He also put an emphasis on the use of unique textures on items, such as notebooks and other traditional home office supplies, that will make it more fun for the students.
Jacober told SN that sell-in has been very strong this year, due to the good economy, an increase in student demographics, and sophisticated buying power as students advance in their education. Last year, BTS sales rose 6% in dollar volume.
"As students move up through the educational system from elementary school to high school, parents spend more money on BTS on the older students because their needs are more sophisticated and greater than the younger students." According to the 2000 American Express Retail Index on BTS, parents and teenagers will spend $548 on clothing and supplies, a 20% increase over 1999, the highest ever.
As for supermarket retailers, Jacober said they have an advantage over office supply superstores and wholesale clubs because supermarkets have built-in traffic. "By having what the consumer wants, and making sure that the consumer knows that [supermarket retailers] are in this business, it is easy to compete." He also stressed the significance of presenting the merchandise in a shoppable orderly fashion. "If you build it, they will come."
Regarding retail partnerships, people have flocked in droves to SHOPA's seven Kids in Need resource centers around the nation. These resource centers house vast school supplies where teachers can shop for their students free of charge, according to SHOPA's Program Manager Penny Hawk. She told SN that pre-qualified schools of the program must have 70% of their student body in the federal free lunch program, in order to qualify for the program. These school-related products are donated by SHOPA-member companies. Jacober said retailers lend a hand to provide shelving, and help design the area for a nice retail look in the centers. Kroger is a big contributor to the resource center in Atlanta.
The Teacher Grant Program partners with a retailer who will promote the program to local teachers, according to the SHOPA president. The retailer lets teachers know that funds are available to them for innovative curriculum ideas that they can't receive money for in the school system. Among other retailers actively involved in these programs are Target, Fred Meyer, Ames Department Stores and Sav-On Drugs.
According to www.shopa.org, SHOPA represents nearly 2,000 manufacturers, retailers (approximately eight major supermarket chains), commercial/contract stationers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturer representatives, and service companies involved in the production, distribution, and sale of school supplies and office products through mass retail and commercial channels.
SHOPA's overall goal, said Jacober, is to "provide unparalleled value." The organization has been working on making SHOPA more profitable within its internal structure that will allow it to reach its goal more readily, said Jacober.