Thursday, January 31, 2008

Destination: Action!

I have a love-hate relationship with business travel; I suppose most of us do. On the one hand, it is so worth the excitement; it is full of interest and adventure, meeting great people, visiting new places. But so often it is fraught with hassles, serious schlepping and exhaustion.

The sum total of my trip to Paperworld in Frankfurt last week was that it was worth every ounce of that “other hand”. Visiting shows outside the US plays an important role in shaping my strategic vision for NSS. And, it is the most effective way to observe worldwide trends and attract companies from all over the world to exhibit in America – and I discovered many terrific, awe-inspiring products that will find their way to NSS either in 2008 or 2009 – I’m sure of it!

It was so affirming to know of the NSS’ global notoriety. My many conversations with buyers and exhibitors from Italy, India, Thailand, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, Nepal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Australia, Brazil – reinforced that NSS is held in extremely high esteem across the globe!

The Messe Frankfurt facility is one enormous and impressive venue. Here’s a picture of the City Entrance and the portal to the 10 multi-floor buildings housed within the complex.
Thank goodness for the shuttles that connect the buildings; each day my pedometer clocked more than 8 miles (in heels, of course). I spent my time in buildings 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 (1, 2, 7, 8 & 9 housed shows for beauty and trim-a-tree)

Because the facility is owned by the organizers, the time in between events can be weeks or even months. I say this to help you visualize exhibits that are true works of construction – and art. The move-in period for the show is 3 weeks! Most shows in the U.S. have a maximum move-in of 4 days.

Here are a few shots of the exhibit floors and of friends from companies many of you will know.

Take a look at these cool booths!

Calligraphy demonstration in the Art Supplies hall

Part of the trend presentation in the Social Stationery hall, featuring "kiddie" as they named it, products

Paula and Kyle Skene, with their German friend Heidi from a booth across from them

The men behind the gorgeous Xylem products

The Turnowsky sales team, taking a much-needed sit down

Me, after a long day of travel, and Yair Greenberg, owner of Yafa Fine Writing Instruments

Two of the owners of Delta Fine Writing Instruments at the wonderful Yafa dinner party

The Israeli export sales executive from Yafa receiving his salesman of the year award

So, I’m behind the desk for a few days corresponding with the hundreds of people I met (well, almost), then I’ll bid Kelly adieu as she departs for the Spring Fair in Birmingham and I leave for another round of travel, this time, domestically. It’s hard on the bod, but boy do I love the action!

Auf Weidersehn.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

On the road again

It’s Show season! The winter markets are going strong, and our team is and will be out and about these next several weeks! I’ve already logged in my first winter trip of the season, and headed south. Attending Shows is one of the ways I get to spend time (even if just a few minutes) with the great people who exhibit in the National Stationery Show – or who want to exhibit in it; as well as talking with permanent showroom reps (invaluable!) and buyers. It’s also a great way to see trends.

Speaking of trends…what did I see? Still lots and lots of damask patterns out there, in all kinds of colors. Pinks and browns are still going strong. But I did notice a lot of black overlay looks. So take a color and then layer over it an intricate lacy, or tree branch, or flower, or bird pattern. Lots of this going on. One cool example was Wellspring’s Flipnotes. So far, we’ve seen these small metallic notepads in a single metallic color (pink, blue, a kind of gold, red…) but I just saw them with a black design on top, this is new, and you can’t even find it on the website. One of the reps in the showroom where Wellspring has a nice space told me they were selling like mad! There’s plenty of cards and stationery with this kind of look, and you’ll just have to wait to see it all at our Show. Believe me, it’s hot!

Another thing I saw a lot of was layered, or overlapping, colors. By this I mean that maybe there’s a red design with some orange layered color over color (not as distinct separates) and then one more time with a third color – a brown, or a deep green, or a blue. I felt like I’d not seen this kind of layering with a printed product before. I’m used to seeing it where the colors are next to each other, but not layered. Often the look used a branch and leaf motif. I think you’ll see lots of this in May. I wish I could show you an example!

I talked with a number of companies who have always been “green” –by nature of their product, or by diligence in design and printing processes – who were saying that now they are feeling the need to promote the fact that they are green, and always have been. Our collective growing concern about the warming of the planet has led to much discussion in our industries (lots others, too) about green products, and green manufacturing. In fact, there will be 2 seminars on this during the National Stationery Show in May. One for buyers, and one for exhibitors and other manufacturers. Stay tuned.

Of course, personalization is still going strong, and lots of companies are working hard to keep up with this strong trend. Anything with an initial or a name, or the ability to personalize seems to resonate.

I could go on and on! I am excited for my next trip – which is next week – out west, and then off to England to another show, and some trend-spotting. Patti is in Frankfurt right now visiting with customers and also trend-spotting there. Wonder what we’ll hear about that market! Can’t wait. Until next time…

- Kelly

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Countdown Begins!

January means one thing here in the office: manuals, manuals, manuals! This month the NSS girls, along with our co-workers in the Operations and Marketing departments, have been hard at work updating, proofreading and finalizing the marketing and setup manuals for both the National Stationery Show® and The Supply Side®. These manuals guide exhibitors how to go from the abstract “I have a booth in NSS or TSS” to the end results you’ll see in May. They’re jam packed with pre-show and at-show marketing information, after-show follow up guides, deadlines, programs & events, value added opportunities, advertising ideas, booth furniture, electrical & carpet order forms etc. etc.

With only 4 months until show time, we’re excited to see what the 2008 Show will bring. We have many brand new companies in NSS and we’re expecting nothing less than 4 days of productive business and excitement throughout the market.

Last NSS, we had the eye-catching, crystal covered Mini Cooper, Bob Mankoff signing autographs, the Have You Seen the Louie’s campaign, the trend predictions by the leading trade editors, a fabulous party at Rockefeller Center, an opening day parade featuring the NSS girls followed by a brass band, and of course, who can forget that bright blue carpet and bold colored envelopes hanging overhead?

So, exhibitors out there, what surprises do you have in store for 2008? Tell us about your promotional plans! We would love for you to contact us so we know what you’re cooking up -- and why your booth will be the talk of this year’s Show. Remember, to inspire attendance and bring buyer to your booth, this is important to think about now! Leave us a comment or send your response to Jess at:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Show for us in Show Biz

There’s a trade show for everything, right? Well, I’ll bet you didn’t know that there is a trade show for trade show people. Yes, that’s right! Rooms filled with professionals from all over the world representing trade shows for everything from medical devices, air conditioning and plumbing, plastics, to…. well….you know… stationery!! We’re there to learn how to be better at what we do so that the results we deliver meet our customers’ needs.

Expo! Expo!, is produced by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events). This year it was in Las Vegas.

I attended numerous educational programs. One of the most valuable was an all-day session on attendance promotion. I was reminded that no matter what kind of business – trade show management, rep, manufacturer, retailer – “if we build it” does not mean that “they will come.” (Recognize that “Field of Dreams” reference?) We have to be active, and creative to retain our customers!

We shared many of the promotional tools each of us uses to motivate attendance. The NSS direct mail includes postcard announcements, pre-show planners and, of course, badges. Our e-newsletter, PaperClips is circulated monthly, more frequently as we near the Show. We advertise in the leading trades -- Greetings, etc. Gifts & Dec, Scrapbook Retailer, Party & Paper Retailer, Giftware News, and Gift Shop and have a consistent publicity effort from October to May that produces news in print and online. I brought home a lot of neat “new media” ideas that I’m really excited about (stay tuned)!

At the exhibition part of Expo Expo, I am a buyer! I walk the floor to see vendors and suppliers to our business -- my only opportunity to meet new service providers and schmooze with the ones I know. And, they all do it up to let me know my value to their businesses. I received a lot of information from exhibitors before Expo! Expo! -- and I truly “felt the love!” It reminded me of what we tell our exhibitors: Buyers attend the Show to see you!! They want to know you want to see them, so invite them to your booth ahead of the Show. Do this by mail, phone, email, advertising – whatever works best for you.

Here I am with Jim Hamilton, the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Javits Center.

Jim and others from the Javits Center were at Expo! Expo! to promote the venue to other trade show organizers.

Other exhibitors in Expo! Expo! included contractors (like Freeman, the decorator for the NSS), companies who produce badges, and badge holders and others with lead retrieval systems, professional photographers, and more.

Here’s our friend Marty Bear of PMSI. He’s in the promotional items business.

As you can see, Marty works a lot in bags and badges!

All in all, it was a great experience. I came away with some great ideas that we’ll put in place for our Show. And it certainly is fun. I hope you love your work the way I love mine!

- Kelly

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ringing In the New and Welcoming Back Some Fantastic Favorites!

What a great holiday season it was – full of my favorite things to feed my soul and unfortunately my stomach! Spent the week snowboarding with the kids. Correction: spent a few days watching the kids board while I drank coffee in the lodge. So glad I had that time, so I could finish my holiday cards. It was the New Year’s batch that I needed to tackle and tackle, I did.

As a matter of fact, a man sitting behind me couldn’t resist asking me if I was cramming for a test (the test being am I or am I not “late?”) He then said that by his book, the card-sending season lasts 7 weeks – from Thanksgiving to the second week of January. I loved his point of view; I too, believe this. Before his wife and 7 kids came back to the table for a delicious meal of Catamount Lodge chili, corn dogs, burgers and hot cocoa, he shared his secret that he actually sends New Year’s cards, so his stand out from the crowd. I loved it – a guy planning his card-sending for the family – not the typical demographic. We chatted some more and both claimed that this year we received and sent more cards than last, and that connecting in this personal way with friends and family far and wide was really important to us. I have to believe this was a trend, not just a coincidence.

So, I’m back at the office now and looking ahead at the exciting Show the team and I are planning, I am very optimistic about the 62nd annual event in May and the incredible products buyers will find only here. Stationery encompasses so many glorious products – greeting cards in a variety of media and genre, gift wrapping and packaging concepts, custom invitations and social stationery, fine leather goods, desk accessories and writing instruments, coffee table books, journals, party and paper table wares, scrapbooking and paper crafting supplies. In short, all of the things that reinforce life’s celebrations.

I’m also very excited about several exhibiting companies that are returning to the May 2008 show after a hiatus. Among them? Mrs. Grossman’s Paper Products, Roger La Borde, Hambly Studios, Colorbok, Busquets Gruart. These phenomenal companies will join nearly 1,000 returning companies and 300 new companies making their industry debut. Between the amazing exhibits, outstanding products and fantastic people from all sides of the business who participate plus all of the promotions, seminars, special events and serious schmoozin’ I’d say we have a dynamic, glorious 4 days in store…fun, easy, productive and exciting!