Since I didn’t attend the 2009 show – I sent two of my workers, instead – I had to wait until talking with them to find out how the show went and what their impressions were.

So how was the show?  In a word:  disappointing.

We attended last year’s show and sold 32 of our quilted cot covers.  This year, with the same number of hours to exhibit, we only sold 15.

Additionally, Linda reports that most of the other exhibitors she talked with were equally disappointed and felt that the show was, to quote one gentleman, “a disaster.”

So what went wrong?  Here are a few of the comments Linda made and my observations:

“We saw a lot of students.”  This is good for our business, as many of the students were excited about our products and will, one day, be in charge of buying decisions.  But that doesn’t help the bottom line for this show.

“People already had our covers.”  Yes, we’ve sold well in Kentucky, including last year’s show, but did we sell to everyone?  I probably miscalculated how many of the funeral homes in Kentucky would need another cover so soon.  In some states, the funeral homes are large and have several cots.  In hindsight, the smaller nature of Kentucky funeral homes (60-80 calls a year for most of their members) should have raised red flags for me.

“People weren’t buying from anyone else either.”  The economy, coupled with a slowing death rate (damn cyclical industry!), has encouraged people to hold on to their money.  And maybe quilts are a “winter” product?

“The guy across from us was badmouthing our covers.”  That one really angers me.  I would never go to a trade show and tell visitors how much I hate the guy across the aisle.  I’m tempted to make my anger known to the folks who organized the show.  At the least, we’ll ask not to be situated near him at any other expos.

“There weren’t as many working funeral directors there as last year.”  That seems to be true of both the Kentucky and IFDF shows we attended this month.  I just received the list of funeral homes from the 2009 IFDF show and was dismayed to see that only 46 different funeral homes had been represented.  Take away the ones who had already bought our covers at previous shows and I’m amazed that we sold even 11 covers at the show.  I have a feeling that the Kentucky show will turn out to be a similar situation, with few funeral homes attending that we hadn’t sold to previously.

In the end, we sold 11 covers at the 2009 IFDF show to just 25 funeral homes that had not previously purchased from us.  That’s a pretty good conversion rate, but shows the diminishing returns that attending this show again (at least without interesting, new products) will continue to offer.