ABC Kids Expo Tips
by Joeseph Struck
ABC Kids Expo, the biggest juvenile products expo in the U.S., takes place in the heart of Las Vegas each year. Everyone from the biggest names in infant and child products to aspiring small businesses using the expo as a launch pad fill the Las Vegas Convention Center in hopes of finding buyers to see potential in their creations. This year’s Expo (September 13-16, 2009) had over 900 vendors vying for the time and budgets of around 2,500 prospective retail buyers.
For a small business just entering the juvenile market, whether or not to attend the ABC Kids Expo will likely be a major decision. The smallest booth at the Expo costs $1,400. In addition to booth space, one must also consider the cost of hotel, airfare, food, and other miscellaneous expenses. If you are exhibiting at the event, expect to spend at least $5,000, plus the cost of constructing your booth.
At left is an example of a first-time exhibitor’s booth. Bad Baby sells t-shirts with sassy sayings printed on them. This booth was in the central, first-timers section of the ABC Kids Expo.
With enough interested buyers, however, the Expo could turn into a profitable investment. In addition to confirmed sales made at the expo, vendors can expect to make a number of good contacts that could pay off in the form of future sales.
“This is the biggest show in the industry, in the country,” says April Lowell, part owner of Pink Magnolia, a new company which launched the Nighty Night Nursing Light at this year’s Expo. “Without the expo I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet with buyers from stores like Babies R Us and Target. I don’t know if I could put a price on that kind of exposure.”
With an expo that takes up over one million square feet of exhibit space, location is very important. First time vendors are mainly in a central section, and most juvenile furniture vendors are in close proximity, but other vendors are scattered throughout the convention floor with little rhyme or reason. Seniority and mere chance determine if you will find a prime spot to pitch your product. Paige Lauren, founder of Paige Lauren Baby, a beautiful high-end casual apparel line for baby, found herself in a booth directly across from a wall with no similar products nearby. The poor location had a major effect on her sales.
“They placed me with vendors that have totally different clients than my line,” says Lauren. In her opinion, “They don’t care. You just have to pay your dues and you’ll get good placement eventually.”
Other first time exhibitors had a different experience. “The experience has been wonderful,” says Monica G. Jones, owner of Ritzy Bitzy Designs. “I’ve made so many contacts with marketers, manufacturers, and also other retailers.”
Vendors who have been in business for years and built up a large clientele are expected to exhibit at ABC Kids Expo but don’t always earn significant new business. For first-time vendors just launching their companies however, the amount of exposure to the industry at large is unmatched. There is no other way to have a chance at talking to so many major juvenile products buyers across the US, and internationally, for around $5,000.
Tips for first-time exhibitors:
- Reserve early – you may get a better booth assignment.
- Bring great products that are retail-ready. Packaging is very important to retail buyers.
- Make sure your booth is well-designed and looks professional
- Consider a giveaway of a small version of your product, or a promotional item with your company name on it that buyers would find useful at the show.
- Have something on paper – it can be small, like a postcard – that buyers can take with them to remember your product. Be sure it contains full contact information, and perhaps pricing.
- Think about doing a show special or buy-back program to help entice buyers to try your product.
- If it is possible to lower your minimum order for the show, you may have more first-time buyers try your product.
- Do an advance email or press release to get buyers’ attention prior to the show.
- Know your competition. Be prepared to comment on how your product compares with others in the category. Buyers are looking at everything at once, so you need to say how you are different or better!
The most captivating aspect of the event is the innovation on display from first time sellers. Hundreds of freshly patented inventions are on display for the industry and media to get a first time glimpse. This year was no exception. The Jing Joe Infant Pad, an invention by Anthony Tong, is a pad that fits on a baby’s seat or stroller and uses a built-in fan to push warm or cool air through the pad to keep your baby comfortable during a hot or cold car ride and walk in a stroller. A new product by Margaret Back, Germy Wormy Disposable Sleeves, features an anti-bacterial sleeve that fits over a child’s elbow. Children are then encouraged to cough or sneeze into a monster on the sleeve, to help contain the spread of germs. Even simple inventions, like Chuck the Yuck – a pack of 5 decorated air-sickness bags – can do well if they are packaged and presented in a fun way.
Innovation always sprouts up in the juvenile products industry. If you have an idea, the first thing to do after bringing it to life is to prepare yourself for the next ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas in Fall 2010.
Special thanks to all of the vendors that talked to us about their experience at the Expo this year. We wish you all the best and hope to see you at future shows!