MIAMI -- A bigger, well-attended International SHOPA Show, produced by the School, Home, & Office Products Associations, Dayton, Ohio, set an optimistic tone for retailers planning their orders for the 2001 season here.
Qualified buyer attendance was expected to exceed last year's figures by 12% to 15%, said Steve Jacober, SHOPA president. He said international exhibitor presence was strong as well, making up 17% to 18% of the show floor, a slight increase from 15% last year. The number of exhibitors, covering over 250,000 square feet of floor space, jumped from 588 to 670 this year. SHOPA estimates that there were 14,000 attendees during the show's run, Nov. 15 to 18, up from last year's attendance of 12,000. This year mark's the SHOPA Show's 10th anniversary.
"There's an upbeat mood at the show," Jacober told SN. "The industry faces many challenges, like consolidation, margin pressure, internationalization, but the manufacturers have taken these challenges and transformed them into opportunities."
Although supermarket retailers approached by SN were reluctant to talk about their immediate goals in attending the show, most were there to preview the many novelty items and practical tools for the back-to-school season.
Among those retailers was Joel Bercy, a category manager for Pathmark, Carteret, N.J. He was not looking for one particular product area, he said, but was taking in "everything -- all back-to-school, home and office products." Items with bright "iMac" colors did catch his eye, though. "iMac colors are not something I've seen before [in these product categories]," he said. The bright translucent hues seen in Apple Computers were evident in BTS products at last year's show but are expected to be a hot-selling fashion element again this year.
Another growth segment worth taking note of is the "tween" market, young consumers who are ages 9 to 12.
James Morrison, director of marketing for La Mirada, Calif.-based Kittrich Corp., said products for girl tweens are especially profitable. "After 8 years old, boys don't buy branded products," he said. "Girls are more brand loyal, have more sophisticated taste, and they have disposable income." Kittrich Corp.'s Wild Things line and Alloy brand are geared toward this segment, according to Morrison. The company's BTS products are merchandised at Denver-based King Soopers, Albertson's, based in Boise, Idaho, and Kroger Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, among others.
Pen Tab Industries, Front Royal, Va., has several lines styled to appeal to young consumers. The New Territories line has more muted, earth-tone colors, while a popular notebook marketed to the food channel, Attitudes, sports bright colors.
Doug Berg, Pen Tab's vice president of sales and marketing, said textures such as crushed velvet and snakeskin designs are a big trend. He said a particular display vehicle works especially well in grocery stores. "Our pre-loaded palette that we customize to the retailer's wants allows for a great assortment."
Other product focuses, like educational tools and art and craft products, pinpoint an even younger target audience -- elementary school kids.
Manufacturers like Easton, Pa.-based Binney & Smith want to foster a unique parent-child bond in their Crayola products. "Crayola wants to help kids reach their full potential through art," said Stacy Gabrielle, marketing communications manager.
In May 2001, Crayola will launch its "Power of Creativity" program, she said. A Crayola Power Pack, priced about $4.99, includes a 16-count box of crayons, an eight-count box of washable markers and six Art Framers, a paper product with designed borders. A percentage of sales will be donated to Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts. "This non-profit organization wants to make art more accessible to everyone in the country," said Gabrielle.
Learning Horizons, a subsidiary of American Greetings, Cleveland, also wants to promote parent-child quality time in their educational workbooks and games. At the show, they announced a partnership with Parents magazine. Next May, Learning Horizons will launch 12 stockkeeping units of educational workbooks and family games with the Parents magazine logo on it.
Melvin Spencer, sales director for Learning Horizons, said, "Every grocery retailer knows Parents magazine, so it will be huge." He said these educational tools go up to the sixth-grade level, and they are "one of the best ways to see what your child knows." He also said Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, is doing a good job with the product line by merchandising them at the checkout on wrap-around fixtures. The chain began testing the program this year.
Making education an innovative part of the product is Mead Corp.'s strategy with its line of subject-specific notebooks. This Dayton, Ohio-based company decided to cater to kids who wanted school subjects already labeled on their notebook covers. The English, math and science notebooks have handy reference guides appropriate to the subject matter, according to Lew White, director of marketing.
Overall, this year's SHOPA Show provided a look at "fashion forward and innovative products," said Jacober. "Miami's a fun place, and it enhances the upbeat atmosphere." Next year, the show will return to Miami, Nov. 14 to 17.