DAYTON, Ohio -- The School, Home and Office Products Association here said last week that it would add a new trade show next year that will pair buyers and sellers in a series of one-on-one meetings.
The SHOPA Buyer to Seller (SBTS) conference will take place for three days next October, a month before the association's traditional product show. SHOPA said it would release more information, including the exact dates and location of the new SBTS conference, later this month.
"There's a need in the marketplace for this type of program and service, and as our mission is to serve the school and office products industry, it behooves us to satisfy that need," said Steven Jacober, president, SHOPA.
Supermarket nonfood buyers should be familiar with the new show's format. It is similar to the conferences hosted by the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., and the buying shows of Efficient Consumer Response Management, Cleveland. Those shows bring buyers and sellers together for brief, prescheduled meetings and, in the case of ECRM, use technology to track product orders.
As ECRM has done for several years and as GMDC will begin doing next year, SHOPA will pay for the travel, food and lodging expenses of the retailer buyers who attend its new conference.
Chris Vest, spokesman, American Society of Association Executives, Washington, said paying for buyers' expenses to attend trade shows is not common.
"It's certainly a new concept," he said. "These folks must have seen something in their industry that led them to believe that was the best way of getting folks there, and if you can make it work, why not?"
He pointed out, however, that such conferences would need to be very small.
Jacober said that in the first year SHOPA would limit attendance to about 50 to 60 vendors and 50 to 60 buyers to make sure the event is manageable. This year's International SHOPA Show, by contrast, attracted nearly 12,000 attendees.
He declined to estimate the cost of the new program. However, Jacober indicated that the cost for retailers to attend the conference would be paid out of the vendors' registration fees. The exact fees for vendor attendance had not yet been calculated, said Jacober. Organizers of the ECRM shows said it costs about $300 per person per day to host those events.
Jacober said SBTS would rely heavily on technology, including handheld devices for recording meeting notes and tabulating product data. The technology was tested at last month's SHOPA Show in Miami Beach, Fla.
SHOPA formed a subsidiary, SBTS Inc., to manage the new show. Michele Miladinov, director of sales, SHOPA, heads the initiative.
Retailers and vendors said they thought the new format would be effective.
Gordon Thompson, general merchandise/seasonal category manager at Associated Food Stores, Salt Lake City, said he thinks the new SBTS format could be beneficial if the meetings with vendors were long enough.
"That's something we'd definitely take a look at," he said, noting that having his expenses paid for "is a plus."
Steve Milkey, vice president, sales, Bic Corp., Milford, Conn., said he believes SHOPA will do a good job executing the new conference controlling costs.
"It looks like a positive move for SHOPA, and for all of us members that are part of SHOPA," he said.
He said he did not think the additional conference would detract from attendance at the main SHOPA show, and he also said he did not think it would detract from the GMDC general merchandise conference.