Surtex: the Good, the Bad

Another Surtex, another good show. Actually, a really good show.  We had a steady stream of attendees throughout the 3 days, although Monday was definitely the busiest, and we were still showing work at 6:15 on Tuesday as the place was being dismantled around us. I LOVE that. Traffic had the appearance of being down despite the fact that show management reported their registrations were up significantly over last year. One difference we did notice was that the clients were very focused, not many “looky-loos” this year. Almost everyone seemed to know what they wanted, what holes in their lines they needed to fill and what categories they wanted to expand upon. It was actually very refreshing – a yes or no answer is always better than a maybe.
We did not talk to many newbie artists this year, there were plenty in evidence but only a couple stopped by to ask about submitting, and as a group I have to say they were very respectful of the exhibitors. Kudos to you all.
I wish, however, I could say the same for some of the experienced ones.
It seems that a number of the artists and agents who have previously exhibited have arrived at the conclusion that, because of their many years of exhibiting, they now are entitled to walk the show and meet with the attendees. One even suggested to us they should be exempt from the fee charged to walk the show. Seriously? These are, mind you, the very same people who complained for years about the slew of artists who did exactly what they are doing before show mgmt finally made some effort to control it. Baffled only begins to tell you how I feel about this logic.
And then there was this: an artist (who has been in the business for 15 or 20 years but no longer exhibits) walks up to say hi to a client – who had just arrived at our booth  – then proceeded to park herself there and chat. Eventually our client ran out of time and had to move along, and to add insult to injury the artist offers to walk with the client and off they went. Our meeting? Didn’t happen. Hard to believe we’re seeing this from our “professionals”.
On another note, the decision was made last week to discontinue the License and Design section of the Atlanta gift market. The unfortunate reality is that the AmericasMart is just not set up to accommodate a show of this type without it being a five day location in the temps – and a show that long was an unacceptable option for most exhibitors. It is a shame since the timing and location in THE major gift market of the year had huge potential, but the showroom structure of the market just didn’t work.
All for now, I need to get through this big stack of work that comes with a great show – and it’s how many (how few actually…) weeks till Licensing?
16 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    As always, honest and informative observations. I always know where to go to get the real story. 🙂 Thanks.

  2. Tara Reed
    Tara Reed says:

    Jim – great recap! I had similar feelings that the people I talked to knew what they wanted and my pile of “slim chance” leads is nice and small. Now to spin the straw into gold…

    Also a bummer about the Atlanta Show. It was a great time of year but seemed to be a catch-22 since it was at the busiest show for the people we want to meet… A for effort to you and Ronnie in spearheading the effort.

    Finally – sorry to hear about your hijacked appointment. Not cool!

    Have a great show in Las Vegas – I’ll be crying as my son gets his high school diploma that week… 🙂

  3. Laura Kelly
    Laura Kelly says:

    Jim-fantastic insight.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was a great show and now that I think back, those who stopped at my booth were very focused and prepared as well. I like that.

    Sorry about your cruddy experience with the not-so-professional booth crasher. I believe in karma. 🙂

  4. Patti
    Patti says:

    My agent said pretty much the same thing. She also had a story about an established agent crashing in on an appointment. Sorry that you had the experience. It seemed that although traffic was down those that came were there to do business. Glad it was a good show for you. Sorry to hear about Atlanta.

  5. sue z
    sue z says:

    This was a great recap of the show. Thanks so much. I also notice that even though there were many newbies walking the show they were mostly respecting of the work and the business I was doing in the booth. There is only one, that appeared to be studying my work, and it made me very uncomfortable, and I know another friend had a picture taken of her booth. I hope that the person that crashed your meeting, has some remorse and is reading this. It is extremely unethical, unprofessional, disrespectful and rude for someone to do that. Shame on them. All in all I think it was a great show.

  6. Doreen Nagle
    Doreen Nagle says:

    Hi! I am a newbie (well, new-again-be) and am planning on walking the Vegas show. I will quietly drop off a promotional piece to you and then vanish silently like the wind, I promise. Question, though. Having done some arts and crafts shows with a similar disrespect from some attendees (gabbing in my booth with potential customers who lose focus on my offerings), is it possible to gently tell the aforementioned attendee to make an appointment with YOUR client after you are through with YOUR client? Just wondering.

  7. Kathy Weller
    Kathy Weller says:

    Hi Jim! Gosh I’m sorry about that creepy art licensor who hung out at your booth! That totally, totally stinks (I’m thinking a stronger word but I don’t want to type it here).
    SO rude.

    It was only my 2nd yr exhibiting so I can’t be as ‘big picture’ as you and others regarding some aspects of the attendees, but I did sense less people with bad manners this year than last. Although, I gotta say, this year I came in better equipped to handle those with bad manners. Because last year, I had a lot of learning curve with that, so I did have some armor on. Though that said, still there was a time or two I was completely flummoxed. Like on two separate occasions when a person literally broke into my business meeting. Once it was an artist, once it was another potential client. And sometimes, I’m just left speechless by someone else’s rudeness. Well, the more weird situations I encounter, the better equipped I will be to handle similar ones when they come up again, right? Live and learn.

    I’m so glad you had a good show! I did too! Best of luck in Vegas to you and Ronnie.

  8. Jim Marcotte
    Jim Marcotte says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments!

    Doreen, I have no problem at all telling someone to come back later if I can do it without involving the client – unfortunately could not pull it off in this case. The point of course is that I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that…

  9. Barbara Lanza
    Barbara Lanza says:

    Jim, it was good to hear from an agent with a booth near the one I shared that a few of her regular clients declined meeting with licensors and agents who didn’t have booths, telling them it’s unfair to those of us who paid for them. More than one potential client mentioned to me how much they appreciate trade show expenses since they pay to exhibit, too.
    It would be nice if GLM advised attendees to ignore the uncouth unboothed.

  10. Kim Gann
    Kim Gann says:

    Hi Jim and Ronnie. It was nice to meet the two of you. Thank you for this re-cap. It was my first show and I think it went really well. I didn’t experience anything but respect from others, with one exception. One of my helpers watched as a “male” walked by and rolled his eyes at my booth. SO disrespectful and childish.

  11. ellencrimitrent
    ellencrimitrent says:

    wow- how crazy is that? who would sit there and act that way?? I have walked the show after not exhibiting but NEVER sat there in someone’s booth- nevermind walk away with a potential client!! I only would say hello to ppl and leave and head into Stationery to see my clients.

    Personally I have found more and more that because of the digital age its not as necessary to do a show, but its not for everyone. I figured Atlanta would die- its not ready for primetime as they say and you get more bang for your buck just doing meetings.

    Glad you had a good show dispite the rude colleague.! Sorry I will miss you guys at the Licensing Show- way to busy this yr- prob next yr I will be there!! Have a good show!

  12. Linda McMullan
    Linda McMullan says:

    Jim, I have read your posts and checked out your website for a couple of years now, and just wanted to thank you for this recap. I’m still developing my style (and courage) and decided not to walk Surtex again this year. Doing that last year was a really somber experience for a newbie with stars in her eyes, and it sounds like this year was even more emphatically about established artists and clients who weren’t “looking”, just filling a shopping list.
    I’m beginning to think (after reading Tara Reed’s recap, yours, and a couple others) that new artists are better off submitting digitally rather than attending shows!

  13. Marianne
    Marianne says:

    So glad your Deal a Day strategy paid off this year! So many fond memories of sharing dinner with you two … if I was rich and kid-free, we’d fly down just for that!!

  14. Cathy Heck
    Cathy Heck says:

    I agree with Tara … “what Jim said” and we say that all the time about your posts … well actually we are saying “what the other Jim said” since we have a Jim, too.

    You always, give such a clear and straight-forward post. We love it. Now we don’t even have to write our post-Surtex post. We’ll just send everyone over to you and say, “ditto!” See you in Las Vegas.


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