We just finished exhibiting the Card Caddy at the ASTRA 2017 trade show. How did it go? Read on to find out… the TLDR version: well run show with a good quantity and quality of attendees. We will probably make a profit on the show with direct sales to toy stores we met there and continued to build our network and the brand.
ASTRA is the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, the trade association for independent retailers, manufacturers and sales reps of the specialty toy industry. They hold a trade show and training conference each year – this year it was in Philly at the Convention Center, June 26-28. We tried to exhibit last year, but it was already full, but we applied as soon as we could this year, and got a 1st year exhibitor package. All of the first year exhibitors were along the last row of the trade show, had a smaller 5 x 10 foot booth (as compared to the minimum 10 x 10 in the rest of the show floor), but paid about 1/3 the cost of a regular booth, with table and chair included. Here’s the floorplan – we were in the last row on the right. The 5×10 size is definitely a tighter squeeze than we’re used to, but still workable. Luckily the product is small and can be demoed on the table or out in the aisle.
Overall, there were about 500 exhibitors, and ranged from single product line vendors like us to wholesalers to a couple of big players like Lego, Mattel, Melissa and Doug, etc. Unlike NY Toy Fair, there were no mega-structures for the bigger companies – I think the biggest booth size was 20×20, so it felt much less intimidating and fast-paced. The usual restriction on having children at most of these B2B shows was not there or not really enforced, and it seemed that many of the exhibitors and attendees brought their families, so that also added to the more relaxed vibe.
Move in and out (always one of the areas that gives me the most stress beforehand) was easy. We were able to pull up the car and load/unload with our handtruck to/from our booth with no teamsters needed. Again, this is where a small, light product is really nice. We can fit the whole booth in one handtruck load.
As for “extras”, there were some good ones. The trade show provided lunch each day – it was just a selection of box lunches, but they were good, and it’s surprising how quickly both the cost and time spent waiting in line at a typical trade show concessionaire adds up. There was a nice opening reception where they closed off a street block at the Reading Street Terminal market and had finger food and a 1 free drink bar. I think they provided coffee and even continental breakfast each day, too, but our hotel had one of those waffle bars I can’t resist when I’m on travel, so I didn’t take advantage of the show’s offerings.
So, how was the business? Pretty good – from my rough order count, we covered our booth fee and travel expenses just from the orders we took at the show (around 20). We’ve also got probably close to 70 more business cards from stores to follow up with. So, depending on the order response from them, we could make a nice profit form this show. The traffic was fairly steady, but there were some definitely dead zones from around noon-2pm and 4pm to the end of the day. Like I’ve noted in other posts, we make an attempt to engage every person who walks by our booth, especially if their badge color (blue this time) identifies them as a retailer. We took orders from around 20 stores and got contacts for 70 more, and I’d say that another 30 or 40 stores weren’t interested and didn’t give us a card, and maybe we missed another 20 or 30 due to breaks or being busy with other customers as they walked by. So based on that rough cut, we had around 150 retailers pass by the booth.
These shows are also usually a good place to meet other game companies (who may be interested in licensing the Card Caddy or using it in one of their games) and wholesalers (who may be interesting in carrying it to resell to their customers). Although there were booths with both of those types of companies there, we only made a few new contacts and renewed some existing ones. Seemed to be a different group of reps from these companies that we had not met before, and really they were there to sell to the small retailers, not make new deals for new products. But it only take one contact with the right person at the right time to make a great deal fall in place.
So, overall, the show was a success. We’ll make at least some money on the event, and every contact we make and new person who learns about the Card Caddy gets us a little closer to really getting the product out to a really large distribution!
Next post: I left the show a day early to pitch the Card Caddy to Walmart! I’ll go through that experience in another article.