My husband and I attended our local home show today at the fairgrounds in our hometown of Santa Maria, CA. It has traditionally been held for one weekend annually. However, this might be considered something of a milestone as there hasn’t been one for the past couple of years here due to the tanking residential building industry. I was hoping to find some local services and vendors for the bathroom remodel I’m planning. Enough so that I could compare prices and products. I found only one bath remodeling company that is actually a national chain and I am leery of “systems shops”.
Unfortunately, our town wasn’t quite ready for this show. None of the major local building product vendors like Home Depot represented. Sears was there trying to sell roofing and heating systems. There were a couple of cabinet companies. There were proportionately less vendors that actually had anything to do with home improvement and the show was predominated by the local cable and satellite TV companies, people selling pots, pans and Tupperware, vacation timeshares, cosmetics… oh and some woman trying to hawk $60 jars of hand lotion! The company that puts on the show, Char-Go Productions of Santa Barbara, advertised that there would be more than 100 vendors but my estimate was more like 25 or 30. Of the three convention halls available at the fairgrounds, this show was in the smallest. The largest was empty, and the third building had an event for consignment sales of children’s clothing. There were so few attendees that vendors were practically grabbing at us as we walked the isles. It felt like we were walking the gauntlet.
We are a town of over 100,000. I’ve gone to shows in much smaller venues that were much larger and well attended, so I’m perplexed at this show’s apparent poor marketing strategy. and wonder why they didn’t cancel it. I felt sorry for the vendors that showed up and invested their time and resources. In years past when I was selling cabinetry, I worked as a vendor at this very same show. I remember even then that vendors complained that it seemed like a waste of time and it was at least twice as large as this one was. I really felt embarrassed for the town and realize the show’s presenters don’t live here and are just in it for the money. Notably, there were no admission or parking fees, so their “profit” from the show comes entirely from the vendors’ rental of their booths. Looks like they didn’t get much! The Char-Go folks will need to rethink their strategy to convince the local market place that this could be a successful venue for vendors and a worthwhile event to draw potential attendees. Clearly “free” is not going to do it.
I’m considering writing them a letter. I’d like to do more than just ‘rant’ in my blog. I don’t know what, if anything, I could add that would be helpful. I know that residential construction is starting to pick up in my area (a little) but I’m afraid this home show makes our local industry look more like proof that we are still in the grips of a recession rather than edging toward recovery.