Geoff Welch, Midwest regional manager for The Shelby Report, talked to Brandon Scholz, president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, about this year’s WGA Innovation Expo, held Oct. 18-19 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Are you pleased with this year’s WGA Innovation Expo?
I think you talk to any state association exec who runs a trade show or who has run a tradeshow and they are one of the most challenging efforts that your association can do, because it absorbs everything in your association.
The key to it is what can you do to bring your members to the show, to keep your vendors happy and have a great show. So we have over the years built this show, expanded the show and made it a multi-day event. We’re running seminars. We’re doing keynoters. We’ve turned it into an industry summit. We run our annual meeting. We’ve got our trade show, the bagger contest and then the chairmanship’s award. We take all those components and build it into a day and a half show.
This year, and we’ve been running this for as long as I’ve been here and more, this year, we have sold out our floor, our trade show, we have more registrations than we’ve had in many, many years and it’s been, every step along the way, it’s just been a great show. We’ve had fantastic seminars. We’ve focused a little bit on social media because it’s the thing that people are trying to get their hands on. We’ve had some dynamic speakers with Michael Sansolo and the curator of the National Mustard Museum, the eclectic Barry Levenson.
It’s just great. There are a lot of different things going on, but all focused on what grocers can do to ‘work themselves forward,’ like Michael Sansolo was talking about. I think if we look at breaking it down before it’s even over, why are we doing so well?
I think we’ve got a great October. We’ve marketed this show well to our members. I think the location works, and everybody in real estate will tell you it’s the location that works. The sun, moon and the stars have come together.
It’s worked out to be just an excellent show. The feedback we’ve been getting from our retailers from the seminars, the tradeshow floor, just fantastic, just fantastic.
I had one retailer tell me, “I’ve been coming to these show for years. I walked out today with four new things, and generally, you know, I don’t always get new things. I got four new things today.”
I’ve had vendors tell me that they’ve seen their good customers, they’ve seen new customers. They’re doing a sale. They’ve got an invitation to go to the store, so for everybody involved in this show, from the retailer’s side to the vendor’s side, they’ve all got a little piece of it that works for them.
For the association, for us, it’s delivering a benefit to our members, and that’s what this show has really turned to be about this week. We’re just very proud of how it came together. Our events director, Cheryl Lytle, is the captain of this show and deserves the credit for what it is today. We’re just very happy, very pleased. We always want to have another one like this again. We’re just real happy in 2011 to have the show we did.
Any comments about next year’s show?
Every time you have a bad show, you have a lot to build on—changes to make, we’ll do this differently, we’ll work this forward. Whenever you have a good show, or in this case, a great show, you’ve got to figure out what you did right and repeat it for next year without letting everybody know you’ve just repeated what you’ve done. It’s got to be fresh. It’s got to be new. It’s got to be contemporary, timely and on the mark. I think our merchandising and marketing of this show this year has been the best that we’ve ever done but we have to improve on that for next year. We’re just going to try to make it as good a show next year as we’ve had this year.