National Women’s Show Toronto Review: by Nancy Houle
Are you considering purchasing a booth at the National Women’s Show? If you are, please read this review from the perspective of an exhibitor.
The National Women’s Show in Toronto is “Trick or Treating” for adult women. I’ve been a producer of tradeshows, and frequently purchase booths at tradeshows, but I’ve never quite experienced anything like this. Here it is: If you are a Business-to-Business, and you don’t have merchandise to give-away, this show may not be for you. If you are a Business to Consumer booth, and you do have free merchandise to give, and/or a low-cost product to sell, then this show may be perfect for you.
You decide! Read on:
Here’s what I observed. There were over 400+ booths, most of them, Business to Consumer in the areas of health, wellness, food, fashion and more. There is also a section for “Business and Careers”, however, out of the 40 000 patrons they expected, this would be the least popular section. For example, TD Financial, Sunlife, and other “network marketing” companies offering business opportunities didn’t see much in-booth traffic, because the women in the isles were really hunting for the “free” samples in the food isles, or the $1.00 liqueur sampling isle (donations to a great cause).
I personally spoke to other B-2-B booths, and they were not complaining! Instead, they had resolved themselves to the fact that this was a “branding” opportunity, and it was okay if they didn’t drum up business. One financial planner got 1 lead out of 40 000 patrons. However, if the 40 000 people walk by your booth, is it really 40 000 impressions? Did you successfully brand? Hmm…
Winners at the show were folks like the “Fresh Start” booth, a mega food operation with well over the 45 Million in earnings. I spoke to a lady there, and they were thrilled with the long line-up of women sampling their dips and hummus. Fresh Start had hundreds (if not thousands) of women sampling their goodies and that type of branding goes a long way in the food industry. Now, I think that makes the “impression”. I’m not sure how much “product” they actually sold in the course of 3 days. However, this is the type of successful booth that does get the solid foot traffic, with a strong possibility of converting that foot traffic into a solid customer.
I spoke to gentleman who was selling a special type of “yoga” mat. He knew a gentleman that was poised at the front door of the National Women’s Show, who was taking a survey of how much “cash” women brought to spend at the show. The average cash in wallet was $60.00. When the “yoga mat” guy found out he quickly dropped his “yoga mat” price down from $79.00 to $59.00. Last time we checked on Sunday, he didn’t sell any mats. Not every booth is there for branding. Some want sales. He wasn’t getting the Return On Investment he was looking for.
Rogers, a lead sponsor for the event had a very confusing booth. Someone there made a huge mistake. They divided the Rogers booth into 4 sections, looking at ways to get women to walk into the booth. It was so confusing. You didn’t know if you were there for make-up, pictures and/or magazines. The last thing you thought you were there for was a Rogers product or service.
It was definitely the worst case scenario in terms of branding. Someone on the Rogers team probably came up with the idea of getting women in the booth with 4 points of entry – to take a picture, pick up a magazine, or get a make-up consultation. WOW! Really. What a marketing mess. This was a key example of trying too hard to get the foot traffic into your booth, with a weak execution. A better idea may have been to set up a seminar stage, and have a comedian teach women how to use remote control. I would have appreciated that!
There was not too much to offer in terms of Fashion. Most of the fashion booths were “flea” market-ish with a few exceptions. One Fashion show I did attend, featured only three female models. One beautiful young model with the perfect catwalk, and one perfectly muscular sculpted woman with a very awkward catwalk. Thankfully, they included a seasoned mature model aimed to appeal to the more “real” women in attendance. There was the token male model in a nice bathing suit, though excellent eye candy, his impact dissolved after his first two appearances. The bribe to stay at this fashion show was the promise of a $25 coupon to a hair salon. It was cheesy.
The workshops and seminars were sometimes fun, sometimes lost in the shuffle. If not on the main stage, most the secondary workshops seemed poorly attended.
I did attend an in-booth demonstration from a spaghetti brand, as they taught how to make proper spaghetti. I actually learned something! I liked the idea of sitting down at a bistro table watching a tattooed unpolished guy teach the ABC’s of making good pasta. And the crew of men at the booth scrambled to give each person a great “in-booth” experience. I stayed throughout and thought, yeah, this booth works! Excellent.
I felt really bad for some of the other booths who had zero foot traffic. I saw one booth tended by a lovely married couple who probably got stuck with the worst booth location on the planet. A lesson on booth location, sometimes a deal is not worth the location. Watch what real-estate you buy at tradeshows. Location, location, location!
Then there was the alcohol alleyway. One must purchase tickets to sample wines and liquor, and all money raised from ticket sales went to an excellent charity. On Saturday, while getting close to closing time for the day, Paul and I purchased 5 tickets for 5 dollars where we found a booth promoting Ontario wine. This is where we began to chat to a group of 5 women having a great time while perched on a couch sampling the vintage- since noon. They told us that they had made the visit to the National Women’s Show a tradition. For them, it was truly a “girl’s day out”. However, we noted, that no one had shopping bags.
Well, given we were a Business-2-Business booth, by day two, we decided to take a more direct approach. With 5 in our crew, we sent out 4 of our crew to go meet the business owners in their booths and see how it was going. We eventually signed up over 100 business owners into our courses, but note, that only 5 of those registrations were as a direct result of foot traffic in the isles coming into our booth. After all, we didn’t have freebies at our booth and no merch for under $10.00.
I have to tell you the Show personnel and crews were exceptional. We booked the booth at the last minute, and even though they had no previous experience with us, they accommodated us like we were their best client. Honestly, the National Women’s Show treated us VERY well. I was so impressed with how they went out of their way to make us feel welcomed, accommodate us, and it set the tone for a great weekend. No question, if you have the right product, geared to this audience, you’ll do great! And with a professional, courteous and inviting crew like that, you’ll want to be part of their show.
However, note, before you choose the National Women’s Show in Toronto, you must qualify if you have a low-end offer (a low-risk entry level offer) to have the highest impact for those women who take this show as a day of “trick or treating”. Hopefully, you can convert that foot traffic into sales if you are collecting their customer data, or developing brand awareness, and/or creating a new loyal customer. But beware, you go in with expensive product, you will be packing it up again at the end of three days.
I was sitting in the load out area waiting for the car. (I waited 1.5 hour wait for the car to make it into the load-in area). Anyway, I met a crew from Montreal that was selling an arthritis product. The Montreal ladies commented that the Montreal & Quebec shows were much more high end, attracting a higher level of consumer. They recommended that we try Montreal.
We heard it from many exhibitors over the weekend. In fact, I wish I could say that I coined the idea that the National Women’s Show in Toronto was “Trick or Treating” for adult women. But, I can’t take credit. That was the guy two booths down from us. The National Women’s show in Toronto is really a bargain basement show for women who had no plans to spend real money.
It’s clear the National Women’s Show in Toronto is getting the reputation that it’s attracting a lower end consumer to it’s flea market style for adult Trick or Treaters. I guess we witnessed that first hand (we’ll post video to show you). Unfortunately, that’s bad for Toronto’s reputation. And all weekend, I did wonder, why are the professional women not walking down these isles? Where are they?
I did see many of the female professionals we did train, all with booths and/or speaking. This was pretty cool. One of our students with a “jeweler” booth was doing gangbusters. She had the right product for this show. But one thing we did all agree, where was the professional woman in this show? The answer is…she wasn’t. There wasn’t much there in terms of fashion, and/or experience to lure her there. It’s really not for her.
It’s great to see that the car dealerships and Harley Davidson was there, totally aware that the female often is head of the buying power. I also had the opportunity to meet Brett Wilson from Dragon’s Den. He was randomly walking the isles talking to the folks manning their booths, which was pretty cool. I’m a huge fan, for me that was a highlight.
By 4:00pm on Sunday many booths are starting to give deep discounts on their products, or making trades, or giving away their stock. I spent $100 on a case of blueberry syrup that will make blueberry martinis. I found a few more corporate gifts too. I bought tons of Hummus and nuts for the Christmas parties. I was willing to spend way more money. I was about to go buy bags and bags of organic dog food, but their booth shut down early. The lady tending the booth waiting for her mate to pick up the final pieces to her booth made a snide remark when I told her I was coming there for the bags of organic dog food, and expressed my disappointment she shut down before 5pm.
Even though I had 3 hundred dollar bills in my hand, and I looked eager to buy, by the end of three days, I guess even the dog lady thought EVERYONE was looking for a freebie. And she was clearly shut down for business. Whatever her story was for the weekend, she couldn’t hide her disappointment. I walked away thinking I would have bought the dog food sooner, I just didn’t want to have to deal with hauling it out before load-out. Oh well, I didn’t even get her card.
This was another Tradeshow Review by Nancy Houle, VP of TrainingBusinessPros.Com