2001: Expo aftermath: Scramble

By Sandra Dolbow

Companies that had counted on the PGA Fall Expo to wrap up the sales season and finalize projections for spring now are taking to the road in droves to meet with accounts and finalize orders.

And the buyers they’re off to see, who would have used the show to preview numerous collections within the show’s short time period, now must add appointments with sales representatives to their already busy calendars – without the benefit of seeing product displayed in booths, because Reed Exhibitions Co. canceled the show Sept. 20, less than four days before its start.

Reed, meanwhile, announced Sept. 26 that it will send a show directory to all preregistered buyers and display photos of exhibitors’ products on its Web site, www.pgaexpo.com. A searchable exhibitor list, which will be updated regularly, will display all company contact information, as well as product descriptions, specials that would have been offered to buyers at the show and export information.

Still, exhibitors say the cancellation will continue to affect business for some time.

“Being at the show instills our brand image in the customer’s mind,” said Kristie Reeves, who oversees product development and marketing for Straight Down. “That’s harder to achieve with samples being pulled out of a salesperson’s duffle bag. We don’t believe sales are lost, but it will take us longer to get them. It will affect our projections.”

The dollar loss for exhibitors is hard to measure.

“Golf companies were already dealing with a whole new set of dynamics based on the economy and the resort and travel business,” said Chris Zimmerman, general manager of Nike Golf. “Like everyone else, we are trying to forecast the economic impact, but that is hard to quantify now. Every opportunity to open a new door is important.”

Nicklaus Sportswear had planned to return to the show with a 20-foot by 20-foot booth after a hiatus of several years, even though it unveiled its spring line in July.

“We had decided that if our West Coast accounts would be driving there, we would be there for them,” said Paul Baldino, general manager.

Many resorts were hit with reduced occupancy rates, Baldino said.

Izod Club already had pulled out of the show one day before Reed’s cancellation when feedback from management groups, golf specialty stores and key accounts indicated they would not attend.

“We had decided to return to the show because buyers told us loud and clear that if they attend, they spend money,” said Izod Club president Mike Elliott, who was anticipating writing “significant business” at the show. “But given the economy, it seemed more important to wait.”

Others wanted the show to go on.

“I wish Reed had gone through with it in terms of solidarity and moving ahead,” said Maria Erickson, president of Bette & Court. “It won’t put us out of business, but the venue of the show is so important.”

Another gripe: wasted shipping and airfare expenses, room reservations and, in the case of Bette & Court, rentals for booth amenities such as a couch and coffee table.

Imperial Headwear had trucks in transit filled with product for its 1,500-square-foot booth. But like Erickson, Imperial president John Bond said he won’t harbor hard feelings provided refunds are handled properly. (Reed plans to apply refunds for exhibit space to the PGA Merchandise Show scheduled for next January in Orlando, Fla., or to next year’s Expo in Reno, Nev.)

Ahead Headgear president Ken Shwartz, who already had sent people to Las Vegas for sales and product meetings, was disappointed but said he understood.

“This has been difficult for everybody,” Shwartz said. “But it’s no one’s fault. I’m sure they (Reed) were torn in untested waters.”

Sandra Dolbow is a free-lance writer based in Wilton, Conn.

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