Vendors seek increased floor traffic

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ATLANTA--In years past, much to the displeasure of manufacturers, Medtrade’s educational sessions overlapped exhibition hours. That won’t happen this year.

Instead, the classroom seminars will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., leaving the show floors wide open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the greatest possible traffic.

“This is something that was necessary, to get this back to the way it was from a vendor’s perspective,” said Dikran Tourian, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Anodyne Medical Device. “It’s great for the providers to go and learn, but the vendors have to get their ROI. I am anxiously waiting to see if it’s going to work again.”

In recent years, there have been rising complaints about show floor traffic from a variety of sources, although the official numbers don’t reflect any waning interest in the show by attendees. It’s become commonplace for manufacturers to bemoan overall attendance but point out that their booths, remarkably, are as busy as ever.

Why the perceived drop in traffic? The HME economy in particular and the overall economy in general, said Fastrack President Spencer Kay. Fewer exhibitors and fewer providers due to industry consolidation, said Graham-Field’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Larry de la Haba. Both vendors see fewer attendees from the same company.

“Now it’s mostly senior staff, just coming in for one day,” said Kay.

Both Graham-Field and Anodyne will meet the cordoned-off exhibit hours with more show floor staff to maximize the meet and greet opportunities. Whether those opportunities result in greater, direct sales is beside the point.

“The days of the Medtrade ‘Bazaar’ are pretty much over,” said de la Haba.

“Competitive pricing is now available all year round. We attend the show to showcase our new products and the new services we can provide our customers with.”
At Pride Mobility Products, new product debuts generate the electricity, and so do “show specials.”

“Our providers walk in the booth and they want to know what the show specials are,” said Kirsten Delay, senior vice president of sales management and operational planning. “The specials are just as important.”

Invacare won’t be offering any show specials this year. Nor will Sunrise Medical, Permobil or Drive Medical, all of whom have decided not attend the show. The bail out of significant manufacturers and other leading lights posit 2008 as a “make or break” year for Medtrade.

“If Medtrade doesn’t step it up this year, it will be an absolute challenge for them to recover,” said Tourian.

Others question the wisdom of an all-or-nothing proposition. Pride has scaled back its booth from 9,700 square feet to 8,000 square feet.

“Somewhere in the midst of all this, everyone has lost perspective on scale,” said Delay. “Maybe the show doesn’t need to be as large. We feel comfortable scaling back.”

Likewise, Graham-Field would consider doing the same before outright quitting the show.

“We will be looking very carefully at the attendance during this year’s show, the quality of the educational sessions and the response to our own presentation,” said de la Haba. “If these are all positive, Medtrade will continue to be part of our marketing mix. If not, we will look at the alternatives.”