“This industry has really been around from the time of the old Persian markets, when the caravans of camels would bring in goods, and people gathered to see what was available.”
James McLaughlin, Sr., partner in MAC Events, located in Spring Lake, refers to the time-honored custom of showcasing products and services for consumers to examine and evaluate in a central and convenient location.
“If you build it, they will come” was the famous line in the movie Field of Dreams. That happened to be about baseball, but the concept is similar. Offering opportunities for interested consumers to see a large number of products in one setting is a proven winner.
“These kinds of shows and events are a multi-billion dollar business,” reports Mr. McLaughlin, who has been in the business since 1969. “It really started when I was in the RV (recreational vehicle) business. By Labor Day, we always had a lot left over, so we decided to have an event featuring them. We rented Convention Hall in Asbury Park, and it was a big success. So, I got into the promotion business. Now, we promote businesses with Home, Flower, and Women’s shows. We have nine consumer and two trade shows every year. They are currently held in New Jersey and Virginia.”
The consumer shows enable businesses to exhibit their products for the consumers. The trade shows are business-to-business. That is, a business displays items that other businesses are interested in. For example, a builders show featuring building supplies would draw builders and contractors.
The consumer shows focus on three areas: home, flowers, and products and services appealing to women.
“In the Home shows, we have everything except furniture,” points out Mr. McLaughlin. “Windows, doors, kitchen supplies, interior decorating, exterior siding, etc.”
Flower shows highlight flowers, gardens, landscape design, garden accessories, outdoor lighting, and more. The Women’s events offer an interesting variety, he adds. “They can include fashion, cosmetics, and jewelry, as well as travel and food, and information on health and medical issues. Health professionals can be on hand to give seminars and educational material.”
Celebrities are often invited to the events, reports Mr. McLaughlin. “They will come and meet and greet the consumers, sign autographs, answer questions, etc. Some of our most popular celebrities were the people from the PBS This Old House TV series. They were great, very down-to-earth and friendly.”
Mr. Mclaughlin’s specialty is looking for and finding opportunities in advertising, marketing, and research. These shows and events are a win-win situation both for businesses and consumers, he believes.
“If someone buys an ad in a newspaper that they can afford to pay for, they hope that enough people will see it and respond. We can run ads in many newspapers that will be seen by many readers, as well as ads on line, on billboards, etc. This is the best value for a small business for display and presentation and the most efficient way to see products. Take it directly to the consumer who is interested in that product. For example, if someone is planning a new kitchen, they can see the possibilities first hand.”
Once he and his partners decide on the focus for an event, then they find a suitable location, he explains. “If we decide to have a show in Edison, for example, we have to find the right setting. This could be a shopping mall, banquet hall, college campus, arena, etc. We have had events all over, including in Giant Stadium in the Meadowlands.
“Next, we rent the place, and then find the businesses to participate. We have anywhere from 150 to 300 to 400 companies, most typically between 200 and 300. 85 percent are repeat businesses. We can get anywhere from 2,000 to 25,000 consumers coming to the event, which lasts two to four days, with consumers coming within a 20 mile radius, even 40 miles for the flower shows.”
MAC Events provides the place and the booths, and the companies are responsible for setting up their displays. All sizes of businesses, including retail stores, participate.
Planning and Execution
Mr. McLaughlin enjoys seeing all the planning for the event come together. “The organization and execution of the event is very satisfying. I also really
enjoy walking up and down the aisles, watching people buy flowers, seed, lawn care products and equipment, whatever they’re interested in, and just generally enjoying themselves.
“Also, one of the nicest things about this business is that we don’t have inventory to worry about. We don’t own a thing; we rent everything.”
The Home and Flower shows are typically held January to March and also in October and November.
For further information on MAC Events, call (800) 332-3976. Website: www.macevents.com.