Canadian Show Draws Record Crowd

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TORONTO--The Canadian Direct Marketing Association's 31st conference opened here attracting record number of exhibitors and visitors. Officials have not yet calculated attendance figures for the show, "Putting It All Together," but expect numbers to exceed 1,450. There are 131 exhibitor booths, including 15 from the United States.

"It's been great, very upbeat," said John Gustavson, president of the CDMA. "Things are booming. It's very exciting."

In a keynote speech April 22, he said, "Each year I begin my annual report to you something like, 'Wow, it's been quite a year since our last convention.' That phrase seems so inadequate."

Gustavson said the CDMA has tackled many issues over the past year: telemarketing fraud, harmonized sales tax, consumer education and The Consumer Protection Act.

"There are fires everywhere and the CDMA is doing its best to be a good fire department for everyone ... protecting them if possible, fighting them if necessary."

The Canadian direct marketing industry has enjoyed considerable growth. In 1997, Canadians bought more than $16 (U.S.) billion in goods and services from direct marketers, an increase of 12 percent over 1996.

Privacy, Gustavson said, remains the most vital issue.

"While we believe that such legislation can be beneficial," he said, "it's also a period of great danger. There are many people out there who would like to see a strong interventionist approach by the government into the marketplace on the issue of privacy and we have to gather all our resources and remain united to ensure the legislation is workable."

The show has not been without incidents. Shortly after a cocktail party in the trade show area in the Westin Harbour Hotel, there was a fire scare. Direct marketers were left stranded, and many had to walk down more than 20 flights of stairs to the reception. However, most have found the show profitable.

"So far, it's been great," said Shelley Piercey of Canada Post. "We've had a lot of queries. There's been a good turnout."

"It's the first time we've been here. It's good. I think we'll be coming again," said Pat Hains of Schmidt Printing.

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