Catalog Show Gets Case of 'Second-Floor Syndrome'

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BOSTON -- Blame industry growth, but it's a tale of two shows at the Direct Marketing Association's 18th Annual Catalog Conference and Exhibition this week: the show on the first floor of the exhibit hall and the lack of one on the second, according to vendors stuck on another level for the first time in the show's history.


"Mum's the word up here," said David O. Schwartz, president/CEO of 21stAZ Marketing Inc., Farmingdale, NY. "This is pretty sad. I think the catalog conference producers have to take some responsibility for moving people through the facility."


DMA spokeswoman Amy Blankenship said splitting the exhibit floor was the only option available because of space limitations at the Hynes Convention Center.


"We booked this space three years ago," she said. "Boston's a good city for the catalog show, [but] it's a matter of space. Last time we were here, there were only 375 booths."


This year, 263 companies are exhibiting in 492 booth spaces, she said. Attendance figures will not be available until tomorrow. Next year's show moves to McCormick Place in Chicago, where the exhibit floor will be back to one level.


Blankenship said the DMA and Intertec Exhibitions, Stamford, CT, have not contracted for the 2004 catalog show, "but that doesn't mean we won't be back."


Kevin Kerley, vice president of list management at Carney Direct Marketing, Irvine, CA, said second-floor exhibitors were led to believe that yesterday's boxed lunches would be served only on the second floor to drive traffic upstairs. However, that proved not to be the case, as lunches were available on both levels.


"They shouldn't have sold any space on the second floor," he said. "This is a very poorly managed show."


Diana Arroyo, vice president of operations at Carney Direct Marketing, said she calls it "second-floor syndrome." Even the people who made it to the second floor did not realize the hall has elevators that go directly between the two floors, she said.


One first-floor exhibitor , Tom McCullough, vice president at The Listworks Corp., Pleasantville, NY, conducted an informal poll at his booth throughout the day. His results: "One out of every two people I ask don't even know there is a second floor [to the] exhibit hall."


Though traffic on the first floor was slow all morning, things picked up at lunchtime.


"Till an hour ago, it was dreadful, but we've been busy since 1 o'clock. I don't know where they were before, but people are starting to show up," Sy Dordick, senior vice president of client services at Web Direct Marketing Inc., Wheeling, IL, said at mid-afternoon.


Michelle M. Drennan, senior account executive at Focus USA, Hackensack, NJ, agreed.


"It's been pretty decent, especially right before and into lunchtime," she said.


The perimeter looks empty, "but the aisles are filled with people," said Joe Frick, marketing manager at Adrea Rubin Management Inc., New York.


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