Exhibitors See Less Traffic at Two Conferences

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Direct marketers survived the battle of the shows last week as organizers claimed success at both DM Days in New York and the 15th annual Catalog Conference & Exposition in Boston.

Exhibitors, however, told another story.

"It's light turnout here and at other booths," said DMDNY exhibitor JoAnna DeGennaro, director of sales, list rental and ride-alongs at Columbia House, New York. "We walked around downstairs and got a table right away -- and when you can do that, it means there's fewer people. The show's been hurt by catalog."

Paul Ercolino, director of sales at U.S. Monitor, New City, NY, said traffic was down at both conferences.

"Things have been really slow [here]. We're getting the same reports from our people in Boston. Also, people are worn out who were flying from one to the other."

Not everyone was unhappy at DMDNY. John Bell, West Coast regional sales manager for Merkle Direct Marketing Inc., Lanham MD, said the catalog show "affected us a little bit, but, overall, we definitely saw more traffic than last year."

"Tuesday was much busier," added Kate Fuller, assistant account executive at Wunderman Cato Johnson. "Although there was less traffic, it was more effective."

Leland Kroll, president of Kroll Direct Marketing Inc., Plainsboro, NJ, said it's a distraction to have two shows at the same time.

"It's a shame and a disaster," he said. "The industry isn't big enough for this."

In Boston, similar sentiments were being expressed.

"Traffic was slow," said Laura Kouns, an exhibit manager for United Parcel Service, Atlanta. "We got only half the number of leads that we got last year. A lot of people were saying Tuesday night that they were leaving for the DMDNY show."

"This conference is usually pretty well-attended and pretty active, but it could have been a lot more this year," said Henry Disciullo, general manager at Walter Karl, Greenwich, CT. "Everybody suffered. I hope it doesn't happen again."

One Boston exhibitor was happy with the turnout.

"Last year, we walked away with 400 leads and were busy with meetings for the next four months, and we expect the same this year," said Don Branch, program manager for 3M's Post-it Direct Response Products.

DMDNY president Chuck Cavanagh said the New York show attracted more than 5,000 attendees and possibly as many as 5,500. Those figures, however, failed to meet expectations of 6,000 or more, and Cavanagh admitted the catalog conference was a factor.

"A lot of people like to do both shows,'' he said. "It was a tradeoff and unfortunate situation. It will get better next year in a hurry.''

Cavanagh did note that some of the larger exhibitors, including IBM and the USPS, already have committed for 1999 -- which has never happened before -- and will request more booth space.

The DMA said 6,000 people attended the catalog show.

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