Fall Show: DMers Take Wait-and-See Approach

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CHICAGO -- Though floor traffic was slow, marketers weren't grousing yesterday as the Direct Marketing Association opened the 84th Annual Conference & Exhibition.

Expectations had already been lowered because of the slow economy and terrorist attacks, and many said they would withhold judgment till later in the week.

It was apparent that traffic on the floor was down noticeably from previous years. The DMA does not disclose attendance figures during the show. Susan Terry, partner relationship manager at exhibitor Noosh Inc., Palo Alto, CA, said she was not expecting a big show. Many of her clients are here, she said, and she has scheduled meetings with them.

Lynne Marian, director of marketing at Outreach Marketing Inc., Vista, CA, which provides mailing services to churches, said she was very pleased with her experience so far. Marian said her whole team from Outreach -- five people -- came to the show. Originally, only three were scheduled to attend, but the company took advantage of the DMA's offer for free airfare and reduced hotel rates.

"The show has given us an opportunity to evaluate new trends in direct marketing and help us to get our whole team on the same page," she said.

Also hurting the show was yesterday's National Football League game between the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field, near the DMA Conference venue of McCormick Place, said James Woodling, a sales representative at Texas Direct, Fort Worth, TX.

"If I were at a larger company, it's something I might want to take my clients to," he said. "We'll see what Monday will bring. Monday will be the true test."

Richard Wendt, acquisitions manager, PCS Mailing List Co., Peabody, MA, said the people attending the show are the ones who really want to be here.

"It's very quiet. I've got about 10 [business] cards," Wendt said. "They interacted with me and told me what their needs are. They all had a genuine interest in what we're offering."

With light traffic, the upside is "we get to spend more time with the people who are here," said Susan Palitz, associate director, account management at Paradysz Matera, New York. "This is my third [DMA conference]. I'd say [floor traffic] is approximately 25 percent off from last year. It's a Sunday and it's a little difficult to determine that. People who are here appear to be dedicated and looking for knowledge and new ideas."


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