Without a competing show to hamper attendance, next week's Annual Catalog Conference should be an improvement over the 2003 edition.
As of April 21, 231 companies occupying 382 booths had registered for this year's event, set for May 3-5 at Chicago's McCormick Place. Last year saw 209 companies and 356 booths when the show went head to head with the DMDays New York Conference & Expo.
“The economy for most companies is better, so the higher numbers are consistent with improvements in the economy for many of our companies,” said Amy Blankenship, director of consumer media relations at the Direct Marketing Association. “There was not a lot of overlap of companies exhibiting at both [shows] last year, but we prefer having them separated.”
Among the reasons the DMA bought the DMD conference a year ago was to end the scheduling problems. The DMD show takes place May 25-27.
As usual, attendance will remain a mystery because the DMA does not release attendance figures for its trade shows.
Of course, the recent numbers don't compare to the totals in 2000 and 2001, when 263 and 327 companies exhibited, respectively.
But one growth area involves the number of search engine companies exhibiting. Search engine marketing labs return to the schedule this year and are set for 10 a.m. to noon May 4 and 10 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. May 5.
The Web site solutions labs also have returned, but the critique sessions are booked, Blankenship said.
A priority this year was to obtain a greater percentage of speakers from the catalog sector as opposed to relying heavily on suppliers. Of 219 speakers this year, 108 work for catalog companies. Last year's conference had 149 speakers, but only 55 represented catalogers.
“The attendees want to hear from their colleagues,” she said. “People want more case studies and [want to know] what's going on [and] how to meet the challenges they face.”
The catalog medical center also returns this year.
“We'll have more people there to help [since] there was such a strong demand [last year],” Blankenship said. “It's a much more valuable experience for people when they can get advice specifically targeted to their catalog and take that back home with them. A consultant can answer any questions about the merchandising, creative and product mix and assist with any aspect of the catalog.”
Last year's executive forum expands to two this year. The May 4 forum will deal with acquisition and financing while the May 5 forum will cover innovation. Each will be separated into two parts. Attendance is limited to 40 and is first-come, first-served, though the forums remain restricted to senior executives with titles such as president, senior vice president of marketing, vice president and directors.
This year's keynote speakers include Patrick Connolly, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Williams-Sonoma; Gary Hoover, founder of Hoover's Inc.; and DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen. Connolly and Wientzen speak May 4, and Hoover speaks May 5.
Next year's event takes place May 23-25 at Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, FL, while DM Days in 2005 is set for June 28-30 at the Javits Center in New York.