ABC Kids Expo Strikes Balance with Growing Supply, Shifting Buyer Base
Self-installing car seats and organic bedding wasn’t just baby talk at ABC Kids Expo, the largest maternity and juvenile products trade show that took place Oct. 15-18 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
With 1 million square feet, 14,000 attendees and 1,100 exhibitors, this has been the second best year for the show. Many of its areas are growing, but with economy just barely coming back and Internet commerce rapidly gaining speed, the model for success is changing.
“Majority of our attendees used to mom-and-pop stores,” said Larry Schur, ABC Kids Expo president. “Right now, there’s hardly anyone opening up stores and many have gone out of business. I’m hoping we’re at the bottom of that spiral.”
At the same time, just about every area of the show has seen growth. “Our apparel section is exploding,” Schur said. “We’re not known for apparel, but it has been the most searched-for category on our Web site. We increased the section because of the rising demand, but we couldn’t increase it enough.”
The Naturally Kids pavilion (organic products) and the Modern Child section (high-tech, high-end products) also have expanded.
Now the show’s big concern is keeping a healthy ratio of exhibitors and attendees. “For us, it’s not all about growing space, it’s about growing our retailer base,” Schur said. “Our focus is on creating value.”
Bringing international attendees and visitors is one such strategy. ABC Kids has produced North American pavilions at the Harrogate Nursery Show in the United Kingdom and Children's Baby Maternity Expo (CBME) in China. “We’re also looking at other countries where we can have reciprocal agreements for pavilions,” Schur said. “We’re also expecting a contingent of Chinese buyers next year.”
Internet commerce also is responsible for driving many small stores out of business, but at the same time creating a whole new frontier. Amazon.com sent a large buying team, was a sponsor at ABC Kids Expo and offered classes for exhibitors on how to sell their discontinued products.
As e-commerce shifts from several major brands to more curated sites and mommy portals that also sell products, there likely are to be new sources of procurement-ready attendees.
Candice Egnew, a buyer with Right Start, said she was looking for car seats and strollers. Her company has several brick-and-mortar stores, but also does a large portion of its business online. “It was exciting to see new product launches,” she said. “I had appointments the entire time I was at the show."
Egnew noted that many are waiting longer to have kids and when they do, they are ready to spend. “We can’t keep high-end brands in stock,” she added. An average price tag on a stroller? $700.
Exhibitor 4moms introduced a self-installing car seat that also runs self-diagnostics. “We’ve been really busy at the launch and very steady since,” Nicole Cardamone said. “We have pretty good distribution right now, so we’re mostly looking to build relationships with our current partners.”
Buyer Shirley Beard is exactly the kind of buyer the show has come to rely on. The owner of Itty Tibby’s Closet, she is growing the kids’ boutique side of her business.
“I’m finding great things here that are not even on the market yet,” she said. “The economy is still an issue, and I have to be careful with my spending. The ones who offer to just buy a few instead of a minimum or offer to try out their product for 90 days are more appealing to me.