It’s getting more and more difficult for custom integrators to find the time and financial resources to travel long distances to annual trade shows like CES and CEDIA EXPO. If it’s not less than a day’s drive away, many are skipping the annual trek altogether, even at the expense of missing the latest offerings from their top vendors. As a result, creative manufacturer’s rep firms and distributors have begun taking matters into their own hands by hosting their own local mini tradeshows and conferences throughout the country.
Attendees check in at the Berkley Doubletree for the third-annual CI Expo
Earlier this month, the Berkeley (California) Doubletree played host to one such event, which was the result of a partnership between seven rep firms and two distributors, and more than 70 vendors. The Third-Annual Northern California CI Expo 2011 boasted its best attendance to date, with approximately 300 dealer attendees (a 30-percent increase from last year) and dealers from as far away as Hawaii, according to Redwood Marketing’s Jim Knight.
Artison’s Matthew LaBruzzo showcases his company’s new MusicLites product.
Redwood Marketing served as the official host of the October 5, 2011, event with partnerships from The Jan Tulloch Company, Steven Lester Company, Zone Pacific, Novidor & Firestone, Sierra Select Distributors, Profit Line Distributing, Electronic Stockroom, and ANSR. As a group, these firms service a territory that includes Northern California, Northern Nevada, and Hawaii.
“Initially we had the idea to put on the event when we were surveying our dealer base and found that the vast majority were not planning to attend CEDIA,” Knight explained in an email. “It became imperative that we bring the best new products from CEDIA to the dealers since they were unable to attend the show. It seemed like a natural fit to partner up with some of the other reps and distributors in the area to help bring in more vendors and to have a more meaningful event for the dealers.”
SpeakerCraft’s Chris Lehnen on the CI Expo show floor
CI Expo featured a keynote speech focusing on better business practices for the custom integrator, from Ultralink Products VP of sales and marketing Dave Donald. The event also included factory trainings from D&M, URC, Chief, Lutron, Intelix, Stewart, Panamorph, and Bitwise, and featured an exhibit hall with vendors including Marantz, Denon, JL Audio, SpeakerCraft, Lutron, Draper, Liberty, Stewart, Chief, Sanus, and Artison.
According to Knight, the responses from dealers and manufacturers about the event were equally enthusiastic.
“I thought it was fantastic! It’s nice to have an event like this so close,” noted Tommy Dolcini Jr., owner of My Guy HiTech in Sonoma County, California.
“[I] could not have talked with as many dealers in a year,” added Yamaha sales manager Richard Geren. “I thought it was a professional, well-represented event.”
Plans are already underway for a 2012 CI Expo, with a date and location yet to be determined, Knight said.