Usually, when something comes around to its seventh year, there starts to be an itch for something new, or something different. When it comes to the Seventh Annual Custom Home Furnishings Industry Educational Conference & Trade Show that wasn’t exactly the case. Everyone is pleased with the direction this show has been going from its sponsor, Cheryl Strickland’s Custom Home Furnishings Trade School, to the vendors and attendees alike. There were a few changes and a few new things this year, but the really big changes are planned for next year—more on that later.
The event was held September 19 to 22 at the Palmetto Expo Center, Greenville,
SC. More than 1,100 registered for the conference and trade show—the highest
total ever for this event, reflecting the continued growth it has seen, really,
since its inception. Participants came from 45 states and four countries (Canada,
Bahamas, England and Japan). Its largest faculty ever, 43 instructors, presented
a schedule of 79 seminars, typically keeping attendees busy learning over the
course of the conference’s three-and-a-half days. And as always, the seminars
covered everything a workroom needs to know to be successful from Add-on Sales
In the middle of all that, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. on Sunday, the trade show floor was open for visitors to examine the
98 vendors’ booths to look for new sources, new ideas and new equipment
to make their workrooms more efficient and more profitable.
Here is where one of the changes was seen. The trade show hours were expanded
slightly this year in response to suggestions from last year’s vendors.
In the past, the exhibit hall was not opened until the last seminar of the day
was completed. But it was suggested that an additional two hours be tacked onto
the opening of the exhibit area to allow more time for those visitors not taking
a seminar to walk the aisles. For the most part, those extra hours did not increase
business for vendors. The show’s attendees were there to learn and most
of them were in classes until noon.
FULL SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES
There’s always something new to learn in this industry and in scanning
this year’s course schedule some new topics were offered reflecting the
interests of attendees from “Great Gadgets” to “The Bootstrap
Entrepreneur,” “Restyling Furniture,” “Creating Promotional
Materials” and “Shutters: From Measuring to Installation.”
As in last year’s show, a Working Workroom was set up again, an idea that
has proved very effective. It has become an excellent venue for equipment manufacturers
and product suppliers to place their products in an actual workroom setting.
It gives show attendees a chance to work with equipment, try it out, see how
products work and get ideas about what products or equipment they need in their
workrooms and even how best to set up a workroom given the spaces they have.
Draperies & Window Coverings, partnering with the Custom Home Furnishings
School, sponsored a vendor and instructor appreciation reception at the Hilton
Hotel, this year’s host hotel. Members of the DraperyPro workroom e-mail
network gathered for dinner and some face-to-face networking. The Window Coverings
Association of America (WCAA) held a networking dinner on Friday with about 200
The exhibitor booths are a great way for vendors to display their products and
services to show attendees. However, the booths can become somewhat crowded and
may not provide the best opportunity to really show off some products as they
would actually appear on a window or in a room. A solution to this problem will
be offered at next year’s show.
A Vendor Showcase will be included on the trade show floor in 2004 for the first
time. The idea here is to provide a unique marketing technique for vendors and
to enhance the overall ambience of the show, creating what may almost become
a design showroom. In each four- by eight-foot space vendors will be able to
showcase installed home furnishings products including window treatments, bed
treatments, upholstered chairs, slip covered chairs, tablecloths, even small
vignettes of a variety of products as space allows.
This new Vendor Showcase will be in addition to two others: the SewWhat? Showcase
of window treatments featured in Strickland’s SewWhat? magazine and the
DraperyPro Showcase of treatments created by DraperyPro members. These last two
showcases have been staples of this educational conference for several years
and have been crowd pleasers. Attendees enjoy seeing actual treatments on display,
noting the creative ideas and taking lots of photos.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to changes, however. Next
year’s Eighth Custom Home Furnishings Educational Conference and Trade
Show returns to the Palmetto Expo Center in Greenville, SC, but scheduled for
August 4 to 8, 2004, the event moves to a Thursday to Sunday schedule from its
previous Friday to Monday dates. This shift gets everyone back to work by Monday
But the really big news is that three-and-a-half days in Greenville, SC, can
no longer hold this show. In 2004 a second show has been added: September 28
to October 3 at the Fort Washington Expo Center in Philadelphia, PA.