Pre Con

SAAC Show Is Made in USA

The 2012 SAAC (Specialty Advertising Association of California) Show, meeting Aug. 8–9 at the Long Beach Convention Center is aB2B trade show for the promotional products industry. The SAAC Show offers suppliers the opportunity to exhibit their wares - “anything you can put a company name on,” SAAC Executive Director Nancy Phillips said - to buyers, giving both sides a final sales push during the year’s “second selling season.”


One of the goals for the 2012 SAAC Show, as it has been for the past few years, is to get attendee and exhibitor numbers back up to pre-2009 levels. Last year’s SAAC Show had 500 exhibitor booths and 2,100 qualified attendees &emdash; whereas the peak level, prior to the global financial crisis, was about 800 booths and 3,000 attendees. SAAC’s target this year is 550 exhibitors. In achieving that number, “One of the challenges we face is mergers and acquisitions,” Phillips said, “where companies that had three or four booths are being bought out, and maybe now they only have one or two booths.”

Meanwhile, SAAC Show attendance is subject to downward pressure from the association itself, which in recent years has emphasized qualifying its attendees. “They need to show evidence that they are current promotional products distributors,” Phillips said. In the promotional products industry, undesirable attendees are known as “trick-or-treaters,” in recognition of their penchant for flitting around the trade-show floor, grabbing every giveaway they can carry, and then sticking SAAC with the bill to ship everything back home.

SAAC exhibitors have been pleased with the association’s efforts in this arena. “When we started really qualifying the attendees,” Phillips said, “exhibitors would say, ‘The [attendance] numbers are down, but the quality is way up.’”


Besides SAAC’s ongoing focus on attendee quality and attracting new exhibitors, the show also will be expanding its educational offerings, which take place in a two-hour time slot before the trade show opens each day. “More sessions, a bigger variety of sessions,” Phillips said, “and trying to meet the needs of the information that the attendees are looking for, whether it be inspirational selling or all different avenues of education.”

SAAC also for the first time is seeking to attract exhibitors that specialize in “Made in USA” products. It’s a business decision &emdash; some distributors and buyers are clamoring for these products – but it’s also just where SAAC wants to be from a mission standpoint. Phillips got the idea when she traveled to Las Vegas in January for the trade show of SAAC’s national organization, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).

“I visited and said hello to a lot of exhibitors that don’t exhibit at our show,” Phillips said. “And when I saw that they had Made in USA products, I said, ‘That is going to be a focus [for the 2012 SAAC Show].’”

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Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.

Hunter R. Slaton

Contributing Editor Hunter R. Slaton is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn.