Expo Enjoys Excellent 5th Year
January 31, 2013
The Halloween & Party Expo celebrated its fifth anniversary at the start of 2013, strongly establishing itself as the Halloween, party supplies, and sexy costume industry’s premier wholesale marketplace. And, once again, it experienced year-over-year growth in terms of international attendees and booth count.
“This year was our fifth show, and even in a down economy and tough year for Halloween, we grew and exhibitors had excellent sales” says Jonathan Erwin, one of the Expo’s organizers. “That’s a testament to our industry, particularly its resilience. We haven’t had a show during a year in which the economy was doing great; but our attendees and exhibitors aren’t letting that get in the way of doing business – and from what we have heard, the things that count the most, like sales and orders, were strong this year.”
"Sales have been up from last year. We've had meetings the whole entire time. The International attendance is up this year,” says Charlie Santilena from Charades. “This is the show for the industry.”
Similarly, Bob Conner from Pumpkin Teeth the Original says: "Our first day this year, in 2013, we did the same amount of sales as we did last year during our whole show here. I can’t say enough about the Expo; we'll be here again next year.”
The buyers who were in attendance were serious about writing orders, and many of them increased their purchases compared to previous years. "We tripled the amount of money that we spent last year and we'll be back next year,” say Ben Baker and Sharon Quinn from Imagination Toys and Shoes. “There's a wide variety [of vendors] here. It's a very good show, well laid out, easy to find everybody, comfortable, good location, so it's super. We wouldn't go anywhere else for Halloween."
The Expo has a positive impact on the industry, but also on the host city. Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau says, “We are excited that the Halloween & Party Expo has made Houston the home of its annual event. From its debut just five years ago we have seen tremendous growth, especially from international attendees. Today this expo is one of Houston’s cornerstone annual events. We look forward to hosting it for many years to come.”
The growth in international attendees has been a particular bright spot for the Expo.
“Our Industry is growing internationally, and our attendee base reflects that trend.” Erwin says. And exhibitors took notice: “We've been swamped the entire time. There were times when people were lined up to see us. We've had a great turnout from both the U.S. and oversees customers,” says Patrick Ward from Northstar Balloons. “There are a lot of countries that weren’t on our radar as potential major buyers of balloons, [but] it seems that our product offering works well for those guys.”
By day, the show floor was a flurry of activity, with thousands of buyers visiting the 350+ exhibitors across nearly 1,500 booths. Over the course of the four days, buyers wrote millions of dollars in orders on the show floor, in hundreds of separate meetings, and at networking events. Buyer Scott Smiledge from Vampfangs notes, "This show has become the industry standard. This is the only show that we go to every year and it's been a success for us. The store has been doing great. Online sales have been great. We've seen over a dozen new products were interested in. We'll be back every year."
When buyers weren’t out working to stock their shelves with all of the latest and greatest products for 2013, they were improving their skills and knowledge at an impressive series of seminars and demonstrations at the Education/Demo Center. Top industry professionals gave lectures and presentations covering a wide range of topics, such as how to create inventive balloon decorations without using helium, how to increase your social media presence online, and how to navigate the new health care laws. Attendees were also in for a treat with the first ever Pet Costume Show. Buyers loved the eager and adorable live pups, modeling everything from a taco costume to a pink ballerina. And the exhibitors who were showcasing their new pet looks were pleased too: “It went really well and helped drive sales,” said Erin Brieg of Rubie’s. “We had quite a few people come [afterwards] and place orders. Great stuff!”
In an industry where the common theme is celebration, exciting events such as the Halloween Costume Style Show and Saturday Night After-Party added the extra touches that make the Halloween & Party Expo so unique. The Style Show once again featured 100 of the newest, most highly anticipated costumes and licenses for 2013, and many deemed it the best show yet presented at the Expo. Expanded drink service and a prompt opening helped create an enjoyable environment, and the show-stopping performances, including those on Lyra hoop and pole, kept the audience entertained. “We were so pleased with the presentation of our costumes,” says Brigitte Sleiertin of Forum Novelties. “Customers were specifically requesting some of the costumes presented. I personally think this year’s costume show was the best yet.”
After the Style Show, hundreds of attendees moved to PBR Houston downtown to meet and mingle over dancing and drinks at the Saturday Night After-Party. Moved from its original location at Shark Bar to accommodate more guests, the event at PBR was a hit, with attendees riding the mechanical bull and enjoying complimentary soft pretzels, popcorn and bar drinks. One lucky guest even walked away with a special prize drawing of a brand new 32 GB iPad Mini with Wi-Fi, worth more than $450.
But the lucky winner of the iPad wasn’t the only attendee to hit the jackpot. In fact, over the course of the Expo, thousands of dollars in gift cards and exhibitor stipends were won at the Guessing Contest Area; a brand new Mini Cooper was given away by Leg Avenue; and buyers participating in various exhibitor giveaways walked away with thousands more in prize winnings.
The Halloween & Party Expo also featured more exciting celebrity appearances in 2013, with the attendance of Chris March, Ray Villafane, and the production team behind the Making Monsters series on the Travel Channel. Chris March, a former finalist from Season 4 of Project Runway and host of his own show, Mad Fashion, spoke to attendees about his life as a designer, the secrets behind his eye for costuming, and signed autographs on the first day of the Expo.
Ray Villafane’s work as an expert pumpkin sculptor has been highlighted on a variety of platforms including Good Morning America and The Food Network. Ray carved incredible pumpkin masterpieces daily during the Expo and spoke with fans throughout, in order to share his creative process and answer questions. And Expo attendees may be lucky enough to find themselves on the Travel Channel later this year, as Making Monsters followed its stars at Distortions Unlimited and documented their experience exhibiting at the Expo.
The Halloween & Party Expo also increased its social media presence in 2013, adding an Instagram account for attendees to follow, along with its already-current Facebook and Twitter profiles. Instagram and Twitter allowed Expo staff and attendees to hashtag Instagram images or tweets with #hpe13, thereby creating an ongoing, online discussion of all things Expo.
“We like to share the interesting things we’re doing on our social media feeds,” says Erwin. “But they’re also useful and efficient tools for communicating important information to attendees, while being mindful of their time.”
“We’re pleased with the changes we made in 2013; but we don’t believe in ‘perfect’ – there’s always room for improvement,” said Erwin. “Therefore, we encourage our attendees – buyers and exhibitors alike – to complete the online evaluations we send out after the show and let us know what they liked and what they didn’t.” Show evaluations will be sent out to attending exhibitors and buyers in early February.
Plans for the 2014 Halloween & Party Expo and beyond are already in development, with a number of exhibitors already reserving next year’s spots, so stay updated with all the happenings at the Halloween & Party Expo website, www.halloweenpartyexpo.com, as well as on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/theHPE, Twitter, at https://twitter.com/theHPE, and Instagram, at http://instagram.com/theHPE.