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The Last-Day Dash

December 19, 2011

By J. Bruce Voyles


It was just an hour before the end of a Texas Shot Show. I was late for my plane, so I took the header off my display panel.

A gentleman in a suit was walking the aisle with a notepad in his hand. The guy from the booth beside me had already packed up and left.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the gentleman advised.

“I wish I didn’t have to, but I have a plane to catch.”

Little did I know that the gentleman was Jerry Van Dijik, the guy in charge at the SHOT Show.

“Let me put it to you another way,” he advised. “Put that display back up, or you can never come back again. You need to decide.”

Obviously, I put the display back up—and nearly missed the plane.

As you’re about to read, my situation is not unique … and that is most unfortunate.


Why We Bail

So why do exhibitors leave early?

They became impatient, maybe a little bored and they bail. Exhibitors often arrive on Thursday and set up at the break of dawn on Friday. By Sunday morning, they are ready to go home. It is hard to sit at what should be a two- or three-day show for four days.

One well-known show is held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This approach allows the show-goers to get to church on Sunday, and they will certainly have time to make it—because at noon on Saturday, many exhibitors will be breaking down their booths and running for the doors. Never mind that Saturday afternoon is often the show’s peak time; the last day of the show is the last day of the show. We bail early—it is an unwritten rule … and we’re wrong to do so.

Attendees who work jobs during the week only have Saturday and Sunday to attend a show. If they have other weekend priorities or it is a nice day, they may not make it to the show until late on Saturday or Sunday. For far too many knife shows, by the time these attendees arrive, the show is over.

I confess that I have bailed on shows far too many times, and I was wrong to do so.

While exhibitors expect show promoters to run people through the show, exhibitors also have to accept the responsibility that leaving early on the show’s last day has been a major contributor to the downward spiral of poor Sunday shows. Thus, those who leave early do not just bail on the show—they bail on themselves, as well as the potential growth of the hobby. We can miss out on qualified eager buyers as well as future buyers.

Clearly, the “last-day dash” is something the industry must end, and it reminds me of another incident.

The Impact of Leaving Early

The knife show was at the point that dealers were moving from behind their tables to wander the aisles. They were contemplating the Sunday drive home and had already sold to their good customers.

One dealer had already loaded his cart and was rolling it out the front door, forcing a family that was just then paying admission to step out of his way. Half of the other dealers had already started packing, and six tables toward the front were vacant, their occupants already having quietly slipped away.

“I thought this show was advertised as being open until 3:00?” the father asked. “Are people leaving?”

“Well, some of the people have a long way to go,” was the only response from the person working the admission table.

The father looked down at his 12-year-old, who was clutching a magazine opened to the show ad that had a penciled circle drawn around a well-known maker’s name. In addition, there were check marks beside two vintage knife dealers the father wanted to visit.

With his wallet already open, revealing a goodly stack of hundreds, he asked for the three exhibitors by name.

The person at the desk scanned the table chart and looked up.

“Sorry; all three of them have already gone.”

The father shook his head, turned and herded his family out the door.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 20, 2011 2:43 pm

    SO true Bruce…

    Often the best sales in our store come around 5:30 (a half hour before closing) when people can get out of work and swing by on their way home…

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