Monday, June 30, 2008

ISN Show - June 2008

"Officially" there were more than 700 distributors registered to bust through the doors at this year's ISN Show in Orlando, FL. That's more than twice the number of distributors who attended last year's show. Sounds like it should be a hit right? Lost of poeple on the show floor should equal lots of sales on the show floor. But the question on many exhibitors lips was: Will they buy?

All the usual tool suppliers were there: SK Hand Tools, International Toolboxes, Chicago Pneumatic, Ingersoll Rand, John Dow, Makita, Fluke, E-Z Red, Mechanics Time Savers and so many others! There were also many new tool suppliers on the show floor - companies like Access Tools, KnKut, and Sarge Knives.

In an effort to boost sales, many of the bigger companies were wheeling and dealing at unbelieveable rates throughout the show. Many offered extra incentives to spend a little more time and a little more money in their booth. There were instant cash rebates - buy $500 worth of product today and get $100 cash back. There were tool giveaways and prize giveaways. Makita gave away 4 mini-fridges tricked out with #4 Ricky Carmichael designs as well as a 46" flat screen t.v. (Try getting that in your carry-on.) Ingersoll Rand sponsored a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe. Anyone who placed an order at the show was eligible to win.

ISN also brought in special guests, including Rich Evans and Boris Said. There were a lot of exciting events going on throughout the show, and they led to an exciting sales turnout for the manufacturers.

Rumors were certainly rampant throughout the show. Sales were good, bad, flat, through the roof, and in the toilet. Sometimes, all with the same company - depending on who you asked. But I'm happy to report, that after speaking with several ISN personnel at the end of the show, sales ended ahead of last year. That's a good sign for the health of our business overall. It means shop owners and technicians are still investing in the future of their business - because if they weren't, even the most "incentivized" tool distributor would not buy tools that they were not able to sell.

Yes, many of us are experiencing difficult sales and profitability issues. And I don't foresee any great changes to our economy any time soon. But our industry overall is strong and can ride through this wave of recession. It will require smart managers, from manufacturers to shop owners and technicians. But it is possible to be successful and turn a profit during a recession. The strong will survive and eventually thrive.

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