New year, hope, products

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The Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) held its 32nd annual convention and trade show Nov. 9-11 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, with 882 exhibitors showcasing their products for approximately 4,500 members of the trade. The association is comprised of distributors, manufacturers, and rep agents of light construction, industrial and related products. STAFDA has nearly 2,850 members from the United States, Canada and overseas.

Trade shows during 2008 have seen a drop in attendance because of the downturn in the economy. But show promoters have repeatedly stated that, despite lower attendance figures, those that made the effort to go to the shows were more serious about buying. A STAFDA official echoes that sentiment.

“The overall consensus that we heard from the exhibitors was that the right people were at the show,” says Georgia Foley, executive director of STAFDA. “Many of them had probably their most successful STAFDA trade show ever because [attendees] were willing to spend, plus the exhibitors were offering some really enticing show specials and special terms and discounts, etc. So it was a win-win for the distributors who were there, [and] the attendees.”

The largest exhibitors were DeWalt, Bosch and The Stanley Works, all displaying products for contractors, remodelers and job-site workers. Besides those showcasing woodworking items and accessories, exhibitors targeting the metalworking, plumbing and heavy construction industries were also on hand.

“The economy has really punched the residential guys and those that are involved in commercial projects; it’s slowing down,” Foley says. “But the beauty about STAFDA members is that they serve a lot of different channels. Even though the overall economic climate now stinks, they’re kind of able to explore other channels that they haven’t been involved with so much. Most of the distributors that we’ve talked to are flat this year. A couple of them are reporting down 1 percent or down 2 percent, but certainly it’s not down 25 or 30 percent. So, ‘flat is good’ is what we’re hearing this year.”

The majority of exhibitors contacted by Woodshop News at the show told a different story, reporting sales down 25 to 35 percent on a year-to-year basis from 2007.

“The convention continues to do well for us and I would say … that the overall atmosphere of people who were there was very positive,” states Foley. “They understand that the economy is in trouble and their markets are in trouble, but I think it was the importance of networking amongst our members, and relationships with their vendors and their reps. It was more of a commiserating, I guess, type of thing, and what we’re going to do in the future.

“A lot of them feel that for the most part, the economy probably for the residential hasn’t hit bottom yet, but it’s darn near close. So it will slowly, hopefully, start to inch in late ’09 and into ’10. And that’s what some of the economists said that we deal with, providing us with some statistics on the industry that probably near the end of ’09, ’10 we’ll start to see a slight uptick.”

Many of the exhibitors displayed new products or recently released products. Here’s a look at some of those that caught our attention:

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It was impossible to walk the aisles of STAFDA without seeing hundreds of power nailers and staplers. About 60 companies displayed their versions, most of them quite similar, and there were at least an equal number of drill/drivers brought to the show. For cordless tools, lithium ion was undoubtedly the choice for batteries with 18-volt models definitely the most prevalent, while 12-volt, 14.4-volt, and 24-volt versions were also available.