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Baltimore show see sales on the upswing

The Baltimore Fine Furnishings & Fine Crafts Show had its second appearance at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center/Hippodrome Theater on the weekend of May 1-2. Exhibitors say their success had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with strategic marketing.

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There were 48 exhibitors, of which 80 percent were furniture makers primarily working with wood. In this category, show producers describe the breakdown as 25 percent traditional, 25 percent studio and 50 percent contemporary with a mix of Arts and Crafts, Asian and Shaker inspiration.

Justin Kauffman, of Kauffman Fine Furniture in Pendleton, Ind., who won this year's Best in Show award for a traditional piece of furniture, says clever marketing led to the sale of a table and provided him a promising lead for a chair commission. Having no client base in the area to work from, he decided the best thing he could do was have the best booth possible to make a great first impression.

"My marketing strategy was to create the most impressive booth and have it positioned close to the entrance. I built a tall chest on chest made of very curly cherry and put it at the entrance. I believe this strategy worked since so many people stopped to look at this piece and then came into the booth to look closer. I think it is also one reason I won the award for best traditional body of work," says Kauffman.

Show director Karla Little rated the show as an overall success. She was disappointed in the attendance, but says the quality of work made up for it.

"The attendance was the same as last year, but when all is said and done the show produced two to three times the sales and orders that it did last year. This year they were there to buy and last year they were there to think and look," says Little.

Brad Smith from Bradford Woodworking in Worcester, Pa., won the Marc Harrison Award for Marketing Excellence. Little says his booth was fun, fresh and inviting.

"He put his seating out where somebody could try it," she says. "He had a table with four chairs so he could sit down and talk with customers. The booth was very engaging, the signage was there, there was a theme to the furniture, it was well laid out ... it was great."

Arnold d'Epagnier of Mission Evolution in Coleville, Md., exhibited at the show because it was close to home and indoors. His marketing strategy involved sending complimentary and discounted tickets to customers and friends. He made a discounted sale off the show floor, contracted a commission and received two more commissions in the weeks following the show. Sales or no sales, shows are all about networking, he says.

"It is a great way for past and current customers to stop by and visualize and communicate about their furniture needs and desires. They also find that seeing and touching gives a perspective that is missing when depending on Web site information," says d'Epagnier.

"I will return to Baltimore. Quality furniture shows with many talented makers are few and far between, so I can plan on doing one of Karla's shows with confidence."

The Fine Furnishings & Fine Crafts Show, produced by KL Communications, moves Oct. 2-3 to Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson Museum and Oct. 22-24 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

Contact: KL Communications, 80 Main Road, Suite 203, Tiverton, RI 02878. Tel: 401-816-0963.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue.

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