Trying to sell in
a tough economy
Exhibitors hope a direct approachBy Russ Lynch
will reach more buyers in Hawaii's
About 5,000 business buyers of goods and services in the hospitality industry are expected to flow through the Neal Blaisdell Center exhibition hall today and tomorrow, welcomed in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- the continuing economic slump that has hurt Hawaii's hotels and restaurants.
Exhibitors at the 1999 Hawaii Hotel & Restaurant Expo say the show is a good way for them to reach buyers directly, and economically, when times are tough.
Some said that if they're around supporting local businesses when times are tough, they'll be remembered for it later.
Others said that despite the fact that times are tough for some customers, they're clearly not for others, illustrated by the number of new restaurants and the value of recent hotel renovations.
What: Hawaii Hotel & Restaurant Expo.
Where: Neal Blaisdell Center exhibition hall.
When: Today and tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Who: The show is free but is open only to those in hospitality trades. Attendees must show a business card to gain entry.
"This is the time when we have to invest in it. We don't want to not be a part of it," said Gary Hardt, western regional manager for Vollrath Inc., a 125-year-old Wisconsin company that makes stainless steel, aluminum and plastic food service equipment and appliances.
"When things pick up, people will remember we were here," Hardt said. Meanwhile, "it gives us an exposure to the end users," he said.
Hawaii manufacturers' representative Scott Harvey has been taking part in the show for a dozen years. He said taking part in a show is work and it can cost money. But Harvey said his experience has been that, like any other form of selling, if you work hard enough at it you'll do well even if the market is poor.
Besides, Harvey said, there are many new restaurants opening here all the time to replace those that fail or close.
"The people who are selling here are the people who are working harder," said Harvey, whose Harvey's Marketing & Sales represents such companies as Libbey Inc., a large U.S. manufacturer of glass, china, and flatware for the hospitality industry.
Ken Kanter, exposition director for the expo's managers, Hawaii-based Douglas Trade Productions, said the mainland exhibitors are spending $20,000 to $40,000, by the time they pay for staff, hotel rooms, air travel and in many cases, shipping in new products for display.
Local businesses' costs would run close to that too, Kanter said.
More than 285 suppliers to the accommodations and food-supply industries are occupying 420 exhibit spaces at the Blaisdell, making this year's show the biggest ever hotel and restaurant show in the islands.
The Hotel & Restaurant Expo is the official trade show of the Hawaii Hotel Association and the Hawaii Restaurant Association, which had their separate shows until they combined them into one in 1995.
The show, which runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow, is free but is open only to those in the hospitality trade, such as representatives of hotels, restaurants, health care facilities, shopping centers, nightclubs, caterers, schools, the military and government agencies.
Attendees must show a business card to gain entry. Children or guests of those attending will not be allowed in, show organizers said.