After five & Dime 2012 closes it’s doors we sit down with The men behind the Regional show, Alex Lessard and Lance Rowbotham
What started out five years ago as a small gathering of 11 brands and 14 retailers, has become a pillar of the Ontario industry. With 10 shows in the books, 86 featured brands, and more than 200 people in attendance. We sat down with the men behind the scenes, Lance Rowbotham and Alex Lessard, to get their take.
Where did the initial idea for Five & Dime come from?
Lance Rowbotham– I was running retail, and we were both repping. Between buying and selling there was so much travel and expenses involved, that we decided it would be better to focus our efforts in one place and try to build the community.
Alex Lessard – I was a rep without a showroom. Instead of investing money into a showroom that could be permanent or temporary, I thought it would be a better use of dollars to make a show that could accommodate everybody and help out other reps who were in a similar situation.
Lance – We wanted to build a community in our territory. We looked at the west coast and envied what they had out there because there was such good camaraderie between retailers and reps. The whole industry there had such good synergy, and we felt that Ontario was a bit segregated without communication between retailers and reps.
Alex – At that time, a bunch of reps also wanted a show. You always heard people say, “Ontario needs a show, Ontario needs a show.” We were just the kids who put it together.
How have you seen the show evolve over the five years?
Alex – The biggest evolution we’ve seen throughout the show has been the community coming together. There’s now this group of almost 400 industry people that do business together, party together and are getting to know each other. We’ve grown with vendor support, but we like to keep the show niche for a reason and work on growing our retailers.
From here, where do you see the show headed in the future?
Lance – The show is all about the retailers. It’s about making their travel costs as low as possible, introducing them to as many new brands as we can, and making their business more convenient. If you look at an average buying season, retailers are going to be travelling in-and-out of the city, or to-and-from showrooms for 3 or 4 weeks of the year, which takes away from their business. In this economic climate, it’s important to stay focussed on your business. Being a retailer myself, I see how much focus the buying takes away from the business side. We’re seeing retailers support the brands because of the convenience factor. They may not have known about or bought the brand prior to coming to five&dime, but, after a few seasons of seeing it at the show, we’re seeing retailers placing orders out of respect for the brands that are supporting this community.
Do you think there’s room for more regional tradeshows nationwide?
Alex – I think regional shows need to be treated with more importance. A national show is great because you can get a lot done, but a lot of times a rep will have more than 30 appointments in a day and after number 15, he’s beat and you might not get the interaction you’re looking for. A lot of times people will say regional shows are “just rep shows”, but it’s a lot more than “just” a rep show. When you see a show like five&dime go for five years and 10 shows, something’s going on and something’s working.