It's not surprising that, at the 2008 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, the number of exhibitors debuting new booths could be counted on one hand. While it didn't stop exhibitors from upgrading and remerchandising their presentations in very unique ways, it did reduce costs and the waste connected with trade show exhibits.
In fact, there were so many good merchandising ideas in booths this year, it's impossible to point out all of them. We hope retailers took notice of the fine job being done by so many companies and noted some new twists on displays that they can take home and implement in their stores.
The SNEWS® staff combed the show for the new, the different, the exciting, the clever and the most effective booths to qualify for the SNEWS Best of Booths (BOB) Awards. We were rewarded by some outstanding entries. Here's what we found:
Top BOB – Gramicci
Gramicci, last winter's winner of the newly instituted Eco BOB award, was not to be outdone or rest on its laurels at this show. Gramicci did it again, only this time winning the Top BOB award.
The main theme of the booth was "Meet Us Under the Net." The booth was comprised of a bamboo frame completely tented with 4,400 square feet of semi-opaque mosquito netting giving the booth an air of privacy without preventing glimpses inside from the aisles. The interior of the 1,200-square-foot booth contained seven working stations each partitioned with mosquito nets. The floors, tables, sample racks and chairs were all recycled.
The netting will be donated to Spreadthenet.com, an organization that strives to reduce the loss of life from the spread of malaria. For every appointment booked to view the company's 2009 spring line, Gramicci said it would donate a mosquito net to Spreadthenet.com in the name of the stores making the appointment.
Adding interest was a "designer" bike at the booth entrance to kick off the company's Urban Biking apparel line. The bike was auctioned off at the show to benefit Gramicci-targeted causes. Additionally, the company staged a design contest ala "Project Runway" where participants designed outfits with wearable netting.
The clever use of the netting in many different aspects of the booth conveyed a commitment to the environment, to design that lessens environmental impact, and to raising awareness in fun and innovative ways. Congratulations to Gramicci for its environmentally conscious approach to trade show booth design.
Most Improved BOB – Hi-Tec
Hi-Tec's 40-foot by 50-foot booth was brand new and already popular with the sales reps working it for the first time. Curved walls of aged cedar, a large graphic, monitors and footwear displays, and two reception desks fronted by wheat grass plantings dominated the booth entrance.
Four writing stations, each with a full footwear line, surrounded a circular lounge area in the center of the booth set off from the rest of the booth with parallel strand wood walls. One portion of the lounge wall was on a runner, so it could be opened or closed for more privacy. Two conference rooms were positioned at the rear of the booth, and there was room for storage behind recycled barn doors. The flooring was recycled rubber called Eco Step.
The Hi-Tec booth had a green, reassuring and no-nonsense approach to booth design, a hallmark of the booth designers at Atmosphere Studios in Salt Lake City. The interior graphics, printed on recycled "Green Knit" fabric, communicated the company's return to its roots. The booth illustrated the beauty of utilizing natural wood finishes, hot dipped galvanized steel (used in the shoe displays) and recycled materials. But, best of all, the booth was a success because it worked.
Fun BOB – Fishpond
One look at the Fishpond booth and a happy feeling came over one. Maybe it was the 1950 Chevy flatbed truck in the middle of the booth filled with packs. Or maybe the old table and mismatched chairs that provided a writing space. Or it could have been the beat-up cabinet that became the reception table supporting an old soda bottle crate that held business cards. Whatever caused the smiles, the booth was fun to see.
It was a family affair, according to Fishpond rep Michael Smith. The idea to use the truck came from a popular image of an old truck that had been used in an earlier Fishpond catalog. A search for that actual truck was unsuccessful, so another was bought and refurbished. According to Smith, company owner John Land LeCoq and his daughter spent a long day fighting mosquitoes to gather the boards that made up the truck side panels.
The booth had a wonderful organic feel to it and reflected the ethos and spirit of the company, while displaying the product effectively and in a most interesting way. The Fishpond family gave the booth their best and it came out a winner.
Eco BOB – Burt's Bees
The 20-foot by 20-foot Burt's Bees booth was the first professionally designed booth ever for the company. The input given to the exhibit design company, Exhibit Resources, was that the booth needed to look like the way the company talks about its product. The design was successful judging by the fully sustainable recycled carpeting laid over recycled foam (cushy!), the bamboo plywood counter, the LED lighting throughout, and the cool "River of Honey" ecoresin inset into the reception table. Everything in the booth down to the crates used to display product was sustainable.
But the most impressive part of the booth was the life-sized replica of Burt's original home that provided storage space and an area to the side where people could view early products and video of the company history. The relationship between the booth and the Burt's Bees products was executed beautifully and that made all the difference.
Display BOB – Zumfoot
Zumfoot's booth was all about color and great displays. The color popped because of the use of lighting throughout the booth. Targeted lighting on the back shoe wall made it the focal point of the booth -- as it should be. Plus, the front "greenhouse" display fixture and the footwear on acrylic platforms on the side walls of the booth adjacent to the aisles were executed beautifully and built anticipation for what was displayed inside the product presentation area. While not technically display, the seating elements added to the color and the total upbeat effect of the booth. The Zumfoot booth was a bright oasis in the ballroom that tends to be a bit dark and heavy handed.
Mini BOB – Jungmaven
This was Jungmaven's first Outdoor Retailer trade show and the introduction of its hemp clothing line designed for the outdoors. Owner Rob Jungmann made the most of the small 10-foot by 10-foot booth by keeping it simple. The booth "super structure" was made of large bamboo poles tied together to create a teepee shape over the booth space. Hemp clothing hung on bamboo rods on each side of the booth and hemp flags hung over the space. The use of bamboo and sisal flooring along with recycled table, chairs and lamps gave the booth a cozy feeling, but, more importantly, was just the right feel to showcase the natural fiber clothing. There always needs to be a symbiosis between booth design and the point of view of the product being sold. Jungmann made that connection beautifully. Maybe it's because "maven" means expert and the company's booth showed an expert touch.
Great displays seen on the show floor:
- The Ocean Minded booth with its seating area framed by a planter filled with horsetail (a plant!) and bamboo trees.
- The orange zinnias in window boxes down the sides on the aisles of the Merrell booth.
- SmartWool's bike wheels on the exterior of the booth holding postcards and messages.
- The Marmot neon sign, "The Lodge is Open."
- The Isis mannequins decorated by employees to express what Isis means to them.
- The stacked cubes at the forefront of the Tretorn booth displaying footwear interspersed with colorful tennis balls.
- Free Thought's "anime" characters.
- MPG's "artful" Vespa to be given away to a lucky customer.
- The Jansport murals featuring Skip Yowell and his merry pranksters.
Top BOB -- Gramicci
Most Improved BOB -- Hi-Tec
Fun BOB -- Fishpond
Eco BOB -- Burts Bees
Display BOB – Zumfoot
Mini BOB – Jungmaven