CEO McCurdy talks about the revamped NY Now and more
By David Gill
The debut of NY Now, the reformatted New York International Gift Fair, in August was a watershed moment in the history of GLM, the show’s owner and manager.
NY Now was the fruit of a three-and-one-half-year effort by GLM designed to rebrand it into more of a total home show, and more relevant for retailers. The show and its new look are now a closer reflection of GLM and its view of how trade shows fit in with the industries they serve.
As explained by GLM’s chairman and CEO, Charles McCurdy, trade shows are crucial to their industries. “Our job is to make and support markets,” he said in an interview with HFN. “Conceptually, the role of a trade show is to create the flow of merchandise all the way from concept to consumer, and to support every step in between.”
NY Now and the other shows in GLM’s huge roster are enablers in one of the most important of those in-between steps. “It’s a critical function of a trade show to bring merchandise to the retailers,” McCurdy said. “Most particularly, NY Now has a very broad array of exhibitors, 2,800 individual suppliers, and there are tens of thousands of retailers who are buying this merchandise to stock their shelves.”
Broadening that array of merchandise was one of the major goals of the NY Now rebranding, but so was reconfiguring the show’s presentation. “The show now has a greater definition of merchandise categories,” McCurdy said. “Part of the function of the rebranding is to call out these categories, to help retailers perform the function of buying. It increases the productivity of the buyers by rationalizing the buying experience, and that was very important for us in the rebranding.”
The reformatting was also meant to aid buyers in finding distinctive, design-driven merchandise, McCurdy said. “It helps buyers identify cutting-edge design and innovation, and differentiate their product mix from other retailers,” he said. “We wanted the show to go beyond just offering merchandise to actually inspiring retailers in the presentation. Many, many attendees told us they were inspired by the show.”
From these standpoints, according to McCurdy, the NY Now rebranding was a success in its initial appearance. “I heard very broad excitement and positive acceptance of the new format from exhibitors and retailers,” he said.
It was also a boon for GLM in terms of attendance—not in the raw numbers, which McCurdy admitted were slightly off, but in what he termed the “quality” of the attendees. “We, like other trade-fair presenters, are looking to market our shows to high-quality attendees, people who are authorized to make decisions and write orders,” he said. “I think we succeeded well because the amount of business that was written was up in the August show. The simple answer now is that NY Now has a very effective format.”
The debut of NY Now was huge for GLM, but it is by no means the only development in McCurdy’s two-year term at the company’s helm. The company has launched seven new events in the last two years and has logged revenue growth of 30 percent—half through acquisition and half organic, according to McCurdy.
Two of the seven new shows are Artisan Resource, which runs concurrently with NY Now, and Surtex Asia. Of the former, McCurdy said, “I feel from a practical standpoint that it’s fulfilling a role in the handmade market that wasn’t fulfilled before. With the August show, we are finding an increased use of the show by manufacturers as well as retailers.”
Surtex Asia, which took place in Singapore in August, also fulfilled an emerging need, according to McCurdy—to provide Asian manufacturers a resource to new designs and artwork just as the American Surtex does.
One of the key acquisitions of McCurdy’s tenure occurred last November, when the company purchased the events group of Vertical Web Media. The deal included Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, an e-commerce event, and two allied events: Internet Retailer Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum and Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference.
What makes this acquisition crucial to GLM’s future is the fact that e-commerce executives now represent more than 10 percent of attendance at the company’s shows. “It will be part of our duty to enhance this capability,” McCurdy said.
Already, the company has taken an important step in this direction with the establishment of the 365 program, which provides searchable websites for the products seen at its shows from vendors that register for the site. GLM debuted this in April with nynow365.com, which has logged millions of visitors. In August, the company announced the launch of stationeryshow365.com and icff365.com for the National Stationery Show and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, respectively. It also said it was beginning to develop a similar platform for the Surf Expo show.
The 365 platforms “are an important growth offering for us because they are a great resource,” McCurdy said. “They are fairly easy to search through and easy to post products on. They fulfill a function that, before, people had to work hard to do themselves.”
As far as other key points for GLM’s future, McCurdy outlined them as follows: “Support our core shows. Selectively launch new events that address niche needs. Find ways through our online resources to extend the reach of our exhibitors. And selectively acquire events that enhance our mission.”