The second year of the DeLand Showcase is over. Most folks I asked judged it a success. Year #2 year of this three-day event again logged weather that could not have been better. Sunny blue skies dappled with puffy Cumulus clouds, modest winds, and temperatures in the 80s (high 20s C° for our metric readers). DeLand is two for two!
What more could you ask? Well, that depends.
Customer traffic “was up every day over the same day last year,” observed show director Jana Filip. That is certainly trending the right direction. Was it enough growth to satisfy a key component of these shows, the vendors? That depends on whom you ask.
One prominent company told me they did not know if they’d be back next year, but few will be surprised to see them return anyway. After spending money on the exhibit space and the logistics of moving aircraft, preparing for the show, and housing staff on-site, vendors seem ever to yearn for more “foot traffic.” While acknowledging the yearning, most sales pros know that the questions that truly counts is… Did enough customers show enough interest that you took orders or at least obtain qualified leads?
Customers want to know, “Will I find aircraft and aviation gear I find interesting and will I be able to speak to the representatives to get my questions answered?” Others ask, “Can I get a flight or two or three in aircraft that interest me so I can make a better purchase decision?”
The answer to both the last questions is emphatically, “Yes!” In fact, I believe these focused-venue shows are quite good at putting buyers and sellers together in helpful ways. That’s why they succeed, even while being smaller in footprint and traffic.
Fly 2 Buy
When we customers get questions answered, we make purchase decisions. If we get to fly aircraft, we move closer to a flying machine catching that can fulfill our dreams. DeLand succeeded in this important respect.
Several vendors with whom I visited near the end of DeLand #2 said they had sold aircraft and/or gotten good leads. Of course those folks will return next year — show dates were announced: November 1-2-3, 2018.
In my view as a reporter who attends 8-10 shows a year, what makes these smaller, focused-venue events worthwhile is precisely that they do not have immense crowds. Two main reasons explain why.
First, those who do attend are clearly interested since, for example, these events have no aerobatic airshow acts or flocks of warbirds to admire. If you go to Midwest, DeLand, or Sebring, it is because you like light aircraft kits, LSA, ultralights, or the gear used on these flying machines. Others come for the forums or workshops oriented to these aircraft types.
Yes, it’s true that people who go the the giant airshows to see warbirds may, probably by chance, see a shiny new LSA they could end up buying. However, the odds are far greater that they’ll walk right past the LSA or kit-built lightplane by en route to the warbirds or whatever other aviation sector attracts their interest. Does that huge amount of foot traffic do a vendor any good? I’m not sure it does. Do you have to pay for it? Absolutely… both vendors and attendees spend more at the big shows. The payoff can be that a company gets more media attention or some other benefit, but the cost is a sure thing. Smaller shows cost less. The people trying to sell us the most affordable aircraft have to watch expenses closely.
Secondly, customers who attend these focused shows can generally get all the face time they want with the representative of a certain aircraft brand or flying accessory developer. They can ask detailed questions and get relaxed, friendly, thorough responses. At big events like Sun ‘n Fun or Oshkosh, the crowds are often so thick that you can’t get to a company rep’ or they can’t take the time to give a full answer to your question. Taking a demo flight at the biggest shows can be very time consuming — although it’s much better at the lightplane areas contained in each of the major events.
I love the big shows just as most of us do. They are certainly important events. Yet the smaller shows are where the action is given their focus on a single sector (light planes). Thanks to Midwest, Copperstate, and DeLand this fall. Welcome to Sebring 2018 in January!