Home & Garden Show Offers Businesses Valuable ExposureTo call the Western Mass. Home & Garden Show a lifeline for certain businesses, says Brad Campbell, would certainly be underselling it.
“I know of one foam-insulation company that gets 60% of its business from the home show,” said Campbell, president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Mass., the organization that has been putting on the show for the past 58 years. This year’s event takes place on March 22-25, at the Eastern States Exposition.
That 60% figure isn’t an isolated example, he told BusinessWest. For some companies, the leads generated over those four days may account for up to 70% of their business for the year.
“The home show gives vendors the opportunity to market to an audience that normally wouldn’t see their name,” he explained. “They get in front of consumers for four days — more than 20,000 consumers, in fact. That, by itself, is a tremendous value.”
That exposure is, in many ways, a reflection of the goals of the association itself, Campbell noted.
“We’re an independent group made up of builders, remodelers, and what I call allied industries, industries that support builders and remodelers,” he said. “We have about 400 members, and our purpose is to represent the interests of those industries, both legislatively and by helping our members develop themselves as stronger business people. We offer education to our members to try to help them run their business more effectively and efficiently.”
The home show, he explained, started as a way to generate revenue to support the association.
“Like any trade group, we’re supported by dues from members. We try to keep dues as low as possible, and the home show has been able to be our funding mechanism to accomplish that. But that’s a minor point; the real purpose of the home show is that it gives the community the opportunity to see and touch and feel these new products we’ve developed, and incorporate them into their homes. It’s developed over the years to be a spotlight for these products and services.”
For this issue, BusinessWest sits down with Campbell to learn how the Home & Garden show continues to evolve in its 58th year, and why it continues to be that vital lifeline — or, at the very least, a springboard into a busy spring — for so many companies.
Bricks and More
The scope of the home show has definitely expanded, Campbell explained, noting that it’s no longer just a showcase for new products and construction- and landscaping-related services. Visitors can learn how to finance their projects by visiting one of a whopping 10 banks and credit unions that will set up shop at the show. Other exhibitors — more than 350 in all, in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.
“We even have automobiles at the home show,” he added. “It’s no longer just about homes; it’s about lifestyle, how we live our lives, whether it’s improving our backyards, creating an escape from the day-to-day, or the vehicles we drive, or the sheds we put things in. Sheds have also become a big portion of the show.”
The theme of this year’s show is ‘Rebuilding Western Mass., Rebuilding Lives,’ a nod to a freak series of weather events last year that turned countless lives upside down across the region.
“A lot of consumers haven’t figured out how they’re going to do it,” Campbell said in reference to said rebuilding. “This is a place where they can talk to professionals, talk to suppliers, architects, and find a way through the maze of how to get back on their feet.”
Responding to the storms of 2011, he noted, some fields (roofing and siding, for instance) were booming from the get-go, but much of the new construction still hasn’t happened because property owners and insurance companies continue to deal with claims, so there’s plenty of opportunity on the table for companies in dozens of specialties. “A lot of people were underinsured or uninsured,” he added. “We’ve all heard horror stories. It’s been interesting.”
That brought Campbell back to one role of the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc., and that is as a resource for consumers looking for construction services. The home show, he said, is one way to get that message across, by enhancing the group’s profile.
“That’s one thing that gets lost about our association,” he noted. “When consumers are trying to figure out which builders or remodelers to use, when they have questions, we’re possibly the best source for that information. When consumers call, we do the research. We have a referral program for our members, so when a consumer calls and wants work done on their home, we’ll find a member willing to do the work. Sometimes people think of the Yellow Pages first, but here, we’ve got the resources.”
Those consumer questions often center around options for energy-efficient products, an increasingly noteworthy trend in building. At the home show, that’s reflected in everything from solar and geothermal products to a company like Eco Building Bargains, which specializes in repurposing discarded building supplies.
“We’re seeing more technology, more energy-efficient products,” Campbell said. “That’s what consumers are looking for. This year we have three or four solar companies, where in the past we’d have one. High-efficiency heating and cooling systems always play a big role.”
Also on the rise at the show — perhaps reflecting an improving economy — are luxury items, from pools and hot tubs to central vacuum systems and other gadgets that make home life a little easier.
Speaking of making life easier, Campbell’s organization aims to do just that for area nonprofits, many of whom are offered free booth space at the show. The Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. has partnered in the past with the Red Cross, Shriners Hospital, Rebuild Together Springfield, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, Harmony House, and many others. It also maintains a scholarship program for members’ children, which has doled out some $400,000 to date.
“We try to give nonprofits the opportunity to get in front of people and explain who they are and what they do; that’s an important component of community service that we’re promoting heavily,” he explained.
This year, the association is working with Homes for Our Troops to build a house in Granby for Marine Sgt. Joshua Bouchard, who lost his left leg and broke his back after his vehicle drove over an explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009.
Efforts like that, Campbell said, make it clear that “the culture of home shows is such not just about doing business. One thing I’ve found is that people actually go to these to see old friends, people they haven’t caught up with in recent years. It’s a social event as well as a consumer event.”
And if it helps to rebuild a few lives — from tornado victims to an injured Marine — then it’s a show even more worth seeing.
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]