Weekend Wars

Will everyone who is tired of weekend trade shows please raise their hand?

I recently read an editorial about this same subject, written by a magazine editor in the home-furnishings industry, and found myself nodding emphatically at every word.

From the middle of January through the middle of June, any dedicated workaholic in the jewelry industry can find something to attend—a show, a convention, a seminar—almost every weekend. We all groan about how busy we are, about how we never have time to take care of things like cleaning out the garage or going to the dry cleaner, let alone do something as horrific as relax and simply do nothing.

That, of course, is part of the jewelry-weekend ritual. Since the people you’re commiserating with are good friends whom you might not see otherwise, getting together with them even in the scope of work has a built-in social element that’s a lot of fun. And make no bones about it, this is a social industry. Many positions—owner, buyer, designer, manufacturer, media—require a person to be outgoing, sociable, and happy doing the cocktail circuit.

Personally, I really do enjoy the social aspect. Even as a child I was always ready for any occasion that required going out. So I don’t mind attending lots of events. But when more than half the weekends of the calendar year are taken up, even I have to wonder if the long-standing tradition of always holding events over weekends is a sacred cow that’s overdue for a trip to the butcher.

The tradition began because it made sense. Years ago, blue laws required most retail shops to be closed on Sunday. Today, I’m sure a good many independent jewelers still are closed on Sunday. But I’d also be willing to bet that a lot aren’t. And the stores that open on Sunday do so for a reason: It’s a busy shopping day.

Is this really a day that you want to be out of your store? For major-volume jewelers, the buyers working from corporate offices generally aren’t on the retail selling floor anyway, so there’s no compelling reason for them to start a show on Sunday, either.

According to Schupak’s Famous Parking-Lot Barometer, the slowest retail days are Monday and Tuesday. Anybody who wants to go to a major mall or to a category-killer store like IKEA or Home Depot is much better off going early in the week when crowds are smallest and salespeople are better able to give individualized attention.

Even if your store is closed on Sunday, in order to be at the show when it opens you have to travel on Saturday—your busy day. Or you have to get up at the crack of dawn Sunday after having had a long exhausting day just before. Or you don’t leave until Sunday night and get to the show on Monday anyway. The problem is magnified for Orthodox Jews who have to travel in time to arrive before sundown on Friday, or devout Christians who don’t want to skip church on Sunday.

So why do shows continue to be held over weekends? With a long show it’s unavoidable, but a two- or three-day show could begin on Monday. And since the advent of Southwest and other low-fare carriers, it’s also a lot easier to get airfares that don’t hold you hostage for a Saturday-night stay.

I realize this may sound funny—or a little like whining—coming from someone whose company launched the industry’s biggest weeklong extravaganza in Las Vegas, but I honestly would like to hear from readers about this issue. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks it’s time to question tradition?

Retailers, what’s your opinion? Manufacturers, what’s yours? And I also put forth the question not only to my colleagues at our sister company Reed Expositions but also to JA/VNU, Centurion, MJSA, and all the state and regional associations who hold shows and conventions as well. Please feel free to e-mail me any comments you have at hschupak@reedbusiness.com.

Authors Robert Kriegel and David Brandt say that “sacred cows make the best burgers.” Is anyone up for a back-yard barbecue this weekend?