Show report: 2010 ISN Expo

Adding more hours on the exhibit floor and a training tent among other vendor-recommended improvements, the 2010 Integrated Supply Network Tool Dealer Expo focused on helping distributors "build your business for the future."

Held June 25-26 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., ISN played host to an increased number of vendors and attendees.

"We’ve got about 60 new vendors this year," said Scott Pilkenton, ISN’s VP of marketing. ISN increased the show floor by 30,000 square feet over 2009's expo for the nearly 200 vendors. That was all good for the 30-percent increase in attendees, up from 3,000 at the 2009 event.

Where 2009's show had some indications that the economy was recovering and distributors were becoming more optimistic, this year's expo cemented the idea we're in recovery.

"People are spending money ... they don’t seem to be worried about the economy too much right now," Pilkenton said, mentioning one of the company's top mobile customers who ordered about $125,000 worth of tools on the show's first day.

On the ISN show floor, the prize drawings and cash incentives always draw attention. In 2010, there were more than $500,000 in cash and prizes available to distributors.

"Cash is the best giveaway," Pilkenton said. "I think a lot of people were excited about the Porsche, and the Mercedes I think has gotten a lot of interest. ... but I think cash for us is really king." He said there were more than 20 booths giving away cash or credit gift cards, and that some vendors ran out of rebate money the first day. Prizes included a 2010 Porsche Cayman from Ingersoll Rand, 2010 Ford F150 Crew Cab from GearWrench, 2010 Ducati 848 from Milwaukee Electric, 2010 Mercedes-Benz C300 sports sedan from ISN, Stingray 185LS boat from Mountain, 2010 Yamaha VX Sport Waverunner from Makita and much more.

There was plenty to do off the show floor as well.

Outside in the new Technical Training Tent, distributors could get a closer look at tools in use. The focus was on seeing diagnostics and scan tools in real-world applications, though there was lifting equipment, power tools and more. Companies in the tent with products being demonstrated included GearWrench, Innova, Ingersoll Rand, Mountain, SPX, OK Spark, Midtronics, UView, Waekon, Port-a-cool and AMMCO-Coats.

Inside, training and product sessions both Friday and Saturday covered Ingersoll Rand's new Hammerhead impact ratchet, AllSoft, Waterborne/Rule 40, Hatala systems, ISN programs, and SPX sponsored several classes on A/C service, TPMS and diagnostics.

"I was really impressed, we had more people in training this year than ever," Pilkenton said. "I think we did a better job this year of getting the information about training classes out early." The goal is to get training locked down and announced even earlier for 2011, he said.

The always popular Independent Mobile Dealer Panel on Saturday afternoon featured some top ISN mobile distributors talking about business in a room packed with other mobiles. Questions for the panel centered on topics like improving sales and collections, and tips for going independent.

The panel advised the audience to increase focus on selling at each stop. On collections, one panel member advised to avoid the $20/week mentality and concentrate on holding customers to the five-week turn. If they owe $125, it should become five payments of $25, etc. And for customers with no balance, one advised to keep those techs on their weekly payment and build truck credit.

ISN always makes sure families are taken care of at the annual expo, and 2010 included the ISN Style shopping area and Hospitality ISN Spa. Style included shopping targeted at women that included beauty products, jewelry and items for home. The Spa included complimentary manicures, hair styling, massages and more. There was also a "gentlemen's grooming" area from Kennedy's in the Mountain booth with straight-razor shaves, haircuts and beard trims.

This year's event closed in high fashion with a Grand Farewell event throughout the levels of the hotel's main atrium with a "world tour" of foods and performers.

Pilkenton said it was decided to convert the usual sit-down formal farewell dinner to more of a "party atmosphere." With food and beverage stations and the chance to mingle with more people, the excitement level was raised. Popular stations included New Orleans (Seafood jambalaya, red beans and rice), Asian (dim sum, sushi) and nearby Key West (oysters on the half shell).

One vendor liked the increased mingling of the red carpet-style party. "The excitement on the floor during the awards was breathtaking. I didn’t win a darn thing and I had goose bumps for the winners."

The 2011 ISN Tool Dealer Expo is scheduled for June 24-25 at the Marriott World Center Resort in Orlando.