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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Art Licensing: Why Walk Wholesale Trade Shows?

There is a lot of talk among retailers and those in the art licensing industry about attending the Atlanta Gift Show each January and July. It is because Atlanta is the largest wholesale gift show* in the United States. Thus, there is a huge selection of products for retailers to purchase and artists/agents to view. Not everyone can afford to go to Atlanta but they may be able to go to the smaller regional trade shows that are located closer to them. Read "2013 - 2014 Wholesale Trade Gift Shows" for the dates and links to websites of trade gift shows in the U.S.and other countries. Note: Many of the trade shows are held twice a year - first and third quarter.

* The AmericasMart Atlanta campus has four buildings with each building 15 to 24 stories high. There are about 5000 permanent showrooms and during the show an additional 4000 to 5000 temporary booths.

Difference between large and small shows
Large shows that are at venues like the AmericasMart Atlanta manufacturers either have their own showrooms, hire distributors to show their products in the distributor showrooms, or have a temporary booth. There are much more manufacturers that license art at large shows than at small ones. Often licensing/art directors of manufacturers that have showrooms attend the show. Some of them make appointments with artists and agents to view artwork. Also, some of the licensing/art directors of manufacturers that hired distributors do attend the show and are willing to talk and view the work of artists.

At small shows very few manufacturers that license art have showrooms and depend mostly on hiring distributors to show their products and take orders. Rarely do the licensing or art directors for these manufacturers attend small shows. Note: Distributors are at shows to take orders and make money. They tend to be less friendly and willing to talk to artists. However, walking smaller shows is still valuable to see a variety of colors and themes on products to give you inspiration in creating art.

Why go to trade shows?
The following are some reasons why artists and agents go to trade shows; especially the large ones. Also, read art licensing agent Suzanne Cruises article "Tips on Walking Trade & Licensing Shows."

• see your art on products
Going to a tradeshow is a good way to see your art (or your artists art if you are an agent) on products of your licensees, how the products are displayed, and have a chance to ask how they are being received by retailers. And it is always a thrill as an artist to have your picture taken next to your art on the products.

• participate in a signing(s)
Some licensees ask artists to sign products of their licensed art during the show. This allows buyers to get to know the artist and entices them to purchase product. Signings usually occur at large trade shows.

• find manufacturers that license art
Walking tradeshows is helpful in getting contact information of manufacturers that license art. It is also helpful in finding manufacturers that may not yet license art but have the potential. Some agents go to a lot of trade shows to find manufacturers and not all are gift shows. In his blog post "And You Are?...", agent Jim Marcotte stated "We do have some licensees that exhibit at these [niche] shows, but we were really there because of the “ya never know” factor – meaning there is no good substitute for getting out there in front of a wide variety of new potential licensees, talking about what they make and what we can bring to the table."

• make appointments with manufactures
Artist and agents find that the large gift shows are a good place to make appointments with art directors; especially at the January Atlanta show. Most appointments are booked by email or phone before the show. Although some openings may be available, if the artist or agent contacts the manufacturer at the beginning of the show.

• network with others in art licensing and manufacturers
Attending trade shows are a great opportunity to meet with other people in the licensing industry and to connect with manufacturer art directors. I have learned the most interesting and helpful information when discussing products with art directors, distributors and sales reps.

• look for trends
Walking shows is full of inspiration of themes, colors, icons, art styles, and type of products. Artists and agents come away from the show with an understanding on what manufacturers are selling to retail and what seems to be prevalent NOW. But according to agent Jim Marcotte, looking at trends at Atlanta Gift Show or any trade shows "... is not a great place to find emerging trends, in fact I will suggest that by the time you see products on the shelves in the Mart they are often approaching the end of the trend cycle." Read about his experience at the 2013 Atlanta Gift Show in his article, "Doin' the Atlanta Hop." However, it is still useful for artists to study recent trends so that they are more knowledgeable about the industry and can make a better decision when creating their art; take a chance on trendy art or stay with the tried-and-true.

Trade Show Admission Policies
The purpose of exhibiting at trade shows is to sell product so that it may not be possible to attend some shows that have stringent rules unless the person qualifies as a buyer or is from the press. But each show has different qualifications so it is important to look at their website to see if you have the proper credentials. Usually buyers and the press may attend free but some shows will charge a fee for others such as a manufacturer not exhibiting or a guest of a manufacturer. Below are ways artists and agents can attend trade shows if they have qualifying credentials.

• have a retail business
• go as an associate of someone you know that has a retail business
have an online store
• have a manufacturer that is exhibiting at the show to provide you with a badge
• have a blog or website with relevant editorial content for trade shows and manufacturers to qualify for a press badge

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. Joan, I love your blog. For someone who is pretty new to the licensing world, it is tops for basic information as well as showing the path forward. I am hoping to find a good fit for my work in the licensing world, and perhaps link up with a licensing agency even though I understand it's difficult and the competition is fierce.
    Thank you for this list - here, we have the Alaska Wholesale Gift Show which takes place in January - in fact, it was last weekend. It's tiny compared to Surtex or the Atlanta show - like comparing a gnat to a 747!
    Best regards,
    Teresa Ascone

  2. Joan, I just got in from the CHA Show in Aneheim. My first show for selling Art. 3 years ago I walked the NSS & Surtex. What an eye opener. Since then I have been trying to gather info for licensing...which now with your blog (thank you) and others it's been easier to learn.
    BUT, there was nothing that compared to actually taking the plunge and setting up. And the wonderful- helpful people you meet! Much thanks to K and K Designs for showing me what I was still missing in a "Collection" of work.
    I've learned there is two ways to walk the show. One is when you know no-one and go to see what there is to see and take it all in. And the other is when you go and talk with the Art Directors and Manufactures....big difference. And until you go and take the'll never know what may happen.!

  3. Trade shows can really help a lot of business minded individuals. I've visited a lot of trade show exhibits and there are a lot of quality products that can be found in there. Thanks for sharing by the way!