We are back from Chicago, and plan to spend the next 30 days or so in strict diet mode, trying to shed the end product of all the Chicago hospitality we enjoyed. The Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair is, if nothing else, a test of the gall bladder and liver. With all that, though, we love it. A Dunkin Donut never tastes as good as it does in Chicago, and believe me, I am topped up on them until I return.
In typical fashion, the Mart made a tremendous effort to promote the show. The way I’ve just put it, this kind of sounds blasé, business as usual, and I don’t really mean it that way. Frankly, that someone makes such a profound effort to promote an antiques fair is unusual these days. Further, the Mart, one of my favorite buildings anywhere, but more about that some other time, has now given over the entire 12th floor to a permanent venue for art and antiques fairs. As huge an area as that encompasses, the booth size for each dealer, consequently, is fairly large. The result of all this is that even ordinary material, spread across a larger area, is necessarily showcased. What we heard from show visitors, over and over, was what a great looking show it was. Certainly. The flip side of this expansive show is, naturally enough, it is so large that it is hard to get around. And it is. Further, with the show so large, it is difficult for us to gauge attendance. As well, the attendees, having to cover so much ground, tend to get worn out and, horror of horrors, leave the fair before they’ve seen all the dealers.
Some of this, certainly about the negative aspects of the size of the fair, are to some extent speculative. Frankly, Keith McCullar and I market the hell out of our fair attendance, regardless of the venue. It pays off, and certainly it did in Chicago. Private clients and interior designers of our acquaintance came en masse, with a number of them returning two or three times during the run of the show. While we appreciate all the Mart does in terms of marketing, we can’t expect them to market directly to our customers. Idiotically, a number of the dealers- the majority of them, frankly- do expect that the marketing should be done exclusively by the show organizer, and the dealer should be able then, to sit on his haunches and wait for the business to roll in over the counter. We term these sorts of dealers ‘losers’, or, more politely, ‘soon to be out of business dealers’.