With athat has long been sold out, one event producer decided to auction off the last spot for charity–on eBay.
Efficient Collaborative Retail, or ECRM, which runs the School and Office Supplies show, held an online auction on eBay from June 1 - June 8. Bidding started at $16,950, the cost of space at the event. At the end of the week, the auction yielded a high bid of $21,000 by Executive Machines, a company that manufactures office equipment products.
The beneficiary was an organization called The Kids in Need Foundation, a Dayton, Ohio-based nonprofit that provides free school supplies to underprivileged children. For several years ECRM has known about the foundation and the work they do, so they wanted to help them out, explains Charlie Bowlus, chief executive officer at Cleveland-based ECRM. “We are very appreciative that Executive Machines realizes their importance and has been so generous,” he said in a press release.
ECRM was afforded the opportunity to give back because its show has been so successful, he explains. At a time when most trade shows are struggling for revenues and exhibitors, ECRM is seeing its numbers go up. “This show sells out a year in advance, and it has a long waiting list to get in,” said Bowlus, in a follow-up interview. With so much interest, the idea came up to auction off one final space and give 100 percent to charity.
ECRM’s School and Office Supplies show, September 13-17 in Dallas, will host about 140 vendors and some 800 attendees. The show, like all of ECRM’s events, is not your typical trade show with booths on an exhibit floor. The events are not even called trade shows; they are called Efficient Program Planning Sessions, or EPPS. The EPPS model allows buyers and sellers to meet in private rooms in one-on-one sessions to review new items, promotions, marketing initiatives, strategic direction, displays, etc. The sessions last about 20 minutes and over the course of the three-day event, the buyers meet with all 140 vendors. Buyers and sellers also each get to use ECRM’s complimentary software to download information and follow up after the session. “Our shows are different than trade shows,” says Bowlus. “You don’t sit around in a booth. You have your own private room and buyers come to you.”
ECRM runs about 50 of these EPPS events annually on four continents in different niches. Overall, the numbers of buyers is up 20 percent this year and the number of sellers is up more than 10 percent, says Bowlus, and he expects it to accelerate next year. The company is even in talks with several associations looking to bring its model toand conventions.