By Kathy Yanchus, Metroland Media Group
The dynamic duo behind The Christmas Show has creatively crafted a package of seasonal offerings to be ‘unwrapped’ by curious shoppers this weekend at Hamilton’s Careport Centre.
Karen Halstead and Greg Davies, the consumer show aficionados who comprise Red Pant Productions, have spent months creating a festive and energized show they hope will instill in all who enter the doors with the Christmas spirit.
The Burlington couple, working on contract with the Show Division of Premier Publications and Shows, a division of Metroland West Media Group, has years of combined sales and special events experience behind them, blending their business histories together four years ago to launch their own enterprise. Their goal is staging quality shows where both consumers and vendors enjoy and benefit from the experience.
“Christmas is a great time of year,” said Davies. “Karen just loves Christmas. She’s a Christmas fanatic. It was a good fit for us because Karen has a real passion for both the show and Christmas.”
As such, there are plenty of exciting new elements to this year’s Christmas Show, the largest one of its kind in the Golden Horseshoe area.
It’s a prelude to the Christmas rush, an opportunity to discover new seasonal trends – how about upside down Christmas trees? – pick out some Christmas gifts - and have them wrapped - or simply browse while being serenaded by Victorian carolers.
“This year we’ve added more to the show in terms of entertainment,” said Halstead.
“We’ve got the Toronto All Star Big Band, the Soenen Sisters who play the cello, harp and flute.”
There’s also the Baker Street Victorian Carolers, who will be strolling amid the crowds.
Although only the second year for the Christmas Show, Davies and Halstead have seemingly thought of everything, including a health and wellness component to ease attendees through the stress of the holidays. They promise something different each day of the show, which runs Friday to Sunday.
“It’s about trying to add new things every year; it’s not about having the same show every year,” said Halstead. “You’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to see what’s out there.”
“You have to pay attention to what’s going on,” added Davies.
The couple has the season’s newest trends covered by working with the
“dynamic” sister duo of Jody Ann and Maria Finelli, owners of the 5,000 square feet Marquis Dream Store in Stoney Creek, who will present holiday decorating seminars.
“They keep things current for our attendees. They do seminars on decorating a tree.
They’ve got upside down trees, half trees, quarter trees because people don’t decorate the back of their trees. They’ve got urns to go, they’ve got mantels to go.”
“When people come in they want to know what’s new, what the ‘in’ thing is,” said Davies.
Denningers Foods of the world will be performing cooking demonstrations and visitors can enjoy Holiday Sippers, free wine and beer samples, courtesy of Girls Night Out Wines and Nickel Brook Brewery.
There will be numerous prize giveaways including three bus trips for two to New York City, through Ultimate Getaway and Bravo Travel.
Listening to consumers requests last year, the couple incorporated Christmas crafts into the show this year.
“Anything you could think of is there, there’s jewelry, toys, lots of crafts….” said Davies.
“We want people to leave feeling satisfied that what they were looking for is there,” said Halstead.
The couple also hope visitors leave filled with the Christmas spirit and prepared to face the upcoming rush with fresh ideas, a festive outlook and perhaps some shopping accomplished.
“When you get a chance to see the families coming in that’s very inspiring. One of the things that hit home for us last year was the kids,” said Davies.
Not only do little ones have the chance to drop off their Letter to Santa, but they can talk to the jolly old man himself and have their picture taken. Twenty five families will also be chosen to have breakfast with Santa through a contest run by 102.9 K-Lite FM
“When they came in last year, dressed up, glassy eyed and red faced, awestruck at Santa, that was worth everything we’d put into it,” said Davies. “As we get older, we lose that magic, lose that belief.”
“This Santa’s the real deal,” added Halstead.
Adding to the fun for the kids, and to keep them occupied while waiting in line for Santa, Speckles Art Studio for Kids will be offering kids’ crafts.
Many exhibitors won’t do first time shows, so it tends to get easier to attract them once a template has been established and vendors see the passion and professionalism of the organizers, said Davies.
“They feel the attendance is not going to be there; they want to see it get developed so you do face that dilemma,” said Davies. “We’re known as the new show kids on the block. We’ve brought these two new shows (they also organize The Women’s Show) that were our ideas and we’ve developed them from the ground up.”
This has been a tough year for the consumer show industry simply because of the economy, added Davies.
“Consumers are hanging on to their dollars, they’re very guarded, they’re not spending frivolously, so in some respects attendance across the board for a lot of shows is slightly down over last year.”
The organizers encourage vendors to drive business through show specials where consumers can only get a special deal by attending the show.
“That’s one example of how our show can save the consumer dollars,” he said.
“And they have to present it in a Christmas way too, like wrap things up to show people that it makes a great gift or great stocking stuffer,” said Halstead.
While their ‘creation’ is underway, Halstead and Davies don’t leave the show floor.
“We never leave the show floor, we’re there day in, day out, all day,” said Halstead.
“We need to be there for our exhibitors and for the consumers,” added Davies. “This will be our fifth show in the Hamilton market and we get a lot of praise from exhibitors because a lot of show organizers don’t do that, they seem to hide in the back and wait until everything’s over. We’re not like that, we’re right in there with them.”
For the couple that enjoys living, working and playing together, their passion and enthusiasm spills over into the shows they create.
“Karen has her strengths, I have my strengths and that’s what makes it work. We’re a team. Since we’ve met, we’ve been a team, we’ve done well together and we enjoy working and being together.”
Interestingly enough, many of the industry’s exhibitors are couples, said Halstead, because if they didn’t work together, they would never see each other.
“They literally go from show to show to show. You just find a way to make it work.”
“We’re lucky too because we get to work from home in a comfortable environment,” said Davies. “We have a system. We’re old school in terms of sales because we get out and make a lot of cold calls, actually go door to door, knocking on doors, handing out our brochures, getting out and meeting the public. That’s something that’s rare in this industry these days because everything’s done on the Internet, if not on the Internet, by phone.”
Many exhibitors have told the couple other show promoters request they simply fax in their contracts and they don’t meet who’s behind the event until the show.
“We’re not like that,” said Davies.
The Christmas Show runs Friday evening, 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission to the event is $10 but anyone bringing a new hat and mittens for the show’s Holiday Drive with the Rotary Club of Stoney Creek, will receive half off the price of admission.
For more information on The Christmas Show, visit www.thechristmashow.ca