Expo East 2017 came to a close Wednesday afternoon, culminating in three productive days at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. From all accounts, Expo East delivered the show experience industry professionals have come to expect from PPAI—an extensive education schedule, active trade-show floor and numerous networking opportunities—all on the East Coast.

In 2015 and 2016, Expo East was held in March. The 2017 show returned to the summer timing it previously held, and is optimal for attendees and exhibitors planning and selling into the third and fourth quarters of the year. The show was also held independently from the Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS); it had been previously co-located with the show, and was pared down from three days to two.

“Expo East was fabulous!” says PPAI Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO at distributor CE Competitive Edge. “Excitement was in the air with our move back to June and going back to two days for the trade show, instead of three. Our members appreciated us listening to them and responding.”

PPAI Chair-Elect Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO at distributor Geiger, also believes the changes made a positive difference. “I heard from dozens of exhibitors they were much happier with the exclusive promotional products distributor attendance and the quality of the conversations. Yes, the quality of conversations is a bit cliché but it is what I heard. Exhibitors really liked not being rushed when talking with the attendees. Based on the dozens of conversations I had with exhibitors and attendees alike, I’m even more confident the move back to June was a great decision.”

Darel Cook, director of expositions, says, “Expo East 2017 exceeded our expectations. Distributors responded to the date change by supporting the show in greater numbers than in 2016 and we were successful in reestablishing Expo East as the must-attend summer show for the industry.”

The change in season found fans among both exhibitors and attendees. “We like the move to this time of year to have a change of rhythm and give everyone a little breather,” says Jason Krakow, president of Dri Duck Traders, Inc. “It’s good for us because we are coming up on outerwear season, so being present in people’s minds just before they need to start selling our products is good. The northeast is also a good target area for us. We want the brand exposure here.”

Michael Kartzmer, president of Eagle Regalia Co., Inc, adds, “I’ve talked to a number of distributors who said they had returned after not coming to the co-located ISS show. And, in past years, I was aware of not seeing certain distributors that I was used to seeing at the former Expo East and SAAGNY shows. Several of them have mentioned that they do prefer the show being in June. I think it was a good change.”

Attendees from across the region and as far away as Arizona, California, Tennessee and Texas came through Expo East’s doors this year to meet with 320 exhibiting companies at 395 booths.

“Expo East in Atlantic City was fantastic,” says Karen Foy, president of Plano, Texas, distributor Gorman Foy, Inc. “I love that it is a smaller venue and you can really spend time with each supplier. I found multiple new products that either weren’t at Expo in Las Vegas or I just missed them. Another great show—thanks, PPAI!”

The feedback from new exhibitors was also positive, with many commenting on the energy and traffic levels.

“I’ve not been at the show for five or six years,” says Robbie Weinberg, general manager and owner of supplier Purple Giraffe. “Coming back, I’ll tell you the show has been phenomenal, the traffic has been great and the distributors have all been excited to be here. I returned to the show this year because the timing was right. I heard good buzz about it and it turned out to be true. I cannot say enough good things about it.”

Jennifer Difflley, sales representative of Cutting Board USA, adds, “We chose Expo East because we went to [Expo in] Vegas and we thought it was pretty good traffic, so why not do Expo East as well? There’s a lot of traffic compared the awards and personalization show that we went to recently. We heard PPAI was way better. We’re from Quebec but we have manufacturers in Virginia as well.”

Expo East returns to Atlantic City in 2018. The show, to be held again at the Atlantic City Convention Center, runs June 11-13, 2018, including a full day of education on June 11. Click here to be notified when registration to Expo East 2018 officially opens.