After more than a year of virtual events and networking behind a computer screen, in-person trade shows are continuing to make a strong comeback this summer, and the promo industry has fully welcomed their return. On August 5-6, Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) returned to in-person trade shows with the SAAC Expo 2021 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. The event drew distributors from across the region to connect with peers, introduce their clients to the latest and greatest promotional products and be inspired about what’s to come.

“It felt great to be at SAAC Expo,” says Stephen Ropfogel, MAS, SAAC’s 2021 board president. “While the show was not the largest in SAAC history, we had about an eight-to-one distributor/supplier ratio, which gave us time to stop and discuss projects and products. The best part of SAAC Expo for me has always been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. We are a relationship industry and the best way to build on our relationships and start new ones is in person at Expo.”

Alan Peterson, SAAC interim executive director, adds, “On behalf of the SAAC board, I’d first like to thank everyone who made SAAC Expo 2021 the resurgence of expos and promotional products sales in the Southern California region. It was the first trade show hosted by the Anaheim Convention Center since Spring 2020 and, by all accounts, for both attendees and exhibitors, was a resounding success.”

During SAAC Expo’s two-day run, attendees met with exhibitors, joined a keynote presentation on the state of the industry given by Peterson and Ellen Tucker, CAE, PPAI director of business development and expositions, and sat in on the show’s “Insight On A Buyer’s Perspective” session, a panel discussion with distributors and end users. On the show’s second day, distributors accompanied their clients on the trade-show floor to give them a closer look at what exhibitors had to offer.

Ropfogel adds, “While we did not have as many buyers attend as I had hoped, it is a good start. What a great way to educate your customers on all that we can do for them. We have all walked into a client’s office only to see a promotional product that they did not buy from us, and to have them say, ‘I did not know you sold coffee mugs, magnets or …’ you fill in the blank.”

Mindful of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SAAC Expo organizers took extra precautions to make the event as safe as possible.

Peterson adds, “We kept health and safety at the forefront of the event. Though not required by the county or convention center, we made sure to have PPE readily available and kept an eye out for any changes to recommended guidelines.”

The promotional products industry’s calendar has been full of regional trade shows and events since earlier this spring and at least 20 more in-person regional shows are planned through end of October. See all of the scheduled shows here.