Why Exhibit, Why Attend America’s Beauty Show by Cosmetologists Chicago
America’s Beauty Show (ABS) is the force that runs the not-for-profit association Cosmetologists Chicago (CC). With more than 17,500 members, CC supports all segments of the professional beauty industry – students and schools, salon/spa owners, salon professionals, independent contractors, distributors and manufacturers.
Paul Dykstra, CEO, started with CC/ABS in 1986 and took over full management leadership in 1997. We asked him to talk about the value of attending and exhibiting at ABS and the many ways CC and ABS, together, support the professional beauty industry.
MODERN SALON: In your experience, why do you think it’s important that manufacturers start or continue to have a presence at ABS?
Paul Dykstra: In a conversation with a salon owner, someone who owns several very successful locations, he talked about how his team utilizes a trade show. He said they get on the floor and they immediately look for the vendors that are carried in their salons…and if those manufacturers aren’t at a show, they wonder why they should be carrying that line. Exhibitors can get too internalized; this show is not just to find new customers but also to reinforce their brand value.
Also, even though our show is cash-and-carry, it’s a professional exhibition, and it is still the most cost effective method of finding leads. When manufacturers opt not to be there, they are missing a huge opportunity to reinforce their relationships with the beauty professional. We’ve invested in making it easy for them to scan an attendee’s badge which contains all the information they need to reach out.
We are very interested in finding out what the show attendees have to say and we do post-show surveys to ask about their experience and what they were hoping to accomplish, what brands they wanted to see, which they’d like to see in the future, etc. Interestingly, if a manufacturer who had always had a big presence at the show has opted out for a couple years, the attendees don’t request them anymore. That is very telling.
MS: How can attendees get the most out of being at the show?
PD: We have about 37,000 bodies walking through and approximately 50% annually who have never been at the show before. Most will visit at least twice during the show.
The resources from the show have enabled us to come up with new tools that allow attendees to virtually walk the show, and plan in advance before they physically walk through the doors. They can see who will be there, what they’ll be selling, what educators they are bringing in. It is an enormous building with so much to be seen on the exhibit floor alone and then we add in 70 workshops and 110 more for product knowledge plus two stages on our exhibit floor, each rotating educators on the hour, not to mention walking down the aisles to see another 50 stages with educators. Well, if you haven’t planned ahead, you could get overwhelmed instead of showing up with a purpose and a plan.
MS: What is different about ABS from other industry trade show?
PD: I don’t think a lot of people understand how the financial benefits of the show aren’t funding a private corporation, they are funding the industry, to benefit it and the salon professional. It is a very unique position we have with ABS in that we’re a not-for-profit and specifically focused on the working professional and the salon owner. We fund scholarships, we fund thousands of hours of solid education, we fund regulatory efforts, and we fund our work with the city council so that we can be involved in protecting salons in our marketplace. This past year, for instance, we worked with other industries to make sure that someone who couldn’t pay back their loan wouldn’t lose their license because then they’d lose their livelihood and their ability to pay back the loan goes away. These lobbying and support efforts are funded by the show.
For us as an association, since we support building this marketplace, we don’t understand when a manufacturer doesn’t support us because all the money from the show goes back into viability for the salon industry. Also, because of where we are located, in the Midwest, if a manufacturer isn’t exhibiting, they are missing a chance to connect with about 30 percent of the country.
MS: Finally, please talk about the Beauty Changes Lives Gala happening during ABS.
PD: We are so humbled and so honored that the Beauty Changes Lives Gala is at our event annually and this will be the fourth year. Our industry has been fortunate in the past because of federal funding. People have been able to find a way to go to beauty school as long as their schooling is over the minimum requirement but I don’t think that is going to be here forever. With the Beauty Changes Lives Foundation, when people search for a school, the funding is here. The gala reinforces that charitable need and helps to inform our attendees and manufacturers and remind everyone that our industry needs to pull itself up and to support its growth.