The 2020 SOHO Experience: 5 Takeaways

More than 550 industry members, including retailers and exhibitors, gathered in Orlando for SOHO Expo 2020, which took place December 10-13, 2020. What was the “show with a Big and Natural Heart” like amid the pandemic? Industry veteran Andreas Koch has the scoop.

Natural Path Silver Wings Marketing. Courtesy of Andreas Koch.

As a Natural Path Silver Wings exhibitor, it was great to finally get the long-overdue retail customer interface. Most attendees in that exhibit hall hadn’t seen a trade show since SOHO in December 2019, before the pandemic hit. So in essence, SOHO was the last major industry trade show before the virus shutdown and the first to open its doors again.

This year was extra special as 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the show, which has been produced by SENPA dating back to 1971. What was it like to be at a trade show in person? Here are some highlights:

  1. Safety was a top priority. The SENPA volunteer committee ensured that safety was procured for all attendees. Strict facemasks and 6-ft distancing were enforced, and clever color-coded buttons in green, yellow and red were issued for attendees, each representing one’s interactive comfort level. All booths were positioned with one empty space on both sides for added distancing. Despite all of these alterations, retailers and exhibitors were all ecstatic to be there and it was otherwise business as usual!
  2. Educational events were a hit, as always! In particular, Hoppy Rodenbaugh’s dinner presentation on Friday night was a hit as he gave valuable retail store insights and marketing tips. The traditional product giveaway events on the show floor were also a fun retailer draw and, of course, the annual dinner reception was again another hit partly thanks SENPA board member Marie Montemurro, who was the life of the party!
  3. Immune was in the spotlight. One trend that was very noticeable was the heightened focus on “immune support” products. Similar to the CBD craze from 2019, manufacturers were showcasing more immune-related formulas than I’ve ever seen before, obviously because of the ongoing pandemic. Aside from the usual staple immune products like vitamin C, elderberry, and colloidal silver, I noticed manufacturers not traditionally in the immune support space now showcasing immune line extensions.
  4. Connections & conversations were A+. Overall, this show wasn’t really a venue to debut new products along the lines of what you’d typically see at Expo East or West; rather this was a retail/manufacturer interactive table-top showcase that allowed for rare “in-depth” dialogue and product education. For example, at larger national trade shows, time is somewhat restricted to mostly quick, shotgun product overviews covering just the bulleted unique selling points. At SOHO, though, we had the luxury to explain product attributes in depth, such as colloidal silver higher PPM strength advantages, showing actual independent lab supportive literature and other details.
  5. Business was focused. Another nice thing about SOHO is there were very little to no solicitors walking the show that you’d typically get bombarded with at Expo East and West. This was two days of true retail/exhibitor business!

My thanks to the SENPA Board of Directors, including new SENPA President, Renee Southard, Scott Cloud, Karen Greenway, and the rest of the team, for saying “the show must go on!”

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