Shop till you drop. A phrase usually connected to a shopping mall, but it could easily be said about the Houston Livestock Show Commercial Exhibits area.
Every year, vendors with everything from ag supplies to zodiac based horoscopes fill the Astrohall and Astroarena areas.
In between the rodeo events, livestock judging and musical performances, the 2 million visitors to the show can literally shop till they drop. The two exhibit areas contain more than 300 booths from merchants across Texas and out-of-state.
The exhibits are a source of revenue to the show but they also add to the total entertainment package. Visitors and livestock exhibitors spend considerable time evaluating the wares displayed in the booths.
The Commercial Exhi-bits Committee, works very hard at securing vendors with quality products and attractive booths as it is a reflection on the Show. In addition, diversity and eye catching booths are crucial to attracting the visitors to the area.
Some vendors such as Adrian Paul and M.L. Leddy have been around for more than 40 years consecutively at the show. C&C Trading of New Mexico has been a regular for more than 20 years and according to Charles Harrell of C&C, “it’s the best show to come to and every year we see so many friends.”
Herschel Black, with H&R Manufacturing in Hereford, Texas agrees. “Houston is the cream of the crop. We used to do several trade shows, now we only do Houston as the crowds are great.”
H&R has been coming to the show for 24 years and in addition to the large crowds, they like the hospitality they receive from the Commercial Exhibit Committee and the overall stock show.
The Commercial Exhi-bits Committee, which is just one of the many Houston Livestock Show Committees and 130 members strong of the 12,000 plus volunteer force that make up the Houston committee system, has been around since 1949.
“The committee judges the booth for appearance and customer relation and gives awards for Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion and 10 runner-up awards, says Kevin Rech, chairman.
Booths are red tagged if they do not meet the standards and those exhibitors are not invited back.
The Commercial Exhi-bit area has more than doubled since the show’s inception some 30 years ago.
In the early years, the majority of the exhibitors were suppliers and manufacturers of agricultural equipment, supplies and services. Now the lineup includes, hot tubs, jewelry, furs, furniture, clothing, and food services as well as horoscope readings, handwriting analysis, vehicles and playground equipment to name a few.
During the show the committee members work in shifts so that they are visible and accessible to exhibitors up to 16 hours a day. But their work begins long before opening day. They evaluate numerous vendor applications and extend contracts. They also meet with the fire marshal to ensure the proposed exhibit area layout meets city fire codes. They also help vendors move their booths and equipment into the exhibit areas.
The show has become very lucrative for vendors and there are many on the waiting list as the Show is maxed out with 300 spaces.
“There is roughly a 10 percent vendor turnover each year so that new vendors can be added. Con-tracts are sent out in July with a September 1 deadline for return, then the applications are reviewed and the committee works hard to make sure the shopping area is diverse and not overloaded with one type of vendor,” says Kevin Reck,
In addition to being responsible for the commercial trade area, the committee coordinates the food and beverage booths in Agventure Plaza, an area filled with interactive booths on agriculture and rodeo.
A vendor signs a contact for the full duration of the show and is expected to have their booth open 12-14 hours as specified by the contract.
“We want the booths to be open and ready for the stock show visitors from early in the morning till well into the evening hours, “ says Rech.
Prices for the booth spaces vary as to size and food vendors are priced differently.
“The booths have set prices with the exception of the food vendors, who we receive a percentage of their sales. Our Z team as they are called, collect all the cash register tapes daily from the food vendors and then the vendors pays that percentage at the end,” describes Rech.
The Commercial Exhi-bits are just one part of the overall Houston Livestock Show but provides access to many different types of goods and wares and regular visitors make it a point to spend time shopping.
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