Exhibiting in 2021 – The WestGroupe success story
The WestGroupe Success Story
For close to 20 years, we have had the privilege to count Michael Suliteanu as a client, a friend. In 2004, when we were first introduced to Michael, WestGroupe was very well implanted in Canada.
Their next step for the following years : expand their activities into the international market. At the heart of this strategy was tradeshows.
They were looking for an international exhibit house to support their trade show plans. Initially Michael was having nightmares about participating in international tradeshows. He was concerned about the booth arriving on time, being setup on time, samples lost in transport etc. Years later, the WestGroupe brands are distributed in more than 40 countries worldwide and Michael sleeps much better at night before tradeshows based on our mutual efforts.
A Short-Story of WestGroupe
As a second-generation leader in Canada’s optical industry, Montreal native and eyewear executive, Michael Suliteanu, sits at the helm of his family’s 50 year old Montreal-based company, WestGroupe Optical.
In 1990, Michael joined the family business, which was founded as Western Optical in 1961, by their father Rod Suliteanu. Over the past 20 years, Michael has worked to learn the business from the ground up, starting as a sales representative in 1990 and moving through the hierarchy to VP sales in 1998.
In 2004, the company was ready to expand its activities to the international market. WestGroupe met Archex and a strong friendship and work relationship developed between the two companies.
In 2009, Michael became President of WestGroupe, overseeing day-to-day operations. In this new role and responsibilities, Michael kept an overview of the yearly international tradeshows and to this day, still personally travels to the main events.
As mentioned, in 2004 WestGroupe developed a bold international marketing and sales plan Including major tradeshows in their industry. More than 15 years later they are exhibiting in these shows with great results. However, as for almost every industry around the globe, the pandemic did impact WestGroupe. For Michael and his team, there was no way that they were going to cut into tradeshows. These major events helped launch their international development and they would contribute to the continuity post-pandemic.
MIDO Eyewear show in Milan, Italy
SILMO International Optics and Eyewear Expo in Paris, France
VISION EXPO East in New York, USA
VISION EXPO West in Las Vegas, USA
VISION SOURCE, USA
SECO International, USA
Returning to Tradeshows in 2021
That has been the question in many Zoom meetings this year. For WestGroupe it was never even a thought, a challenge or a decision to take. The answer has always been a definitive YES.
The first event in 2021 for WestGroupe was the Vision Expo East which moved from New York City to Orlando Florida. There was no second guessing going to the show and there was no second guessing on bringing the large booth. Maintaining a powerful presence was a must.
Michael explains his decision.
“Many companies heard that there was going to be less attendees, and decided to go with a smaller booth. I chose not to do that, I chose that if we are going to be in front of our customers there is only going to be one way to look in front of our customers and that way is to look professional and properly so that was my decision and that meant bringing the big booth”
Their brand strategy has always been to look the best that they can in every situation. Was a worldwide pandemic going to change that fact? Was the confirmation that major competitors were not participating or having a smaller presence on the show floor going to change that fact? Absolutely not. For WestGroupe it was full steam ahead as always.
Even if there were only 5,000 attendees expected as opposed to the normal 20,000 for this show, the WestGroupe brand was going to shine. And it did!
Exhibiting in a Covid-19 World
Exhibiting in a Covid-19 world should bring an extreme amount of carefulness and challenges. However, according to WestGroupe, there was no hassle. The show organisors and convention centre were ready and eager to plan and execute a worry free event.
Naturally the new PPE (personal protective equipment) reality meant some adjustments for the team and the eyewear frames needed to be cleaned regularly. However, Michael mentions that a majority of attendees and all of the WestGroupe staff were fully vaccinated so it made the process easier.
Safety Measures for the WestGroupe kiosk
Step 1 The attendees walked the show floor with a mask.
Step 2 Entering the booth, the staff would ask if they were fully vaccinated.
Step 3 If the answer was yes, they had the liberty to remove their mask.
Step 4 If not fully vaccinated, the attendee and WestGroupe staff would simply keep their mask on.
The major difference for WestGroupe was that pre-pandemic, sales teams from Canada would attend the shows, which became difficult for this particular event with the borders being officially closed. The final decision was that only USA employees and Michael Suliteanu himself would be present at the event. The security of the employees being at the hearth of WestGroupe’s preoccupations.
What About the Results?
The results were better than originally anticipated by WestGroupe. They knew that there would be far fewer attendees present but they also hoped that the ones that would actually attend and walk the show would be the proper contact, serious about their needs, have purchasing authority and would be their ultimate target audience. They were right on all accounts.
With 75% less attendees, WestGroupe sold 95% of the volume that they normally sell at a show.
These results are also explained by the fact that whether there is 5 000 attendees or 20 000, WestGroupe cannot have direct interactions with all of them. If they get between 200 to 300 orders in a show, they are very satisfied.
As well, some of their major competitors were not present or had a smaller space at the show. The decision to bring their A-game to this show gave WestGroupe the advantage that they had anticipated.
Moreover, the main KPI measured by WestGroupe is : opening new doors. Through this experience at Vision Expo East, they opened new doors and also received numerous sales orders from existing customers.
Michael believes that their success is based on a range of elements from the sales teams building on relationships every day, to trade advertising and brand awareness on the tradeshow floors etc. There cannot be one single action that can be attributed as the trigger to a sale.
Tradeshows are important to WestGroupe and obtaining results is why they need a beautiful booth from Archex. Brand awareness at its best is key, all the time.
“If you take the decision to go [back to tradeshows], don’t go halfway, commit and do it properly” recommends Michael Suliteanu, President at WestGroupe.
WestGroupe – Archex Partnership
Why has WetGroupe been choosing Archex over and over for the past 20 years? According to Michael, it can be explained with one word : TRUST.
In 2004, as WestGroupe was looking to exhibit in their industry’s major international shows they were introduced to Gary and Anik at Archex. The relationship started there.
For the following 5 years of international exhibiting, Michael recals his nightmares before each show. Would the booth show up in time, would his samples be delivered, was his exhibit space rented properly, would the booth fall down in the middle of the show. Michael had had bad experiences in the past, but he had seen these situations happen to other exhibitors.
Year after year, Archex made sure that the booth was in place and solid and that the samples were delivered on time. After working with Archex, he stopped worrying about the tradeshows all together. Why?
“Anik, Gary and the whole team at Archex take such good care of me, they care about me and they are fair with me and there is trust. The most important thing is trust. I trust them with my brand, I trust them with accounting, I trust them period” says Michael.
“At Archex, we’ve always considered our clients as family. Easier said than done? Not really when your client is Michael and WestGroupe. Michael will sometimes stop by our office for a quick coffee. I will call him when we have new ideas, when we are looking for a second opinion on new products. Mutual trust and a true friendship has developed over the years. We often say at Archex that we make our clients shine with a peace of mind. That is exactly our strategy with WestGroupe and we want to keep on doing it for a long time.”
Gary Parsons, Sales and Marketing Manager, Archex.