March 28, 2007

JPMA's Mod Cat Bounce, Or Making $14 The Hard Way

So the JPMA show's coming up next month in Orlando, the last one, since the trade organization ceded the show business to the much bigger Las Vegas rival, the ABC Kids Expo.

But even if they're crying on the inside, the JPMA's still putting on their pageant smile, as this announcement about the "new Modern Child Exhibit" is meant to show. "This special section," we're told, "is designed to showcase the growing trends in innovation and well-designed products that embody modern aesthetics and high functionality within the juvenile industry."

In actuality, it just showcases how slow the organization has been in responding to the requests of a whole generation of new, successful members, who've been lobbying their lobbyists for a Modern section for at least as long as I've known what JPMA stands for.

And the list of participating companies, which "have been chosen by a Modern Child Committee" ends up showcasing the out-of-touch organization's interest in squeezing a few more bucks out of their exhibitor/members more than any real interest or insight into "modern" products, design, or parenting.

First, I assume that companies are paying extra to be featured in the Modern Child Exhibit. Like any trade show, the JPMA charges exhibitors for absolutely everything, from chairs to carpet, to display vitrines to entry in award competitions. There are companies whose designs could only be called modern if you consider only their manufacture date.

And I assume if a company didn't pay, it's because the JPMA had to use the Modern Child Exhibit idea to lure them back at all. The list of companies who aren't included is so long and glaring, they might as well call it "Last Moderns In JPMA Turn Out The Lights."

Here are the Committee's alleged criteria, with no disclosure of payola:

• original, creative and authentic product design
• new and innovative use of materials
• products that address and solve challenges
• a record of consistent and continuous new product creations
• a focus on contemporary design
• functionality
And here's who's in [* = why?; ** = who?]:

3 Sprouts **
Babylicous *
Baby Star *
Brook’s Pond *
Diaper Dude
My Royal Heinie
Skip Hop, Inc.
Storksak USA *

Who's not in, but should be [* = because they're not even going to JPMA; ** = no explanation at all, unless maybe someone saw the JPMA's hand out and naively slapped'em five; *** = no explanation at all, unless maybe someone wanted category exclusivity]:
Argington *
Boon *
Bloom *
DadGear **
ducduc *
Oeuf *
Dwell *
Nurseryworks *
P'kolino **
Stokke *
Phil & Ted's ** [P&T distributor Bengt Lager is the past pres. of JPMA. My guess is they just don't care about the faux modern exhibit.]
Uppa Baby ***
Victoria Staten *
Mutsy ***
Zutano *
Nest Baby [ which Nest? Ooba and Nest aren't going; neither is Nest high chair maker Mozzee. I think we need to declare a hiatus on Nest-related names for baby start-ups.]

Am I missing anyone? Here are the 2007 attendees directory so far. Post your take below. And don't be shy with any insider info. Email addresses used for posting are never revealed publicly. For even more anonymity, just drop me a line.


The JPMA show is going to have tumbleweeds drifting down the aisles this year. Even last year there were more exhibitors than buyers. Just about the only people there this year will be the inventors who don't know that this show is dead, and have maxed out their credit cards to buy a booth and fill it with some silly invention. The saddest thing in the world is to sit across the aisle from one of those guys and watch the optimism of the American dream just drain out of their faces day by day as they realize that the show isn't going to get any busier.

The little modern section at the ABC show was pretty cool- I think the best way to do it is to have the people in the section vote on who gets to be included. You can bet that the show organizers don't get it.

[this is possibly the most depressingly vivid comment I've ever read. kudos! -ed.]

Not ever having to set up a booth at JPMA again was one of the motivating factors in starting a company that sells straight to the consumer. From the snobby "appointment only" booths to the buyers who think they're so cool that they have to turn their name tags over lest they be MOBBED by manufacturers - I don't miss a thing! I've personally never been to an ABC show, but I'm glad they finally changed their rules to allow "online only" stores to attend. Maybe they learned a few lessons from JPMA! I agree with Scott, above. Nothing is sadder than a pipe and drape booth with a bowl full of cheap candy, free pens and couple of ferns.

[sorry, the ferns are extra. -ed.]

My husband and I live in Orlando. Is it open to the public? Do you think we should go or is it a waste of time? Thanks Vanessa and Brian

[you can get a media pass, I'm sure, but it is not sounding like it's going to be a hotbed of design. -ed.]

I was considering entering the show for the first time a few months ago, and I knew it was going to be the last JPMA. Then I got an email about the modern section, and they wanted something like a few hundred dollars extra to exhibit in that section. It wasn't the money, it was the principal of a dead show asking for more money. Lost respect for the organizers...see you in Vegas!

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