This year was profitable for exhibitors at the Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food and Gifts, according to the Montana Department of Commerce.

The department, which runs the program, said exhibitors reported a 60% increase in sales at the show.

The March event pairs local artisans, growers, craftspeople and manufacturers with wholesale buyers.

“It was an excellent trade show for us,” said Jan Stoddard, bureau chief at the Department of Commerce. “Especially in terms of wholesale orders.”

The Made in Montana trade show is built on the premise of helping small Montana businesses expand into the wholesale market.

“It’s one of those tools that allows Made in Montana suppliers the chance to work with buyers on a very professional level,” Stoddard said. “They have to have a wholesale price list, they have to set up their display to be attractive, they have to understand the retail market and they have to be able to provide the product in the quantity and timeliness that the buyers want.”

Exhibitors were sent a post-trade show survey that asked about sales. Results revealed success.

More than half of the exhibitors responded to the survey and reported more than $500,000 in orders from the event. This is a 60% increase in order value from the 2018 show.

Buyers represent a variety of retail stores in Montana, including gift shops for museums and national parks, lodging properties, and food and beverage vendors. Retailers shopping for jewelry, accessories, food, beverages, books and stationery made up the largest percentage of buyers.

Timing of the spring show couldn’t be better, as it allows buyers from all over the state to see new and purchase new products just in time for tourist season.

Jim Schimerowski of Handcrafters Gifts in Helena said he saw more than a $1,000 increase in placed orders.

“It was mainly earrings and necklaces,” said the laser-carved jewelry and gifts craftsman. “About half our orders this year were new accounts. That’s pretty typical for the trade show.”

Schimerowski said the increase was a welcome surprise.

“After being in business for 30 years,” he said, “you can’t predict business this year based on last year.”

Sylvia Love, co-owner of Buckskin Jim, a company that makes handmade leather products in Great Falls, said they more than doubled their wholesaler list this year.

“The show provided a face-to-face experience for buyers," Love said in a statement from the Department of Commerce. "They got to see the product and feel it. That aspect of seeing, feeling and smelling is ultimately what sold our products and allowed us to fill orders.”

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City Editor

Assistant editor at the Helena Independent Record.

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