It looked like a huge family reunion at the 2021 Pinch A Penny Trade Show in the Dolphin Hotel at Walt Disney World – which is sort of what it was.
Every February, Pinch A Penny franchise owners gather for a two-day conference in Orlando, Florida. Day 1 is chockful of educational seminars about hiring and business matters, and Day 2 centers around the ultimate pool industry trade show. The weekend is all about mixing business with pleasure: talking shop, catching up with old friends, checking out new products and even taking a side trip to Disney World.
Franchisees wander through a ballroom full of goggles and grills, spas and skimmers, floats and financing company reps. Everyone is smiling and taking copious notes. Store owners are armed with order forms and booklets. Before they leave the conference, they will place orders to take advantage of show specials.
“We come every year, and it’s extremely helpful,” says Sandra Hoekstra, who has co-owned a store in Punta Gorda, Florida, with her husband for five years. “We buy heavy, because the show gives you the best prices of the year, and we have a big storeroom so we have room for lots of merchandise. Pinch A Penny helps us to have the buying power we need to stay competitive.”
Curtis Burton and Kevin Hannabery, franchise owners in Bradenton, Florida, say the annual trade show gives them the opportunity to renew or build relationships with vendors they see only once per year. Burton has not missed a trade show in 35 years.
“It’s nice to talk with the vendors here because, although they may stop by the store throughout the year, we don’t always have time to sit down and chat then like we do today,” Burton says.
Hannabery enjoys getting a close look at new products and having a chance to ask their fellow owners about the hot sellers. “I like to get the reviews of other owners and find out what they’re having luck with,” he says.
That sense of camaraderie and sharing information is common among Pinch A Penny owners. Both franchisees and vendors commented on what great relationships the owners have with one another. “They really think of one another as peers rather than competition,” says Bill Whitmarsh of Hayward Pool Products, who said he has been coming to the Pinch A Penny shows “since time began.”
This year’s trade show had a lot of energy, he says. “Buyers are here to shop and stock their stores for the coming year. I’m happy to say our new products have been well-received.”
The annual trade shows have given him a front-row seat to watch a passing of the torch to the next generation of Pinch A Penny owners. “It’s always a pleasure to deal with people I’ve had a long and successful relationship with,” Whitmarsh says. “Every year, I see some of the same owners I’ve dealt with for years – or the family members of the owners I’ve dealt with for years.”
On the other end of the ballroom, Kevin Sheffer from Clearwater Spas was enjoying his first Pinch A Penny trade show. Sheffer is the Texas sales rep for the Arlington, Washington, company that sells hot tubs. “These spas are beautiful, and they are built like tanks,” Sheffer says proudly.
He and his colleagues were at the show thanks to their first Pinch A Penny dealer in Florida, who was hovering nearby to keep an eye on the merchandise that was headed for his store when the show ended. Sheffer was excited about Pinch A Penny’s growing presence in Texas. Business at the trade show, he says, was “unexpectedly wonderful.”
Sheffer was quite sure he and his team would be back at next year’s trade show. Based on the reunion atmosphere, he can expect to see a lot of familiar faces.