America’s Beauty Show (ABS) is the force that runs the not-for-profit association Cosmetologists Chicago (CC). With more than 17,000 members, CC supports all segments of the professional beauty industry – students and schools, salon/spa owners, salon professionals, independent contractors, distributors and manufacturers.
Paul Dykstra, CEO, started with CC/ABS in 1986 and took over full management leadership in 1997. We asked him to talk about the value of attending and exhibiting at ABS and the many ways CC and ABS, together, support the professional beauty industry.
MS: What is different about ABS from other industry trade show?
PD: I don’t think a lot of people understand that the financial benefits of the show aren’t funding a private corporation, they are funding the industry, and to, in turn, benefit the salon professional. We’re a not-for-profit specifically focused on the working professional and the salon owner. We fund scholarships, we fund thousands of hours of solid education, we fund regulatory efforts, and we fund our advocacy for salons in our marketplace. This past year, we worked with other industries to make sure that someone who couldn’t pay back their loan wouldn’t lose their license (and their ability to pay back the loan).
As an association, all the money from the show goes back into viability for the salon industry.
MS: In your experience, why do you think it’s important that manufacturers start or continue to have a presence at ABS?
PD: Exhibitors can get too internalized; this show is not just to find new customers but also to reinforce their brand value. In conversations with a salon owner, someone who owns several very successful locations, he talked about how his team utilizes a trade show; on the floor, they immediately look for the brands carried in their salons and if they aren’t at a show, they wonder why they should be carrying that line. When manufacturers opt not to be there, they are missing a huge opportunity to reinforce their relationships with the beauty professional.
We also do post-show surveys to ask about attendee’s experience and what they were hoping to accomplish-- what brands they wanted to see, which they’d like to see in the future—and if a manufacturer who had always had a big presence at the show has opted out for a couple of years, the attendees don’t request them anymore. Also, because of where we are located, in the Midwest, if a manufacturer isn’t exhibiting, they are missing a chance to connect with about 30 percent of the country.
MS: How can attendees get the most out of being at the show?
PD: We have about 37,000 people walking through and approximately 50%, annually, who have never been at the show before. Most will visit at least twice during the show.
New tools mean attendees can virtually walk the show and plan in advance before they physically walk through the doors. It is an enormous building, with so much to be seen on the exhibit floor alone, and then we add in 70 workshops, 110 more for product knowledge, along with stages on our exhibit floor. If you haven’t planned ahead, you could get overwhelmed instead of showing up with a purpose and a plan.
MS: Finally, please talk about the Beauty Changes Lives Gala happening during ABS.
PD: We are so humbled and so honored that the Beauty Changes Lives Gala is at our event annually. In the past, our industry benefited from federal funding but I don’t think that is going to be available in the same way. The Beauty Changes Lives Foundation and the gala helps to remind everyone that our industry needs to work together to pull itself up and to support its growth.”