Toronto Gift Show

DATE: August 7-31
VENUE: International Centre/Congress Centre, Mississauga ON
AUTHOR: Lianne Gravitis
This past August, the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association (CGTA) kicked off its summer series of shows in Mississauga, ON. With shows held in Montreal and Edmonton as well with their own unique markets, the non-for-profit organization (comprised of over 1500 members within the giftware industry) provides programs and tools to help businesses rise to success, “embodies the entrepreneurial instinct and spirit”, and enhances “local, national and global opportunities.”

Anita Schachter, VP of the Regional Gift Shows, which include Montreal and Alberta, offered some sound advice for anyone wanting to get into this industry. Beginning her journey within a small publishing company, Schachter moved her way into the giftware world by accident. Initially volunteering for a show held by her company, Schachter found she enjoyed this type of work and eventually became a full-time coordinator and show manager for various shows. Shows of such magnitude can be stressful and Schachter suggests that being a multi-tasker and a people person is an absolute MUST to succeed in this industry.

The CGTA show teams work year round organizing the shows without many breaks, running shows in the winter and summer for spring and fall buying, respectively. Schachter says “no two days are the same”, and that there is “lots of variety” in this position. A typical day could require the show team to meet regarding marketing programs, attend group meetings about the challenges faced that week, talking to members, contracting booth space, and working on sales and financial management plans. Schachter states that they are responsible for “operations, marketing; selling booth space, booking the facility, marketing to and register the attendees while coordinating details such as signage, security and seminars.” As soon as the shows are complete, renewal packages are sent out and the process starts all over again. Additionally, the location of the show is based on where the attendees and exhibitors are originating. Adequate square footage, parking options, proximity to hotels and restaurants are just a few of the factors organizers have to consider when thinking about location.
With over 27,700 buyers annually and 900 exhibitors at each event (January and August) attending the Toronto show, 24,000 buyers annually and 530 exhibitors attending each Alberta event (February and August)  and 16,000 buyers and 350 exhibitors attending each Montreal event (March and August), one can imagine the challenges that are faced by the show teams. A detailed screening process for qualified retailers, which includes the need to produce a business ID and personal ID that ties them into the specific retail location, helps ensure that the right attendees are attracted to the show.  The CGTA set the “standards high” so they can make both sides of the business, the wholesalers and the attendees, as successful as possible,” says Schachter. With 4 to 5 days of set-up time and half that time to tear down, the show team works tirelessly to keep the move in and tear down process as orderly as possible.  Team members are required to be available at all times to troubleshoot any issue that arises. Each show also has to make sure that show dates do not conflict with each other as many exhibitors travel from show to show.
For the Montreal and Alberta shows specifically there are only eight people (who split into teams of four for each region) involved in the organization of the shows. The team structure includes “show manager, show coordinator, registration coordinator and marketing coordinator, who implements the exhibitor and buyer marketing plan. Schachter states that the key to success for any show are the suppliers and they should be viewed as an “extension of your team.” Suppliers work together with the show team to ensure a successful experience for both constituents.
The giftware industry caters to an older demographic, so it is no surprise that direct marketing is still the primary marketing medium.  Printed product pieces are sent to the buyers (with different marketing pieces sent to buyers that have attended in prior years to lure them back into the shows), as well as show previews and seminar information. They are just starting to investigate how social media platform can broaden the shows appeal to younger exhibitors and buyers. To keep the show fresh they “actively solicit new exhibitors and buyers for the shows”, says Schachter.
Schachter’s advice for upcoming planners is that you have to “love people; have to appreciate that everyone is unique and not everyone is going to have the same expectations; and you need to be able to juggle three or four balls in the air and juggle them well.” For more information regarding the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association and its trade shows, please visit
Facilities:  International Centre & Congress Centre  (provide space, retail food, cleaning services; parking)
Material Handling/Storage/Floor Mgmt: Lange Transportation
Show Décor:  Freeman Decorating
Bussing: Pacific Western
Registration:  GSC Services & Conexsys
Security: GSS Security & Tonegar Security
First Aid: Tonegar Security (
Electrical:   ShowTech Power & Lighting
Daycare:  Umbrella Central Daycare Services