New Orleans’ got its nickname “The Big Easy” on account of its laid-back attitude and the easy-going nature of the jazz musicians and other residents of the city. Readers Digest compared ‘the Big Easy’ to ‘the Big Apple,’” noting that while New Yorkers were perpetually running around, laid-back life in New Orleans reigned. That’s not to say that New Orleans isn’t always up for a party. Aside from the annual Mardi Gras celebration, this city-parish along the Mississippi River has played host to Super Bowls, NBA All-Star games, and major conventions and showcases for everything from biotech to new cars and trucks.
All those things made New Orleans the perfect place for holding The HQ Event, one of the newest and cutting-edge B2B trade shows for the smoke shop, cannabis, and counterculture communities.
Scheduled for June 2-3, 2022, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in downtown New Orleans, The HQ Event brings together more than a hundred of the industry’s leading vendors and brands. There Are no casinos to navigate through or shuttle buses to stand in line for to get to the event; everything is under one roof, and centrally located within walking distance of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. You might even say The HQ Event is the “Big Easy” for those in the smoke shop industry — easy to attend, easy to buy, and easy to sell.
“We really like New Orleans as a location because it’s not Vegas where not only are there a lot of distractions, but also expense and time that you must invest into getting to the show. It’s an especially long trip to Vegas from the Midwest and East Coast, but New Orleans is a little bit more in the backyard for people on that side of the country,” notes Mike Sessoms, the man behind the popular Smoke Shop Events (SSE) trade shows, and responsible for The HQ Event in partnership with Headquest Magazine, the counterculture retail industry’s longest-running B2B publication.
The boutique nature of The HQ Event is one of its advantages to both buyers and sellers. At larger events where you have six football fields worth of booths, a lot of times exhibitors get skipped over and some aisles don’t even get walked down at all. It can be hard to remember what you’ve seen and what you haven’t, and before long the show floor becomes a hazy labyrinth. With The HQ Event being more intimate, all the buyers get to see all the vendors, and they have plenty of time with two days to check everything out.
“We’re really dialed in with a large variety of exhibitors and products, but it’s not so massive to where the buyers are drained by the end of the first day and then have to figure out where to get the energy to make it through the rest of the show,” Sessoms says.
As a vendor at one of the giant trade shows, you’re a little fish in the big sea. Those with massive footprints, big screen monitors, and custom-designed displays, and those who’ve shelled out top dollar to be in a high traffic area, tend to draw the most attention. If you’re a newcomer with a smaller booth or have been stuck out in the back forty, you’re often left waiting for customers to stumble by. As Sessoms points out, The HQ Event being a smaller venue means, “there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
“We purposely don’t arrange it by category so that buyers explore the entire show and don’t just stick to one area. Remember, we’re not talking miles and miles of walking, so buyers have a chance to take their time, stop and look at whatever interests them, and then come back around again to check things over more closely,” Sessoms says. “The advantage for exhibitors is that they’re going to have great foot traffic wherever they are located.
The other advantage to exhibitors is that there aren’t any lookie-loos asking millions of questions, sampling you to death, and not placing any orders. Every single attendee is a quality vetted buyer.
“We are very, very strict with our registration policy on who we let into the show,” Sessoms says. “Being that SSE and HQ have been in this industry for over two decades, we already know a lot of the volume buyers; not only that, but we go to great lengths to make sure that we’re bringing in legitimate business owners and buyers, new as well as established, who are serious about making connections, building relationships, and ordering products for their stores.”
Registered buyers receive a $150 gift card, which is essentially $300 worth of free retail merchandise from any one vendor. It’s the perfect opportunity to try out a new product line or even test the waters with a new brand, bring it into the store and see how customers respond. Another very cool giveaway is a store’s worth of merchandise representing all the exhibitors being awarded to one lucky buyer/attendee — it’s like taking the HQ Event back home!
One of the best parts of going to an industry trade show is finding out about new products hitting the market or getting a sneak peek prior to the official launch. At most shows that means going up and down aisles, trying to differentiate the latest and greatest from the rest of the thousands of products on display. HQ Magazine introduces new products to readers in the Q4B (Quest for the Best) section, and The HQ Event will be bringing those popular pages to life with an industry-first New Products Zone. What’s New! What’s Fresh! What’s the Next Big Seller! You’ll find it all in one place right on the show floor, and vendors get just as much out of it as buyers — the New Products Showcase is an extraordinary opportunity for companies large and small to stand out from the crowd, gain a reputation for innovation and attract buyer attention to their brand and booth.
HQ Magazine has always focused on helping smoke shops and counter-culture retails be more successful in their businesses. Along with ads for leading products and brands, readers find articles on everything from marketing trends to the latest news and issues affecting the cannabis industry and independent retailers. Again, The HQ Event follows that mission with educational seminars, which in the past have presented insights into the future of kratom as a product category, and discussions regarding the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, prohibiting the use of the US Postal Service (USPS) to deliver tobacco products, and its impact on the vape industry.
Being a new trade show, it only makes sense that The HQ Event would adopt the latest technologies to create a smoother experience. A custom-designed app will incorporate features such as an individually assigned QR code that offers quick and easy registration and entry to the event.
“I’ve been to hundreds of trade shows over the years, and when the door opens, there is sometimes an hour or two wait at registration. With our technology, we’re able to rifle through up to 2,000 pre-registered attendees in 15 to 20 minutes, and that also shortens the process for walk-ins who need to register onsite,” Sessoms says. “The main thing is we don’t want the buyers wasting their valuable time waiting in line; we want them spending their time (and money) with the vendors inside.”
“We truly care about our attendees; vendors and buyers alike. We want everybody to have a fantastic time and a productive buying/selling experience,” Sessoms continues. “We’re putting all our effort into making The HQ Event the best show possible.”
TheHQEvent.com for details and registration information.