Monday, November 5, 2018

An American Buyer in Italy

This past week I had the extreme privilege of attending the 120th annual Fieracavalli (translation: Horse Fair) show in Verona, Italy. This is a massive exposition comprised of over 12 buildings, eight arenas, and seemingly endless outdoor exhibitor areas. There are a multitude of events going on simultaneously, from B2B vendor booths to public shopping to educational shows for school children to world class jumping competitions. It’s completely fantastic and overwhelming!

I was graciously invited to attend Fieracavalli by the Italian Trade Agency. They brought in a small group of buyers from the American equestrian industry in the hopes of building business relationships and increasing the Italian brand presence in our U.S. market. They took wonderful care of us, from the comfortable Lufthansa flights to the beautiful Hotel Giberti accommodations. They even surprised us with tickets to the historic 120th anniversary dinner, set in a courtyard and building where Mozart himself was rumored to play music in his youth, and they gave us VIP accommodations to the spectacular “Gala D’Oro,” or Golden Gala, with performances from some of the best equine acts in their country. As one of the few delegates treated to this magnificent display of hospitality, I feel compelled to share my amazing experience.

My first observation: I was absolutely blown away by the larger-than-life displays at the trade show portion of Fieracavalli. I’ve attended years of trade shows in the U.S., and I’ve never seen anything like this. Massive, towering structures boasting company names on signs nicer than one would find on a permanent storefront are set in neighborhoods surrounding warm-up rings and food and wine areas.

I was similarly stunned by the sheer number of attendees at this fair! Rows of buses bearing schoolchildren arrived constantly, and the place was just packed with both industry buyers and public spectators. No matter the time of day or the height of the fences, the jumping competitions boasted full stands, complete with popcorn vendors walking the stands. I loved seeing what a large part in Italian culture the horse industry plays!

The quality of the Italian products is highly impressive, almost second to none. The fabrics are simply a feast for your fingers, and I think I could wander through Italian leather good shops all day just drinking in the heavenly scent. Italians are also forerunners in fashion, leading some of the biggest (and also wildest) trends in the industry, which makes for great browsing and photo ops. 

Finally, the Italian people surprised me with their endless kindness, patience, and acceptance. They are not a forward, big-grinning culture like ours can be at times, but they will quietly wait and then give you the most pleasant help imaginable when asked.  They were especially gracious in forgiving my very minimal, broken Italian and sharing their far better English skills with me instead. 

This was an unforgettable adventure and unbelievable opportunity for me, and I cannot wait to go back. I’m very much looking forward to doing business with my new Italian friends, and I hope I can do my part to repay their kindness by boosting awareness of their brands here in the U.S. This has also opened my eyes to the value of foreign trade shows for my own business, and I plan to check out similar events in other countries and perhaps plan some future trips abroad. All in all, this was a great experience, and one I would recommend trying whenever you get the chance!

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