DEARBORN, Michigan — Between a soft economy, aging collector population and shifts in demand, many glass shows across the country struggle to hit a solid attendance number during a weekend. November 7 & 8, the Michigan Depression Glass Society (MDGS) held their 43rd annual show in Dearborn, Michigan, and more than 1,250 paid attendees and 125 club members gathered for the show.
While these numbers may not hit the heyday of glass shows back in the 1990’s, the 25 dealers at the show were extremely pleased with the overall attendance, and that there were 285 people lined up when the doors opened on Saturday morning.
“Many glass shows are struggling to pull in 500 people over a weekend,” said dealer Pam Francella of Depression Classics. “Anyone who can get to that 500 mark is doing great, and if you are over 1,000, it is pretty amazing.”
The attendance isn’t the only thing that keeps Pam coming back each year. “The members of MDGS are so warm and friendly, and their hard work and dedication to the show and dealers is felt from the moment we walk in until the last piece of glass is packed up after the show closes.”
MDGS President Jonathan Fuhrman credits much of the show’s success to the club’s unique approach to advertising and public relations. “We dropped all of our newspaper classified advertising and completely revamped the way we approached marketing the show. We are very fortunate to have two marketers-by-profession as members of our club who have done amazing things with our outreach efforts over the last several years.”
The organization credits two key elements to its successful advertising – using different types of
media, as well as reaching outside of the existing glass collecting community.
Advertisements for the show can be found not only in traditional printed antique publications, but through social media channels like Facebook. The club’s Facebook presence has surpassed 2,400 likes which it has gained organically, as well as through paid campaigns. A strong interest in glass collecting by the metro Detroit area’s Japanese population is also leveraged with unique ads in niche publications.
“We also are very focused on attracting people who don’t fall within the traditional realm of glass collecting,” says marketer Jennifer Ganem. “We’re reaching out to the LGBT community, people who have an interest in entertaining, or those who might own a historic home and be interested in decorating with some era glassware.
“Long time collectors want to protect the investment we’ve made in our collections. It is our responsibility to foster an interest in what we collect so future generations will appreciate these pieces of American history,” says Ganem.
In addition to the paid campaigns run by MDGS, they were very fortunate to have some big wins from a public relations standpoint. The show was covered on the front page of the local newspaper (above the fold), in the lifestyle section of another paper, through a ten-minute NPR interview, along with three segments on the Sunday morning television news.
“We are able to attract media attention frequently because we always have a story to tell,” said President Fuhrman. “Our club puts on an annual display which this year featured the 100th anniversary of Pyrex glassware as well as Fostoria’s American pattern. So when we did our media pitch, it wasn’t just 25 dealers selling glass – it was a story about celebrating these milestone anniversaries.”
The club expects has a wait list for dealers to participate at its 2016 show, which will be held November 5 & 6, and is already talking about implementing new strategies for marketing and promotions. “Our glass club is a great example of how positive word-of-mouth exposure can blend together with current technology and innovative marketing, to reach new audiences and build interest in collecting,” said Fuhrman. “There are valuable lessons here for any show or collector’s group.”