Taking the show online

For Vendor Center, what started out as a virtual trade show is now an everyday proposition. Will it catch on?

Darrell Wabschall is a man on a mission.

The founder and CEO of the Vendor Center, the business-to-business, password-protected Web service, believes that there is a better way to efficiently connect retailer buyers with vendors and their products.

Brewing for the past six years, the idea for Vendor Center started out as an online trade show concept and soon morphed into something more permanent. “This is information that is valuable to retailers every day, not just once or twice a year,” he said. “It’s a 21st century solution that surprisingly hasn’t been adopted yet.”

Wabschall, a former home product marketer on the trade show circuit, said the germ of his idea was born at a hardware market, when a retail customer explained that she was going to go sightseeing instead of visiting Wabschall’s booth.

“That’s when it hit me,” he said. “I just busted a gut to get a booth, and a potential customer was going sightseeing. It’s a 1960s business model, masquerading as an up-to-date model,” he said.

There are those who disagree. And they’re quick to point out that the face-to-face interaction and walk-up-and-touch-it features of the current market system will never lose their appeal.

Wabschall believes the Vendor Center can find a role as a supplement to the existing go-to-market system, providing 24/7 information and interaction.

The Vendor Center is a system open to retailers for free. Revenue is generated from fees from participating vendors. “I like to use the analogy that it’s Wikipedia meets You-Tube meets Amazon.com,” Wabschall said. “It’s everything a vendor could possibly want a retailer to know about their product.”

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