NH State Home Show celebrates 52 years
By Brion O’Connor
Imagine you’re a homeowner thinking about a big renovation. Or maybe you’re a contractor looking at expanding your profile and your business. For more than half a century, the annual New Hampshire State Home Show, produced by the New Hampshire Home Builders Association, has served as a one-stop clearinghouse for contracting professionals and consumers alike.
“I’ve always said this – If you’re a professional in the housing industry and you’re not a member of the state’s largest housing association, than you’re doing a disservice to your business and yourself,” says NHHBA president Joe Harnois. “Likewise, not being involved in the state’s largest trade show limits your success by not actively promoting your business in a platform that puts you in front of as many as 7,000 people.”
Harnois pointed out that the New Hampshire State Home Show is the largest of its kind north of Boston, and is strategically timed to showcase the products and services of vendors for potential customers “when they’re getting ready to start a project.”
“It’s also great to network with companies that are not members of the association and that we wouldn’t ordinarily interact with,” says Harnois, founder of Harber Construction in Epsom and co-founder and president of Atlantic Builders Supply New England in Greenland. “Part of being successful is being active, and the home show is one of the best ways to promote ourselves.”
The 52nd edition of the show is set for March 8-10 at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Manchester. More than 300 vendors and exhibitors, covering almost every aspect of the home building and remodeling industry, are expected. The three-day extravaganza offers demonstrations, more than a dozen informative seminars, a trendy Tiny House Village, and even an Ugly Door Contest and Junior Lego Build Competition to inspire future contractors.
“The Junior Lego Build Competition is a great event and something that just fits at the home show,” says Rick Hartley of Complete AV in Bedford. “Inspiring kids in anything positive is needed these days. It’s a fitting environment where the adults get just as excited as the kids to see their creations. It gives the kids a sense of belonging.”
Jeffrey Lavoie, president of All-Ways Accessible Inc. of Concord, which specializes in modifying homes with stairlifts and elevators for the disabled, readily agreed.
“This is critical for us to have younger people see what we do,” Lavoie says. “We need workers.”
Lavoie said he hasn’t missed the home show in more than 20 years.
“I have exhibited at the NH Home show since 1997,” he said. “It’s a great way for us to get out the public to show what we have. We don’t often sell anything at the show, but it is branding for us. I wouldn’t miss it.”
The show attracts a remarkably diverse group of people and business, including builders, remodelers, building material suppliers, furnishing suppliers, home inspection services, remediation companies, non-profits, real estate brokers agents, insurance companies, and landscaping companies. The reasons for participating in the show as a vendor, or stopping by as a consumer, are as plentiful as the number of potential home-improvement projects that a homeowner can dream up.
“A lot of the visitors have interest in home automation, but still don’t know enough about it and they instantly look for us to answer their questions on how things work and what we can do for them and their house,” says Hartley. “Not only are the visitors great to meet directly to potentially work with, but networking with other vendors at the show is big for us.
“A lot of work comes from the other vendors we form relationships with at the show,” he says. “They become natural referral partners. We’re able to help each other, and it works out great for everyone.”
Lynnette Rogers, the owner of Homescapes of New England Epping and Harnois’s predecessor as NHHBA president, said the hands-on experience is particularly beneficial because it’s difficult to duplicate anywhere else.
“Exhibiting at the home show helps to create credibility with the homeowner, besides just a website which can be helpful but not personable,” she says. “The networking at the home show is great because you see other trades and products you may not have been aware of.”
In the same vein, the show’s seminars – ranging from energy-efficient homes and solar power options to traditionally popular topics such as kitchen and bath renovations – benefit both the hosts and the participants,
“With hosting, you get exposure,” says Hartley. “And if you do well, the attendants gain trust in you and believe you may be an expert in your area and may call on you someday for their project.
“Those who are attending gain important knowledge on topics that will help them with their projects,” he says. “People obviously research most of what they want to know online, but most making an investment still like personally speaking with others. If there is a connection made during the seminar, it helps both parties.”
The importance of those connections can’t be overstated. The show attracts homeowners of every stripe (“From people building a high-end home to tire-kickers living in low- income housing looking for something to do,” says Rogers. “That is what makes it interesting.”) to an impressive variety of contractors who are looking not only for business, but oftentimes partnerships that provide a mutual benefit.
“Camaraderie is one thing that gets overlooked,” says Rogers, who has participated in the last eight shows. “I get business from other vendors (at the home show), because they feel like I’m a friend.
“Being there for many years, people who were thinking about (having work done) previously have sought me out the following year.”
Asked what his top three reasons were for investing his time and energy into the home show each year, Lavoie listed meeting other vendors, increased exposure among the general public “which is key to long-term success,” and a general awareness of available products. However, he added that he’d like to see more “younger people interested in the industry” attend.
Other segments that have been under-represented in the past, said Harnois, are excavation, paving, wallboard, and painting companies.
“All of these are very important roles in the housing industry,” Harnois says. “I’d encourage them to attend more for the networking opportunity with the other businesses participating in the show.
“Although, consumers are looking for the services too, and because there are few or none of these segments represented, it’s much more likely that they would become a valued customer,” he says.
Furthermore, the benefits of the show can have a ripple effect, extending well beyond the three-day weekend.
“The value can be seen within the few weeks following the show, or months or even years following the show,” says Harnois. “For example, we met a consumer a couple of years ago that we ended up working with about a year after that. They have since sent nearly a dozen referrals to us. If it wasn’t for the home show, we may never have met.”
Join us next year: MARCH 6-8, 2020 AT THE DOUBLETREE HOTEL