With more than a million square feet of floor space and scores of booths to visit, it’s no doubt that the SEMA Show is a dream come true for those wishing to see the latest and greatest technology. But for companies that are just getting their feet wet in the collision repair industry, the enormous show floor can be a bit intimidating. How can you make sure the right people see your new product?
A longstanding show tradition, the SEMA Collision Repair & Refinish New Product Showcase is the place for new products to gain the attention and exposure they deserve. Submitted products are required to meet unique, stringent guidelines, and the judges examine each product to ensure that they’re actually new versus repackaged or rebranded. But the publicity and attention gained is well worth the effort.
“When you go to a trade show, one of the first things you want to know is what’s new,” said Dusty Womble, operating partner at Roger Beasley Collision Center in Austin, Texas, and New Product Showcase judge. “If you don’t have your product in the New Product Showcase, then it’s not necessarily going to be viewed as a new product.”
Womble has served as a judge for the event for roughly four years. As a Showcase veteran, he knows what separates the great products from the good.
“The product choices have grown exponentially since we first did it. The first year, we had very few products to choose from. Now, there could be as many as 40 or 50 products, which is what I’m expecting this year.”
A panel of judges will walk through the Showcase to get a first glance of the products, and then walk through once more to thoroughly inspect the collection. Each judge will then compile their own personal top five favorites and present them to the rest of the panel, explaining why they ranked them in their respective order. They then will either come to a consensus or vote on the top products.
What truly makes a product stand out is its ability to help shops effectively do their jobs, according to Womble.
“We’re all looking to restore a car, based on OEM guidelines, as close to pre-accident condition as we possibly can. So what product out there will help us do that? This category isn’t really on restoration; this category is on repairing a collision, and there’s a distinction. With restoration, you take an old ’59 Chevrolet and make it look custom. This one, you take a wreck and make it look like it never happened.”
Another factor is the product’s ability to cater to the industry as a whole. “The broader the appeal, the better off the product is,” he said.
One previous winner that stood out to Womble was a new take on sandpaper. The product’s new technology allowed the sandpaper to last longer, which ultimately reduced costs for shops.
“As technologies improve and chemicals change, there are things out there that will help us do a better job. It’s all about doing a better job to make that damage disappear.”
Given the buzz surrounding the new aluminum Ford F-150, Womble anticipates that multiple submitted products will have a focus on aluminum repair. Aftermarket products can serve as viable alternatives to products that have been approved by Ford for the repair of the vehicle.
“I’m expecting to see some aluminum repair aftermarket products that may not be a part of the program, because the stuff in the program is a little pricey,” he said.
The winners receive esteemed awards and are recognized at a special Awards Breakfast, taking place the opening day of the Show. But Womble says that the exposure gained just by entering the Showcase is an even greater reward.
“I encourage anybody who has a new product, no matter what kind it is, to get it in. It’s not really about winning the showcase, but about being in the Showcase.”