CANFIELD, Ohio – The Canfield Fair usually draws well over 300,000 people over its six-day run, making it an invaluable place for businesses to sell their products.
It brings in a good chunk of business and its cancellation last year because of the pandemic affected some long-time agricultural and industrial exhibitors.
While numerous sales are made there each year, many fairgoers show up in the store months later, holding price quotes they got there and looking to buy.
“It’s good for sales,” says Steve Miner, owner of Miner’s Tractor Sales. “We get new customers because people come in from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.”
Miner Tractor provides about a dozen tractors to the fair each year to shuttle visitors to the parking lot. But the store, which also exhibits at the Randolph Fair in Portage County, does not serve just farmers. In addition to tractors, hay implements and other agricultural items, Miner’s also sells lawnmowers, excavators and construction equipment.
The store lost between $50,000 and $100,000 in sales last year because the Canfield Fair was canceled. That equates to as much as 30% for some product lines, but much less for most of them.
“But it’s a lot,” Miner says, and it affects future sales. “[The fair] plants a seed. There might be a guy who shows up a year later and he says, ‘Now I’m in the market.’ That’s a big part of it.”
Because the fair arrives as the growing season is ending, it’s a good place to move unsold inventory by marking down prices.
“That’s what I do it for,” Miner says.
Agnew’s Farm Equipment is another dealership whose fortunes have long been intertwined with the Canfield Fair. Last year’s cancellation was definitely a blow to the store.
“We probably lost 20% to 30% of our revenue last year because there was no fair,” says Ra-an Libby, Agnew’s store manager. “We usually make $1 million in sales at the fair.”
When it comes to using the fair to gain future sales, Libby echoes Miner. “We give special pricing [at the fair] and we honor those prices two or three months later,” she says. “It was a big loss.”
A good portion of Agnew’s sales are lawn mowers for landscaping companies, cemeteries and residential. The fair is a way to bring the showroom to these customers.
“Some people aren’t in the market for a mower until they see it and sit on it,” Libby says.
The pandemic-related plant shutdowns caused inventory shortages that agricultural suppliers still feel.
Both Libby and Miner, of Miner’s Tractors, are still dealing with product shortages from the late arrival of factory orders.
“In past years, we also did the Randolph Fair and a few others,” Libby says. “But this year, because of the inventory shortage, we didn’t go there. We were hoping to be caught up with inventory delays by now.”
Another long-time Canfield Fair exhibitor is Myers Equipment. The dealership in Canfield has had a presence there for close to a century and is one of its longest tenured exhibitors, along with Agnew’s Farm Equipment and Elder’s Ag & Turf of East Palestine.
“My great grandfather had a truck dealership in the late 1920s and into the ’30s,” says Adam Myers, vice president of the company. “When he went into the equipment line [in 1937], we became what we are today. But we’ve been at the fair since the 1920s.”
Myers has a wide range of products and showcases all of them at the Canfield Fair. These comprise school and transit buses, ambulances, snowplows, truck bodies and wood chippers.
Myers likens the Canfield Fair to a sales convention that everyone attends.
“We’ll do a couple of specials, a Labor Day sale kind of thing, for snow plows and other offers,” Myers says. Visitors can pick up a sales flyer at the fair and the store will honor it months later.
Still, Myers says the fair accounts only for about 3% of his annual sales.
Unlike Agnew’s and Miner’s, Myers Equipment is not having a lingering problem getting inventory. “We are fortunate to have a surplus of inventory right now,” Myers says. “We’re pushing 300 truck bodies in stock. We’re prepared.”
There is another other aspect of exhibiting at the fair that has nothing to do with sales. Simply put, it’s fun.
While Agnew’s store manager Libby believes fair attendance will be down this year because of the pandemic, she is looking forward to it.
“We all like the fair and try to take turns on who is going to work at it so we all get to enjoy it,” she says. “The staff looks forward to it every year.
For Myers Equipment, the Canfield Fair is like part of the family.
“We are a family company and family is one of our core values,” says Myers, who is part of his family’s fourth generation with the company.
“My father [Craig Myers] is on the fair board and my grandfather was on the fair board,” he says. “Our family has grown up involved in the fair.
And we all come home for the fair, including those who’ve moved out of town.”
Miner of Miner’s Tractor admits that exhibiting at the fair has a downside.
“It’s a trade-off,” he says. “You lose business at your store because you take mechanics and truck drivers out of the shop. And your sales staff is at the fair. It takes hours to bring tractors there and set them up and they don’t all get sold. And it takes a couple of days to move in and a couple of days to move out.
“But it’s fun to go to, and this year will be better because last year’s fair was canceled.”
Pictured: Three generations of the Myers family, owners of Myers Equipment in Canfield, pause at the Canfield Fair a couple of years ago. Pictured are David Myers; his grandson Adam Myers, and his son David Myers.