A high-end Nova Scotia jewelry designer and a custom furniture maker who attended a luxury goods expo in Abu Dhabi last November say they are out tens of thousands of dollars because barely anyone showed up to shop.
Carrie Lamb owns Frida Fine Jewellery, an upscale shop in downtown Halifax. She took more than $1 million in merchandise from her collection to the Big Boys Toys expo, including 18-karat gold, diamonds, silver and exquisite gemstones.
'I don't think anyone sold anything'
To her disappointment, Lamb said she did not sell even one piece during the four-day show.
"I didn't have a customer, I don't think anyone sold anything," she said Wednesday.
About 150 independent designers from all over the world set up at the innovative design and technology exhibition to showcase their wares. The event is organized by Artaaj Events, formerly Aartaj Events.
No one from the company was available for an interview.
Told to expect up to 18,000 shoppers
"They had told me us, told me very specifically, that the expectation was for about [15,000] to 18,000 to attend the show over a four-day period," Lamb said.
When no customers showed up the second day, the vendors started to worry, she said. They organized a meeting and demanded answers from Artaaj because by then, only about 20 people had been at the show.
During the meeting, vendors were told they were not authorized to meet in a public space and complain about anything having to do with the government. Vendors were warned they could be arrested because the expo buildings were government-owned.
Tens of thousands of dollars lost
Lamb said she spent between $25,000 and $30,000 for booth space, transportation, security and accommodations. Some vendors shelled out between $80,000 and $150,000, she said.
She has since joined a social media campaign with about 100 vendors to complain and warn other designers about their experiences at Big Boys Toys.
"Artaaj owns Big Boys Toys and they are continuing to show," she said.
"Is it a scam? I really don't want to say that it is, but it appeared to be."
The next expo is set for July in London.
'One of those misfires'
Jeff Amos owns Amos Wood in Blockhouse, N.S., and has a showroom in Halifax. He split the cost of a booth at Big Boys Toys with Bobby Grace, a furniture maker from Windsor Junction, N.S., who received an invitation to take part in the show.
Amos said he's also out about $25,000. It cost him $1,800 to ship a nearly four-metre-long custom-made table crafted out of Austrian mappa wood to Abu Dhabi by plane. Amos had anticipated selling the table for $45,000 US.
Amos said only three pieces, including a fancy go-kart and a golf cart, sold during the entire expo. He estimated only about 300 people attended the show over the four days.
Amos said his financial loss has made for a "cool winter."
"I just accepted that this was one of those misfires, there was no point in giving it any more energy than that," he said.