A couple weeks back I was at ACD GamesDay, one of the many trade shows I attend every year, and had some random stream of consciousness thoughts during the event. Today, I shall share them with.
First though, let's start by saying that ACD GamesDay has long been my favorite of the distributor trade shows. I think Jenna and her team put together a solid program every year, which was highly educational for me in the early years of doing this, and it continues to be a place where I grab some new information every year. Having said that, I then must follow up by saying that the amount of new information I get every year has been decreasing, for a couple of reasons. First, I spend way more time these days looking at product, talking to publishers, and doing my research, than I did six or seven years ago. This means when I see something on a table for the first time at any trade show or convention, chances are good I've at least read about it before that. Second, the seminar schedule at ACD GamesDay is much the same as the seminar schedule at the GAMA Trade Show, so if I wanted to see that seminar chances are very high that I did.
(Random aside, at no point during ACD GamesDay did I hear the phrase "naked and afraid", and at no point did I have a seminar instructor talk to me about the easiest way to avoid paying taxes by offering a lower cash price on Magic cards than credit card price...so go ACD.)
I attended ACD GamesDay despite some misgivings about its proximity to the GAMA Trade Show on the calendar, and despite the belief that I probably wouldn't see much new product, because I believe they put on one amazing show, and I like going to it. I also attended it because I like talking to retailers and publishers in person, and that first group, retailers, is what we're now going to talk about.
I no longer take part in any of the largest Facebook groups for retailers. The fact is that the anonymity of the internet makes them an untenable place to hold productive conversations, and I grew tired of banging my head against the wall. I also, around the same time, stopped sharing product recommendations in this blog, because no one was compensating me for the time and effort I put into that research, so why should I? At the same time, I increased my travel schedule, and have loved that decision. ACD GamesDay was full of conversations with retailers that gave me hope for all of us again, and they were conversations I didn't get to have at the GAMA Trade Show.
The reality is that many retailers are too small, either in revenue or in staffing, to be able to attend the GAMA Trade Show. While I wish every retailer was able to attend, I am willing to admit that the reality is not there yet, and never will be. Distributor trade shows fill a beautiful niche here, providing retailers who can't attend the GAMA Trade Show a chance to get some educational opportunities, and face time, from publishers and other retailers, in a regional setting. I got to spend a great deal of time talking to retailers from throughout the upper Midwest, as a vast majority of the tags I saw draped around peoples necks were from places like Green Bay, St. Paul, and Detroit. It was a great deal of fun to have fresh conversations with people who are passionate about the industry, but not yet able to make the trek across the country to Reno.
Which is where I am now going to complain, désolé.
Regional trade shows fill a gap in the industry that absolutely needs to be filled. The opportunity for retailers to get education in an area that is local to them is valuable to them as retailers, and valuable for the relationships between all three tiers. Of course, that opportunity is only available to retailers in one section of the country, and that gives me a sad. ACD GamesDay takes place in Madison, WI. Alliance Open House takes place in Fort Wayne, IN. Last year GTS didn't do a show. PHD is taking place in Chicago this coming weekend. Southern's event last year was in Nashville...
Can you see where I'm going with this? The value of the regional trade show begins to drop when they all take place in the same region. I almost exclusively go to these shows these days just to talk to people. For all the vagaries and silence I provide on the internet, I am absolutely more than happy to share anything with a person I'm standing next to. I will offer you my opinion of that upcoming board game release, telling you how many I'll order, if it's going on a demo table, how I expect it to do in my store. I'll help you work through labor issues, through P&L issues, or whatever about this industry you want to ask me, in person, and never online.
So, with every distributor holding these events in the same part of the country, only one region gets to enjoy the benefits of them. I know PHD moves their event around, but most of these events remain relatively static. If you're a retailer who gets to go to just one a year, you go to the event for your primary distributor. If you're a retailer who can go to two regional events a year you have excellent choices living in the Midwest for various events.
What about the rest of the country? Is distribution missing out a chance to garner additional support from retailers in certain parts of the country by being the first to provide a regional, educational, experience in a place that isn't the upper Midwest? I hear a lot of retailers say "So and so is my primary because I drive over and pick up my stuff," or "So and so is my primary because I'm a one-day ship from them." You know what my response is?
"Nothing ever arrives in less than two or three days, because there isn't a single distribution warehouse in my entire TIME ZONE."
There isn't. It's disgusting, and also a topic for another time, because today I really wanted to thank Jenna and her crew for putting on one heck of a show, and for putting it on during the week instead of over the weekend, it's much easier for me that way. If you're in the Midwest, lucky you, because you get to do some pretty cool regional shows in a pretty easy fashion. I hope to see more of you at Origins, GenCon, and Alliance Open House.<