Well, another trade show has come and gone and we managed to squeak back into Colorado the day before another storm hit. It looks like we aren't going anywhere today (This is the second Sunday in a row we haven't been able to make it to Mass). This will also be the seventh time I have had to dig a path to my garage and another from there to the street. Colorado winters aren't supposed to really get going until March.
The show is the only place where Catholic retailers can go to meet with a large selection of Catholic wholesalers in one place. The Christian market has similar shows, I think there are three of them a year. Each of those shows covers a convention floor that is at least the size of several football fields and there are thousands of bookstore owners that go to each of these shows. In comparison, the Catholic Marketing Network show features at most a couple of hundred vendors and this last show had under eighty stores represented.
Unfortunately, such low attendance creates a downward spiral of show quality – the fewer stores that show, the fewer vendors will come to the next show making it less attractive for the stores that show up at the next show and so on. I believe that this is part of the over-arching problem with Catholic store owners – they don't run their stores like a business. Businesses stay on top of trends, learn about new merchandise and see the value in meeting their vendors face to face. This disinterest in learning about new product offerings also can lead to market stagnation as vendors don't see any benefit in either producing new products or reprinting old ones.
In spite of the low attendance, we actually had a good show promoting our storefront program. We had four stores signup at the show and might have a couple more sign up within the next couple of weeks. If you are store owner and are interested in the program, you can get set up in time for the Easter season with a 50% off setup special that runs through the end of this month.
We also saw several great new products including a DVD called Champions of Faith which is a professionally produced program featuring famous baseball players talking about how Catholicism is important to their lives. This will be a great gift for that nephew who is getting confirmed this year. We should be getting this in in the next few weeks. Another new product in the Catholic market is giclee printing of art. This technique scans an image and “paints” it on canvas. There are several benefits to this procedure. First, you can re-size an image to just about any dimensions without sacrificing picture quality. Second, this is far less expensive then getting a hand-painted item. Third, giclees can have brush strokes added to give the illusion of a real oil painting. We set up an account with a vendor who has over 2000 images under license and will be adding these to our site in the near future. One of the images is The Pentecost by Jean Restout. This striking image will make a perfect addition to your home after Easter.
We also made several contacts with the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Exchange that might bear fruit later this year.
However, the best thing about the trip was getting to visit Mother Angelica's Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Henceville, AL. The shrine is in the middle of nowhere and sits among some picturesque green hills. The main shrine features a five or six foot tall monstrance for perpetual adoration and the crypt chapel is more gorgeous than most churches I have seen. Father Andrew Apostoli celebrated Mass and gave an inspiring homily about Our Lady of Guadalupe and evangelization. The gift shop is in a small castle across from the shrine and is better looking and better stocked than most Catholic stores.
As a final wrap up, here are things I learned at and on leaving the trade show:
- No one has ever asked Catholic vendors for electronic versions of their books' tables of contents. The two non-Catholic publishers at the show have these available and are quite happy to send them along.
- Soldier of Fortune Magazine is based in Boulder, Colorado. For those who don't see why this is ironic, here in Colorado we affectionately refer to Boulder as “The People's Republic of Boulder” and they don't take that as an insult.
- The Democrats are holding their presidential convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver in 2008. The Pepsi Center is owned by a Republican who can't stand unions and doesn't have a union doing the catering and logistics at the arena like the Denver Convention Center.I find it very ironic that the Democrats, who supposedly are working for the little guy, would choose the non-unionized Pepsi Center over the unionized Denver Convention Center.
- Having unions responsible for logistics at a convention results in service prices that couldn't possibly exist in the real world. For example:
- An urn full of coffee? $700
- Delivering a poster tube from the Fedex truck to your booth? $35
- An extension cord with power? $100
- Just because you spend half-an-hour on the phone with Delta Airlines to make a flight change and they quote you a price of $167.50 for the change, doesn't mean that the change will happen or that the price is what you will actually be charged.
- Jim and Nick's has great BBQ.
- Landry's Seafood is way overpriced. $15 for catfish? I don't think so.
- The Birmingham airport has free wireless Internet access. Cincinnati and Denver don't.
- Regional jets have no padding in their seats. Unless you count the vinyl cover.
- La Quinta: Spanish for spoiled milk.
- Empty glass votive candle holders wrapped in bubble wrap in a box as a carry-on do not look like a security threat but an empty laptop case does.
As a final question, suppose, hypothetically, that you don't go with the rest of the group on the pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. And suppose, again hypothetically, that after Mass you follow the group to the lunch room thinking that they will have a concession stand. And, hypothetically, you find out they don't but are told that the group ordered plenty of extra lunches and you are welcome to pick one up once the other people have gotten theirs. And suppose that several people show up late after you have started eating lunch. And suppose, hypothetically, that the last person to get there is Fr. Andrew Apostoli and there aren't any lunches left. How long, hypothetically, do you suppose we would spend in Purgatory for that?
The next trade show is in Cleveland or Cincinnati in July. If you are a store, I highly recommend attending and seeing what new items there are to freshen up your store.