RETAILERS, VENDORS TURN OUT IN FORCE AT VSDA'S FALL CONFAB

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Less than a month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, video retailers, distributors and vendors exhibited their industry's resilience by bringing strong attendance to the 2001 East Coast Video Show here.Despite the spate of convention cancellations and the reduction in air travel nationwide, floor traffic was brisk and the mood was upbeat

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Less than a month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, video retailers, distributors and vendors exhibited their industry's resilience by bringing strong attendance to the 2001 East Coast Video Show here.

Despite the spate of convention cancellations and the reduction in air travel nationwide, floor traffic was brisk and the mood was upbeat as retailers strolled through exhibitor booths displaying upcoming VHS and DVD releases, the latest confectionery products and store fixtures.

Although attendance figures were not yet available, Bo Andersen, president, Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif., said preshow registration numbers were up from last year.

"It looks pretty promising for a day we're still bombing," Andersen told SN on Oct. 9, the day the show opened. "The show goes on."

"Everyone is trying to get back into the swing of things," said Danny Kelly, director of sales, Rentrak, Portland, Ore.

Kevin Vavrek, territory manager in the Savage, Md., branch of Ingram Entertainment, was surprised by the strong attendance.

"Considering we're at war, this is great turnout," he said.

Independent and specialty retailers made up the bulk of retailer attendance, but sources on the show floor said representatives from Pathmark, Carteret, N.J., and K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., were among the retailers at the convention.

One factor that could have contributed to the strong turnout was the long stretch between the 2001 and 2002 VSDA annual trade shows. This year's show took place in January, but next year's show won't be until July, as the VSDA goes back to its traditional schedule.

"There's not going to be another show for almost a year, and people came here to prove a point -- to show that they weren't going to back down because of cowardly acts," said Joseph Amodei, president, USA Home Entertainment, New York.

During the show's opening session, Andersen stressed going back to normal in unusual times.

"We're holding this ECVS event in large respects in recognition of the need to return to business as usual," he said.

Andersen also said the spike in video sales after Sept. 11 proved "how much Americans turn to entertainment at these times of turmoil in our nation."

"What other consumer product has been up during these weeks perhaps other than grocery sales and gas masks?" he asked.

Andersen also touched upon the impact of DVD's growing popularity and the future retail impact of movies delivered via the Internet. He said studios' plans to deliver movies online and squeeze out the middleman -- retail -- are unacceptable.

"This defense of our right to rent and our right to sell is under way in Congress today, and VSDA is carrying this debate for retailers," said Andersen.

Meanwhile, studio exhibitors forged ahead with business at the show, promoting their fourth-quarter offerings.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif., a division of Disney, will release "Pearl Harbor" on Dec. 4, "The Princess Diaries" on Dec. 18 and "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" on Jan. 29.

USA Home Entertainment will release a two-disc DVD set featuring career highlights and exclusive locker room footage of basketball legend Michael Jordan called "Ultimate Jordan" next Tuesday, coinciding with his National Basketball Association return. Tagged at $26.98, some supermarkets, including Pathmark, plan to carry the DVD set, according to Amodei.

The studio also promoted the holiday-themed family movies "Prancer Returns," which will be released on Nov. 20, and "Franklin's Magic Christmas," which will debut on store shelves Nov. 6.