VSDA PONDERS SWITCHING ANNUAL CONVENTION BACK TO JULY

ENCINO, Calif. -- The Video Software Dealers Association based here may bank on tradition to beef up attendance at the next VSDA Convention in Las Vegas. The association has been surveying prior exhibitors and attendees of the show to gauge the acceptance of possibly moving the convention back to its traditional July time slot, after a poor attendance showing at the last VSDA Convention in January.If

ENCINO, Calif. -- The Video Software Dealers Association based here may bank on tradition to beef up attendance at the next VSDA Convention in Las Vegas. The association has been surveying prior exhibitors and attendees of the show to gauge the acceptance of possibly moving the convention back to its traditional July time slot, after a poor attendance showing at the last VSDA Convention in January.

If the association decides to switch back to July, there would not be another VSDA Convention until summer 2002.

Brenda Vanover, director of video operations for K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said she'd be happy if the convention was switched back to July. "The winter months is one of our busiest times, so I'd rather be out in the stores trying to help with customer service or be there if there's snow," she said.

Brad Ufer, video merchandiser for Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn., said he also prefers the summer time slot. "I would be in favor of July -- the holiday time is tough," he said. "It's a big time for sell-through, and it's hard for studios to get their act together" and give a dynamic presentation at the show, he pointed out. Also, Ufer said that a lot of independent retailers used the July VSDA show as vacation time with their families since kids were not in school.

Carrie Dieterich, vice president of marketing and public relations for VSDA, said that at the Regional Leaders Conference in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month, "it seemed positive that moving back to the summer was preferable." VSDA and its joint venture partner, Advanstar, Santa Ana, Calif., expect to make a decision in a few weeks.

Attendance slipped roughly 5% at the most recent convention earlier this winter, mainly because that show and the 2000 VSDA Convention were held within six months of each other, she said.

Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., also said the short time span between the two conventions was a factor in the attendance decline. "Attending two VSDA conventions within six months was a little much for many retailers," he said. "Having the conventions 18 months apart may actually increase the participation level for many retailers."

Moreover, Bryant said the longer lapse of time between conventions would increase communication with studios, as well as potentially augment attendance at the East Coast Video Show this fall. "Many grocery retailers had not attended [the Consumer Electronics Show] prior to the VSDA convention last January," he said. "Although some companies indicated a summer preference, the January convention was a good opportunity for category managers to attend CES while at VSDA."

Dieterich told SN that some exhibitors felt the summer was a better time of year to talk about products. She also said retailers generally find it easier in the summer to find staff to mind their stores while they are away at the convention.

She said 6,000 to 8,000 retailers attended this year's show, held Jan. 7 to 9.

The goal of moving the VSDA Convention to January for the first time this year was to capitalize on the synergy with the CES.

"Since many retailers attend both shows, we thought it would be helpful to do both shows in one trip," said Dieterich. She said the association had conducted a survey before moving to the January time period, and the "results seemed quite positive."

But the plan backfired because of the popularity of the Adult Video News Adult Expo, which also overlapped with VSDA and CES.

"Some attendees thought the converging of the two shows made just made everything more crowded and brought up hotel prices," Dieterich said. Still, "some of the retailers loved the fact that it wasn't 112 degrees [outside]," she added.

The VSDA's contract at the Sands Expo Center runs until 2005, and Dieterich said Sands officials are flexible with the time frame. She also said that hotel rates would not be adversely affected.