WAXWORKS SHOW DRAWS UPBEAT CROWD

OWENSBORO, KY. -- Supermarket video specialists and other independent retailers were enthusiastic at this year's trade show from distributor WaxWorks/VideoWorks held here on Oct. 2 to 4."It's refreshing to see this kind of show," said Dale Cooper, buyer for The Movie Exchange, Oaks, Pa., which racks both rental and sell-through video for supermarkets in the northeastern U.S. "There's a lot of diversity

OWENSBORO, KY. -- Supermarket video specialists and other independent retailers were enthusiastic at this year's trade show from distributor WaxWorks/VideoWorks held here on Oct. 2 to 4.

"It's refreshing to see this kind of show," said Dale Cooper, buyer for The Movie Exchange, Oaks, Pa., which racks both rental and sell-through video for supermarkets in the northeastern U.S. "There's a lot of diversity at this show and a lot of excitement."

"This show has been fantastic," said Theresa Daniels, manager of the McVideo operation at McMaken Super Market, Brookville, Ohio. "It has had several good ideas that we can't wait to try out -- even more than the show three years ago."

"Since we had skipped two years, we didn't know how many (people) to expect," said Kirk Kirkpatrick, WaxWorks vice president of marketing, adding that the formerly annual show went on hiatus while awaiting remodeled facilities. "Most distributor shows have 200 or 300 people."

Between retailers and exhibitors, WaxWorks pulled more than 1,000 attendees this year, announced WaxWorks president Terry Woodward at a vendor banquet. "Retailers have come from 25 different states."

Exhibitor presence was likewise strong, with nearly 70 vendors on the show floor. "The studios were very supportive," said Kirkpatrick. "They weren't just here with tables and posters; they really tried to get with the theme."

That theme was Operation: Allied Forces, a military campaign to "attack low profits" and "squash the competition," according to Kirkpatrick's address at the Special Training Seminar. Against a military backdrop of vehicles and equipment from the Kentucky National Guard, WaxWorks staffers patrolled in uniform. Or they wore other costumes -- Wallace & Gromit were among the many characters parading the floor.

Allied Forces participants who had also attended the East Coast Video Show (ECVS), held in Atlantic City, N.J., the previous week, pointed out differences in attitudes between the two crowds. "This show has been much more upbeat than ECVS, which was gloomy," said Kurt Schroeder, vice president of distribution and sales, Artisan Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif. "The retailers have been very attentive and have asked lots of questions. It has been a very positive event."

"When you walked the aisles at ECVS, you didn't get the feeling you were in the entertainment industry," said Cooper of Movie Exchange. "And game vendors weren't present at ECVS, but they're here."

"The people here are more positive than at ECVS," said Matt Wochna, Midwest regional sales manager, Trimark Pictures, Marina Del Rey, Calif., "and the studios have done a better job than at ECVS."

Some, however, noted ECVS advantages. "We're a fairly new company and we're looking for contacts, so in that sense ECVS, with a bigger crowd, was more worthwhile for us," said Gerry Malavenda, sales manager, home video, First Look Pictures, Los Angeles.

Still others had mixed opinions. "This is an enthusiastic crowd," said John Nucifora, regional sales manager, Avalanche Home Entertainment, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, "but basically this is a snatch-and-grab." On the latter point Artisan's Schroeder disagreed, saying "this crowd isn't in it just for the freebies."

The reasons the crowd did come, said Kirkpatrick, were that "they love the seminars and love talking to the studios about new releases but ... it's an idea forum more than anything. Our real mission here was to educate, entertain a little, and provide a forum for people to mingle with other retailers."

Conversational topics for many of these retailers centered around nuts-and-bolts operations rather than industry issues. Late-fee assessments and collections, DVD displays, rental rates and lengths, buying program complexities, and screener availability were all subjects raised repeatedly at gatherings attended by SN.

This practical focus carried as well through the seminar organized by Kirkpatrick and WaxWorks marketing director Jenny Sipes Maddox. Speakers outlined marketing strategies, analyzed DVD manufacture, promoted accessory sales, and previewed the upcoming Sony PlayStation 2.

An overview of the industry came from Bo Andersen, president of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), Encino, Calif. Introduced as "the real commander of our entire industry," Andersen shared video statistics, projected business trends, and commented on current issues.

"Our industry is still growing," said Andersen. "Year-to-date total rental spending is up 1.5%" over last year, he said, adding that since "total turns are down about 8% or 9%" the increase has been "driven in part by righteous and perhaps overdue price increases.

"Over the next five years VHS rentals will decline up to 50%," Andersen continued. "But total rental spending will grow by 30% because of DVD." He also noted that "terms for goal-based buying programs and revenue sharing must be improved for independent retailers."

About the recent Senate hearings engendered by the Federal Trade Commission report on marketing violence to minors, Andersen warned against a government proposal allowing suppliers to enforce policies against retailers. "There is no evidence that studios and game manufacturers can be trusted with these powers suggested by Congress," he said, calling the move "a violation of our birthright, the First Sale Doctrine."

For most of the show, though, controversial matters were set aside by attendees, who celebrated their survival while gathering the information and materials to help them continue.