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HERE Show Change in More Than Name

23 Sep, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

BALTIMORE — It was a change of scenery in more ways than one.

At last week's Home Entertainment Retail Expo (HERE), held here for the first time, the crowds on the show floor hit a peak early in the event, and slowed considerably by the second day. But the handful of sessions were well attended by responsive retailers, and exhibitors said they made a few deals and saw some new retailer faces.

“We're pleased with the show,” said Sean Bersell, VP of public affairs for the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA). “There were obviously fewer numbers than we had in Atlantic City last year, but [attendees] were serious and were doing business. The seminars were very well-attended and well received.”

The Home Entertainment Retail Expo, formerly the East Coast Video Show, is owned by a joint venture between the VSDA and Advanstar Communications. (Advanstar also published Video Store Magazine.)

Most exhibitors came in with realistic expectations for the smaller, changing show.

“We found some very positive contacts here that are going to equate into some big sales opportunities, it seems like it was underattended but it was still good,” said Michael Fitts, president and CEO of show sponsor Touchstand.

Dan Gurlitz, VP of video for Koch Entertainment, said he was disappointed at the quick drop in traffic after the first morning, but that it wasn't totally unexpected.

“We met with about three accounts that I needed to, and that will probably translate into business,” Gurlitz said. “Whether that business will validate the expense [of exhibiting] I don't know. I think this [booth] format for this kind of a show may be over. And it may be that one show a year is enough.”

Show organizers have not made any decisions about the future of the event yet and would “take a look at the final numbers and at attendee and exhibitor reactions and then make a decision about how to proceed,” Bersell said.

Exhibitors noted some fresh faces in the Baltimore crowd.

“I think its good to bring some change to the show, things have been very consistent for the last few years, but the business is changing. So it's good for the show to change, too,” said Wally Schmidt, director of marketing for Wellspring. “We got a lot of traffic [on the first day of the show], and saw a lot of retailers that haven't been to the Atlantic City convention. We're seeing a lot more people from the South.”

Les Caillouet and Bill Reynolds from Greensboro, N.C.-based Video World said they were happier with the show than in years past and were happier with the VSDA in general thanks mostly to the new indie-centric arm of the organization, iDEA.

The iDEA booth was among the busiest on the floor. “We've had more [membership] sales, more signups than at any VSDA I can remember, and more than we got in Vegas this year,” said Terri Schumacher, chairman of the board for iDEA.

Sessions offered tips on how to stay competitive; incorporate an e-commerce component; start running a tape-to-DVD transfer service for home movies (which yielded $16,000 in profits in four months at just one store location, said Bob Marino from Flash Distributors); or branch into vending machines, which allow retailers to expand business without increasing overhead, said Ron Szuchy, president and CEO of vending machine company, Video Highlights.

Attendees were also treated to a discussion with the creators and writers from “Homicide: Life on the Street,” the critically acclaimed TV series written about and filmed in Baltimore and produced by Baltimore native Barry Levinson. Season five of the show streets Sept. 28 on DVD from A&E Home Video. The panel recorded the discussion for inclusion on the seventh season disc and Levinson picked up the VSDA's Career Achievement Award at the show.

“What's really exciting is this afterlife DVD has created for shows like ‘Homicide,’ Levinson said. “It's actually thrilling in a way that we can go back and look at all these great shows again on DVD.”

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