Keep the Change

NAMTA’s new tradeshow format meets with members’ approval

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished,” pronounced Howard Krinsky at the opening session of Art Materials World. As the 2015-2016 NAMTA board president, he and his directors and NAMTA staff had, indeed, initiated change. The tradeshow in Houston this March was one example.

For the first time, the association held its annual event with the National Association of College Stores. Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) is about three times the size of Art Materials World based on number of exhibitors. The Art Materials World/CAMEX partnership is a logical one given the number of college bookstores that sell art supplies but, “It is not a perfect marriage,” Howard noted on March 5, adding that the two-year, joint-tradeshow agreement was definitely worth trying, given the shrinking number of independent art materials stores.

The co-location paid off, according to results of a post-show survey released by NAMTA on May 2. Just over 40 percent of the Art Materials World exhibitors surveyed, as well as 54 percent of the buyers who responded, said that the co-location was a good idea and beneficial to them. Sixty percent of the exhibitors reported they were visited by CAMEX attendees, and 35 percent of vendors made a sale and/or developed new business with them. More than 80 percent of Art Materials World attendees went onto the CAMEX show floor; 48 percent of the buyers said they placed an order with a CAMEX vendor.

“For a first-time initiative, we think these are good numbers,” says Barb Schindler, NAMTA’s new board president. “Certainly there are ways we can work to make next year’s event better, but in our first year, to have over half the attendees and more than a third of the vendors tell us the new format worked for them … well, we think that’s a good start.”

Next year’s event will be held March 5 through 7 in Salt Lake City. In 2018, it moves to Dallas.

“The single biggest challenge NAMTA faces relative to co-locating its future conferences with CAMEX is finding a convention center that is (1) large enough and (2) has available dates in March that work for everyone,” said a letter to all NAMTA members from Executive Director Reggie Hall.

“As surprising as it may seem, the one and only reason next year’s event is in Salt Lake City is that it had the only convention center in the entire U.S. that met those two criteria on very short notice,” continued the letter. “Compounding these challenges is that meeting in early March means we cannot gamble on the weather by conducting the event ‘up North.’ Ideally, it would be held in Orlando, Atlanta or New Orleans; locations that are attractive, warm and provide both the convention center and hotel amenities that are needed. Right now, none of those cities have space or dates for a NAMTA/CAMEX event for the next five years.”

Many NAMTA members cannot meet any earlier than March because they travel to Germany for Paperworld in late January. CAMEX is locked into early March timing.

“Response to our Houston Conference evaluation survey was an interesting mix of opinion, advice, myth and reality,” said the NAMTA letter. “Interestingly, there were only a couple of negative comments about the co-location. All of the other comments were supportive of NAMTA trying something new … they didn’t feel the co-location detracted from Art Materials World.”

Nearly 550 people attended this year, including representatives from 147 buying companies and 157 exhibitors. Eighty-four percent of exhibitors indicated that they will participate in the Salt Lake City version next year.

Other changes are ahead for NAMTA, but do not include co-locating with the Craft & Hobby Association, whose members do not want to meet any later than late January/early February. “Both NAMTA and CHA leadership have had numerous friendly discussions to thoroughly explore the idea of co-locating, but there does not appear to be a solution,” states NAMTA.

At Art Materials World, Howard announced that the composition of the association’s board of directors had changed. Over the next few years, it will be reduced from an 11-member board to seven, and there will no longer be an executive board. Currently, there are five directors and a three-person executive committee.

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