LAS VEGAS — The 57th annual National Bulk Vendors Association convention and trade show last month can best be described as a “mixed bag.” Attendance numbers were somewhat off, with 516 total registrants this year, compared with last year’s 648. According to association officials, this was due in part to a new registration policy that eliminated the choice between a one-day or three-day pass for nonmembers. Under the new policy, nonmembers attending could only opt for a three-day pass, but could obtain membership for a modest additional charge. The event saw 122 nonmembers in attendance, compared with 268 in 2006.
However, association officials pointed out that though the limited pass options may have accounted for the drop in total attendance, it did add to the NBVA’s membership ranks, with preliminary figures showing 18 new members joining during the convention. The new policy proved a success for an organization seeking to grow its ranks, officials said.
Despite lower attendance, both operators and exhibitors seemed pleased with the event, which welcomed operators from across the country as well as Europe and South America. “I thought it was a great show. There weren’t many ‘window shoppers’ on the show floor. Operators who came, came to buy. And while attendance was off, the business conducted was very good,” said outgoing NBVA president Dan Case of Tejas Distributors (Round Rock, TX). “I didn’t talk to one exhibitor who said business was down.”
A random sampling of operators on the show floor echoed Case’s assessment, with many citing special show pricing for new merchandise and a host of new equipment offerings as highly satisfactory.
The event saw the election of a slate of new NBVA officers. Peter Becker of What’s Up LLC moves into the president’s slot, while Randy Chilton of Coinstar Entertainment Services (Louisville, CO) assumes the post of vice-president. Steve Siegel of Great American Vending Machine Co. (Hauppauge, NY) is secretary and Mark Pogue of MEPCO Inc. (Fresno, CA) will serve as the association’s new treasurer.
The NBVA’s executive committee met during the show to tackle several key issues, including that of maintaining and increasing membership. “Obviously this has been an ongoing issue over the last few years,” said Becker. “The membership numbers are flat, but we feel that there are a number of initiatives we can put in place that will not only encourage membership but maintain it as well. One of the changes we hope to try in the near future are programs designed to make it more attractive to become a member. Restructuring the cost of attending the show brought in new members.”
As Becker pointed out, most major operators are already members of the association, so the goal is to focus on attracting operators who feel they are too small to join or those just entering the industry. “There is no minimum requirement to join the association,” he said, “and members don’t have to be dedicated bulk vending operators. Crane operators and music and games operators are also welcome to join.”
As other association officials noted, the group has instituted a discount-booklet program that provides price breaks on merchandise and equipment from some of the industry’s major suppliers. The discounts included in the booklet alone, officials said, easily can cover the cost of membership.
The association is also exploring other initiatives to add value to NBVA membership, such as enhancing its website with a “members only” area that would provide news on new products, current events, legislation and other industry-related topics.
This year’s lineup of educational programs continued to attract healthy crowds, and a new schedule that had events spread over two days seemed well accepted. Seminars included a discussion on The Presidential $1 Coin Program and Bulk Vending, hosted by Mitchell Roth of the Much Shelist law firm; an Ask The Experts panel of bulk vending professionals, led by Steve Siegel; an Equipment Workshop, hosted by Bernie Schwarzli of Beaver Machine Corp.; and Change Management – How To Identify Changes In Your Business And Manage Them Effectively, presented by Philip Brilliant of A&A Global Industries.
A high note at the trade show and convention came at the annual banquet, where Jim Hinton of Oak Manufacturing received The Jane Mason/Rose Schiller Award, the highest honor the association bestows. The award is named after Jane Mason, the national sales manager for Leaf (prior to the company’s name change to Oak Leaf), who was also the first woman president of the NBVA and played a crucial role in organizing many conventions. She is credited with launching the careers of some of the industry’s most successful bulk vending operators. Rose Schiller, with whom she shares the award’s title, began in the industry as Mason’s assistant before moving on to Concord Confections as sales manager.
Hinton, who has been in bulk vending for 35 years and a member of the association for 33, began his career as a shipping clerk at Oak. Moving up in the organization over the years in a variety of key management slots, he purchased the company in 1985. Hinton served as membership chairman of NBVA in 2000-2001 and has been the convention chairman since 2003. Beyond his official duties within the association, Hinton has remained a key industry advocate and trusted voice through the years.
“I was shocked and very surprised to receive the award,” Hinton said. “It’s one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever get, and I deeply appreciate it.”
The next NBVA event will be held at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas from April 17 to April 19, 2008. For membership or exhibiting information, contact the NBVA office at 191 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 1800, Chicago IL 60606; tel. (312) 521-2400; fax (312) 521-2300. Emails can be sent to email@example.com; the website is nbva.org.