Summit 2012 Hits Home Run

AZB has just returned from the BCA Trade Show (Summit 2012) in Chicago and what a difference a year makes! There were large changes to the show itself. New city, venue, formats, etc. But the biggest surprise and by far the most dramatic change was in the attitude of the people there. Both exhibitors and buyers were, for the first time in at least six years, openly optimistic and positive. Only last year the show was a glum room, a good place to catch the blues. This year the room was simply buzzing.  As last year, the European Union is in danger of collapse. As last year, our US budget is extremely out of whack, unemployment is huge, housing is in the crapper, and we are in a land of divisive and bitter body politic. But the attitude here reflected none of those woes.

At the entrance to the show members of the BCA Board were waiting to greet you, shake your hand and offer assistance. You could bend their ear all you wanted. The very first booth set the tone of the room. There, at the Lucasi (Cue and Case Sales) booth, you would see each of their people writing long orders with more buyers waiting to see them. On at least the first day every booth of the established names was busy. I wanted to go see if I could buy an old friend at the OB Cue booth a cup of coffee and I couldn't even get close to him. The Predator booth was another wait to see a rep and Mike Dechaine was wowing the crowd with 36 mph break shots. When he shanked one and it landed 40 feet away we took his cue away and gave him a time out.  The Simonis/Aramith combined booth was busy receiving both congratulations (on their merger) and orders. McDermott and too many other names to mention should all have installed one of those "take a number" machines you used to see. You rarely saw booth reps at the concession stand. They could not leave their booths even to grab a meal. They ran to the bathroom. After the first hour exhibitors were reporting an increase in business of 20% or more. As the day progressed that number kept going up. At the end of the day no one would even venture a guess. The answer was "a lot". We at AZBilliards sold out our ad space by the middle of the second day.

Many people contributed to the change this year. Especially the buyers who remembered how to write a check. Their inventories were probably too low and that would be a contributing factor, but they also spoke of increasing their inventories and we had not heard that discussion for a long time. The retailers have gotten creative. Even local billiard stores now speak of the business they do on their web sites. They speak of push emails. They are developing new concepts of how to invigorate the market. There was a dinner table discussion that pool does not need to try and make people 'love' the game. They just need them to have pool somewhere on their menu of social activities. Get the game on the list. Make it one of the choices. If two guys go to Fox and Hound after work for a couple of beers and a game of 9-ball it really does not matter if they love the game as long as they enjoy it to the point of going to play every once in a while. The line we heard was "restaurants do not expect you to eat there every day, they just want you to think of them when you are making your choices. The numbers will work out as long as you are not invisible."

We cannot fail to recognize the efforts of the board members who worked on this show. That committee, headed by Skip Nemecek of Tweeten Fibre (Master Chalk), knocked the ball out of the park. Even minutia like discounted taxi fares were covered. Literally the biggest complaint was "the air conditioning is a little chilly".  In previous years you could have filled a novel with the moans. This committee, indeed the entire board, is fortunate enough to have the services of their staff available to make things happen. Executive Director Rob Johnson and Everything Else Shane Tyree are the hub of the BCA wheel. As they are abreast with everyone in the industry they never need to make decisions in a vacuum. And they have a wealth of research at their fingertips. (By the way, if you are a member of the BCA you can access that information and save a lot of money by target marketing.)

The General Assembly meeting was held Tuesday night. The GA is where any member of the BCA can come and listen to a report given by the board and the Executive Director about the plans for the coming year, the results of the action items that were undertaken for the previous year, and a summation of the financials of the BCA. The Presidents award, an honor that goes to an individual whom the President feels went far "above and beyond" in their efforts to promote the game or to assist the BCA in their goals, this year went to Roger Blank of Brunswick Billiards for, as President Serra stated: "Roger's dedication to growing the billiard industry and to supporting industry members is unparalleled by anyone in a similar position."  And some kudos are handed out. This year Mike Panozzo of Billiards Digest was recognized for creating an "advertorial" about the show that was given credit for helping to popularize the event. Jerry Briesath was thanked for donating the sales of his DVD to the BCA which in turn is donating them to the Billiard Education Foundation. And Randy Goettlicher was recognized for being the new head of the Professional Billiard Instructor Association which will umbrella every licensed billiard instructor. ( if you wish to find an excellent teacher.)

Next was the Q&A session where anyone could speak. This is where the Directors and the staff of the BCA get to listen to the wants and wishes of their membership and they do listen. This one meeting has a significant impact on the rudder of the BCA ship. It is a rare example of an organization that pays more than mere lip service to their roster. One idea that caught our ear was simple but very clever. Young kids love to play pool. But three year olds pose a risk to your cloth and your cue. So some ingenious fellow tapped out a cue ball and put a male thread on a cue stick and now he has a cue with a cue ball attached to it so his three year old can get up and push that cue ball into an object ball and make a shot. Three year olds don't want to hear about shape or draw or outside english. They just want to laugh when the pretty colored balls fall in the pocket. And the cue will not rip the cloth and chalk will not be everywhere. That cue will be on the market shortly. Another idea was about the many celebrities with pool tables in their homes. The idea again was simple. Just have retailers who sell tables to celebrities ask those folks for an autographed photo for their store wall. Maybe if folks can see that their favorite stars are pool table owners then they will also want a table. Companies pay huge bucks for celebrity endorsements and this would be free. Restaurants have done this for years.

There was very good participation in this Q&A period. And there was a good deal of back and forth with the board. Questions could be directed at individual board members or other audience members. In response to a query from one gentleman about how to get more families involved President Mike Serra enthusiastically spoke of a recent pool school he had attended at a Billiard Factory Showroom in Florida. The pool school, run by Charlie WIlliams of Dragon Promotions, Serra said drew in lots of families and generated a good deal of business.

The BCA always has free seminars at the show that are directed at helping firms market or cut cost or learn to hire better employees and such. This year the one that got the most people talking was on how to use Facebook as a marketing tool. Most knew to do that but this speaker was excellent with sharing the details on how to go about the process. Attendees left with a good knowledge of the Facebook tool set.    
Next year the Show will return to the Renaissance hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, IL, just outside of Chicago. And Chicago is a great town. Want a truly great steak? In Chicago you have to go down a long list of internationally famous steak houses to make your choice. Dates next year are July 10-12 but you need to get there at least a day earlier for the GA on July 9.

Many more details about the show and BCA business such as the elections of new officers are in the press releases we have been and will continue to publish from the BCA.