LAS VEGAS -- In the third year of a new format that emphasizes meetings with suppliers in suites over a traditional exhibit floor, Home Entertainment 2004, the annual show of the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif., got high marks from most supermarket executives polled by SN.
However, with merger talks progressing with the music retailers group, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, Marlton, N.J., and speculation that the show may switch to another hotel in Las Vegas -- its third in four years -- more change is in the wind.
"The show itself is a great format," said Denis Oldani, director of video, Schnuck Markets, St. Louis. It allows retailers to sit down and talk with the decision makers at the studios "and have true discussions on where the business is headed, where you want to go, where they want to go, and work together to get there," he said.
A possible merger of VSDA and NARM "is a natural," Oldani said. "They have the same issues. The recording industry isn't what it used to be, and it fits very well with video."
"It's a great opportunity to get together with the studios and our partners at Ingram," said Jeff Holdsworth, category merchant, photo/video, Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y. On the NARM merger, "it should be great if we can grow the whole organization," he said.
"We think it would be a very positive development if the shows were combined or run in the same time frame, in the same venue," said Bill Bryant, vice president, sales, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn.
"It's been another great year at VSDA," said Brad Ufer, video merchandiser, Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn. "We met with a lot of studios and talked about ways to grow our business. I look forward to combining with NARM to make the event more exciting and more accessible to everyone."
Chuck Porter, director, Iggle entertainment and video, Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, who was named secretary of VSDA at the show, said it's too early to know what will happen with NARM. "For me personally and for Giant Eagle, the studio meetings we have had have been very good for us," he said.
Even if the merger of the two associations can't be worked out, the two shows may be co-located next year, Bo Andersen, president of VSDA, told SN.
While final numbers for this year's show were not available, he said pre-registration for attendees was equal to or better than last year's, and the number of exhibitors was up. "I expect the final attendance numbers to be above last year," he said.
Most suppliers polled by SN also had good things to say about their meetings with retailers at the show and about the potential merger. They mentioned that the two groups have much in common in terms of products and policy concerns, particularly the hot-button piracy issue. Also, a combined show might draw more of the bigger retailers who many suppliers missed seeing this year.
"I think there's a great story to be told by consolidating with NARM in that you turn the event into a relevant, pre-recorded media conference," said Steven Feldstein, senior vice president, marketing communications, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Century City, Calif.
One dissenting note was sounded by Bill Sondheim, president, GoodTimes Entertainment, New York. He said the NARM show has a tradition of presenting live, musical performances. This might draw people away from the business-oriented meetings that have made VSDA's recent shows successful.
The combined show might also further disenfranchise the smaller retailers. "I don't want to lose the ability to communicate with them, so I'm concerned about that," he said.