This year, May will be a big month for shows of interest to supermarket video executives shopping for new technology products.
The month starts off with the big Food Marketing Institute show in Chicago, May 7-10, closely followed by the new video games and interactive multimedia show, called Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 in Los Angeles, May 11-13. Both have potential interest for the video executives, but many retailers polled by SN said they will be focusing their energies on the Video Software Dealers Association's convention, May 21-24 in Dallas.
"VSDA is a great opportunity to catch up on whatever the new technology is bringing and get a hands-on look at some of the new ideas that are either in the future or here now," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator, Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis.
"I'm not going to the games show, but I'm going to VSDA again, though," said Glen Fischer, video/photo coordinator, D&W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich. "Everything is well represented there."
D&W is planning on opening its first live inventory video rental departments later this year. Because of this, "I'm looking at alternative fixturing, point-of-sale systems, merchandising ideas. I am interested in what will work in this new format that we are venturing into," said Fischer.
"From my experience, VSDA covers everything," said Sharon Stagner, merchandising coordinator, Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio. But some supermarket video executives will be attending the new E3 show this year instead of VSDA. Based in White Plains, N.Y., the E3 show is running in the same approximate time slot as the Summer Consumer Electronics Show. Summer CES had been one of the primary showcases for the interactive multimedia industry. The show was renamed CES Interactive '95. It was scheduled for the same dates as E3 this year, but it was canceled after E3 started drawing more supplier interest.
"VSDA is not in our plans this year. We've been on an every-other-year schedule with them," said Rick Ang, director, video operations, Bel Air Markets, Sacramento, Calif. "I am looking forward to going to the Electronic Expo. We just see a lot more of the future in that end of the business," he said.
Ang is primarily interested in the new interactive technologies that will the focus of the new show. "We are looking at getting into CD-ROM rental and the rental of some other computer applications," he said.
CD-ROM is also a priority for Steve Gretzinger, video coordinator, Angeli Foods, Iron River, Mich. "This year I will attend my first E3 where I'm hoping to find some of the newer products coming out in CD-ROM, games and computer software. We're also interested in seeing the newer edutainment-type products. That's why I decided on this show instead of VSDA," he said. Angeli's plans to get into the rental of CD-ROMs and the sale of CD-ROM and other computer software products with retails of up to $19.95. "We want to see all the new game systems that consumers will be getting into, including 32-bit systems and computer-oriented products," said Gretzinger.
The retailer now has 50 to 100 CD-ROMs for rent, mainly entertainment titles. "I'd like to get into more educational products. While we're dabbling in this now, we're trying to gear up for the future and the demand that will be out there for these products and systems," he said.
In past years, the VSDA convention had been held in Las Vegas in mid to late July. But citing the demands of membership and increasing difficulty working with Las Vegas, the association changed the date and location. Plans call for it to be held in different regions of the country in the future.
But these changes had little effect on retailers. "The timing really doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me. Things are certainly busier for us in July, so May will work out better for us," said Nash Finch's Feiock.
On the location change, Feiock said he is looking forward to it. "There are so many distractions in Las Vegas," he said.
Programming for the VSDA show will include a keynote speech by Ted Turner, chairman and president of Turner Broadcasting System, Atlanta, and an expanded program of 16 seminars. In another change, VSDA added a day to the schedule and plans to minimize conflicts between the seminars and the exhibit floor.
"The VSDA show can be a valuable experience," said Tom Dyrhaug, video coordinatorat Fleming Cos.' LaCrosse general merchandise division, LaCrosse, Wis. Although his Fleming division has consistently attended VSDA in the past, Dyrhaug will not be attending any of the May shows this year. Others from the company will be going to the FMI convention, he noted. "We're not planning to renew our membership in VSDA in this division, so this has put us out of the loop of going to the show. The cost of attending VSDA is pretty astronomical if you are not a member," he said.
Lack of a membership in VSDA is one reason why Jim Key, nonfood direct store buyer, Community Cash Stores, Spartanburg, S.C., probably won't attend that show. "I would love to attend the VSDA show, but I've never received a membership registration form from the association," he said. But Key still might go this year. Ray's Food Place, Brookings, Ore., will attend the FMI's May convention, but Larry Hage, division supervisor, who is in charge of video, said the VSDA dates conflict with a store opening.
One negative about attending VSDA is the number of video sales representatives who call after the show, said Hage. "They get your number and you can't get them off your back," he said. "Right now we do business with a couple of distributors that we are satisfied with. Not handing out business cards at the video show will save time we have to spend later fielding calls from the various vendors we meet there," he said.