Random Thoughts from The National

-So I’m finally starting to get settled back in after The National.  It was a crazy few weeks.  Always is.  I do enjoy it, but it’s a ton of work.  I wanted to share a few things with everyone from the show.  If you couldn’t make it this year, I’d love to see you there in Chicago next year.  If you did make it, thanks for stopping by.  I always enjoy meeting my customers face-to-face.  It’s so nice to have a picture in my head when I’m e-mailing or talking to you on the phone.

-The traffic at the show seemed decent.  It was slow in the morning most days, but that’s not out of the ordinary.  Typically people don’t stay at the show all day.  Plus the show can be overwhelming if you’ve never experienced it before.  I think it’s a bit of sensory overload and many people have to take it all in before they can really walk around.  There were tons of promotional things and fun things going on during the show.  I love all the stuff the companies do to bring the collectors in.  I’m going to really look into doing some kind of promotion for the show next year.  It might not be anything huge, but I’d like to reward my customers in some way.

-Speaking of promotions, Panini does a fantastic job at the show.  Their silver redemption packs always go over very well.  It helps all of us vendors move through a ton of Panini product.  Collectors like the packs and they can get pretty good value out of them.  I saw all kinds of cool hits out of those packs.  In the past Panini has had issues with running out of these packs before the end of the day.  This year that didn’t seem to be a problem.  Panini also sold a ton of stuff for the VIP Party they had Saturday night.  The party was a big hit again this year.  There were a ton of big name athletes there.  The gold packs were fantastic.  And the food was solid.  I only had 1 real complaint.  It was a bit chaotic.  The athletes were just kind of walking around and you had to follow them to get a photo and/or your autographs photo.  Manziel and Kyrie didn’t stay long and you didn’t really get a chance to talk to either of them or get a photo with them.  However, it was still a great event.  Panini also did box wars, which people love.  Panini also did the Tools of the Trade pack redemption.  This was probably their worst promo, but still wasn’t bad.  People enjoyed getting these packs and had a chance at getting something very nice.  Lastly, Panini continued their redemption trade up program.  This is an amazing program that collectors absolutely love.  All together I give Panini two giant thumbs up.  I really believe collectors walk away from the show with a very positive opinion of Panini.

-Topps is kind of the opposite.  They don’t do a ton of promotions at the show.  Their booth is much smaller and they don’t seem to help us vendors out nearly as much.  In their defense, I typically don’t need as much help moving their stuff.  I don’t have a ton of inventory on any 2014 Topps baseball products.  And their only 2014 football product to date is Bowman, which I’m also sold out of.  I do think Topps could do a better job of making collectors feel important.  I would love to see someone from customer service there to help customers with their redemptions or other issues.  I’d also love to see product guys there to give more info on the products and why things are done the way they are.

-The big news of the NFL exclusive for Panini was announced during the show.  I must say that the comments I heard from customers were mostly one-sided.  I didn’t talk to anyone who believes this is a good thing.  There’s no doubt that this is a knock against Panini, but it’s also people simply being against an exclusive.  Personally I don’t like exclusives no matter what the sport or who has them.  I think competition is a good thing.  One thing that I’m excited about for this deal is the high football that Panini will put out.  Panini definitely struggles with mid-range and lower end type of products.  However, they excel at the high end.  National Treasures has been a solid product for years.  They also have Immaculate and Flawless now.  There’s also still a chance for a product like Spectra.  It wasn’t great in football, but was absolutely awesome in basketball.  This exclusive should allow Panini to add a few high end products to their stable.  The football market can’t take on as many high end products as basketball, but it can have 4-5 for sure.  The main thing Panini has to focus on is improving their $80-$120 boxes.  Some of those products are okay, but none of them (except Contenders) really knock anyone’s socks off.  I’m going to write a whole blog post about this exclusive this weekend and I’ll go into more details.  It was certainly a shock to many at the show to hear this news though.

-Upper Deck continues to confuse their potential customers.  They try to make things simple by giving their Diamond Dealers big yellow balloons to put up.  However, collectors constantly asked me for UD products.  When I explained that UD didn’t allow me to sell their products, most customers had a puzzled look on their faces.  I believe UD thinks that collectors will be mad at me for not carrying their products.  Instead, most of them wonder why a company that needs help selling their products would limit who can buy/sell them.  I have nothing against UD.  I loved my time there in 2004-2005.  I am still friends with many of the people I worked with while I was there.  And I still know several people that work there.  However, I will never understand why they would want to limit who they sell to.  They won’t ever convince me that selling to EVERYONE wouldn’t help their business.  Maybe they’re happy where they are.  Maybe they sell a lot more than I think.  However, I simply don’t believe that selling to more people wouldn’t be beneficial to them.

-The show itself is not in the greatest location.  There aren’t many restaurants or things to do right by the convention center in Cleveland.  However, I enjoy downtown Cleveland.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I think the downtown area is pretty nice.  Everything is very close together.  The city felt clean and safe to me.  Again, maybe there are bad areas or places that weren’t as nice as they seemed.  However, I felt like Cleveland has done a solid job of cleaning up the downtown and making it a fun place to be.

-Well I hope to see you all in Chicago next year.  If you do decide to come, please let me know and I’d be happy to help you with anything you might need.  As I said, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.  So if I can give you some idea of what to expect, it might make things easier on you.

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