(Final installment of Tony Gordon's 'blog from behind the table' at the 29th National Sports Collectors Convention)
Again, the crowd was sparse and sales were low. I think the economy had a major effect on this show. Collectors were not willing to pay the high cost of gasoline to drive to the show, they were not willing to pay the $18 admission fee, and they were not willing to pay $11 to park.
A reduction in admission and parking fees is a must for future shows. I also have some additional suggestions for the organizers of the National for next year and especially for the 2011 return to Chicago:
(1) Lower admission price.
(2) Provide for low-cost parking in either Des Plaines or Schiller Park and provide a shuttle bus.
(3) Provide more low-cost autographs. Collectors have little money to spend at dealer tables when they spend $250 on an autograph.
(4) Reduce the number of days from five to three.
(5) Weekday hours should be from 2 to 10 p.m.
(6) Far more local promotion and advertising.
Promotion and advertising for a show of this magnitude has to be much larger. Chicago-area casual collectors are not reading the Chicago Sun-Times. These folks listen to sports radio and attend sporting events. I did not hear a single advertisement on Chicago sports radio. I also think it would be a great idea to pass out flyers at Cubs and Sox games and at Bears practices. One has to think that there are far more customers in Chicago considering 25,000 people went to Soldier Field on Saturday night to watch the Bears practice – PRACTICE!! We need to get these people into the show and sell them a Billy Williams rookie or a mid-1950's Nellie Fox.
All the dealers I spoke with had low sales. Many dealers did not bother to show up on Sunday and many more left by noon. By 2:30 p.m. only a handful of dealers were still open for business. By the end of the show, my booth may have been the only one open.
Sales woes aside, the amount of cards and memorabilia available at the show was staggering. If I had shown up as a customer, I would have spent several thousand dollars on cards. I really couldn't leave my table and still spent $800.
I also had a lot of fun. To be able to spend five days talking about cards with other enthusiasts was just awesome. Yet, I do not think I will set up at another National. Five days is just too long, especially when attendance is light. I prefer the small local shows where I can count on customers showing up and I know exactly what they are looking for.
I am going to take next weekend off and get to know my family again. Then it is back to my favorite local shows: Saturday, August 16, at Orland Park; Sunday, August 17, at Gonzaga Hall in Milwaukee; and Sunday, August 24, at the Radisson on Alonquin Road in Schaumburg.