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One of my favorite events every year is the Las Vegas Industry Summit. It’s an amazing opportunity for manufacturers like Upper Deck to spend time with the retailers who are on the front lines of the hobby talking with our customers every day. The information and insight we glean from spending time with these shop owners is invaluable. It also keeps me up at night, but not in a bad way. I get so many ideas rushing through my head that I’m always turning the lights back on to write them down in the notepad I keep by my bed. And then there are the Upper Deck dreams that come once I do finally settle in. No, they’re not nightmares stemming from the event, but rather hopeful dreams of what the hobby could be. I wonder if I can ask for overtime pay for those.
I was on a variety of panels at the summit and conducted a few presentations. I started off the conference alongside a colleague working with shops on how they could use social media to attract new customers and increase their business. It was really great to see so many light bulbs seemingly going off above people’s heads as we walked shop owners through ways to get set up and grow their presence online.
Then it was off to lead a series of solution sessions with retailers on redemptions. I don’t think any other manufacturer volunteered to jump in on that one, but to me I feel it is a critical issue in this industry and if I could get a chance to look at solutions to those problems with shop owners who hear all the negatives about them, that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Together we came up with some really good ideas that I am hopeful we can implement in the coming weeks and months.
On Tuesday I was on a NHL panel discussing ways Upper Deck has helped hobby shops drive more traffic to their stores. It was very nice to be able to talk about the programs and have shop owners who had taken part in them share how successful they had been from the audience. From National Hockey Card Day to the Upper Deck Diamond Club to a recent Pack Attack promotion run through Sports Images and UD, it was great to hear of the successes shops were experiencing with our products and programs.
The final program I took part in was the collective Upper Deck presentation to retailers where Upper Deck’s owner and CEO, Richard McWilliam, along with Upper Deck’s Director of Sales, Mike Phillips, and I presented to a large group of retailers on our plans for the future. There were several great parts of that program that I believe were memorable to shops in attendance.
Mike spent a good amount of time talking to Upper Deck’s new distribution plan which had hobby shops very happy. One of my favorite parts of the presentation was getting the opportunity to pay tribute to Steve James who owned The Bullpen in North Carolina. Steve passed away last year and it was a tremendous loss as he served as a true model to the industry on how to run a hobby shop and treat customers right. We wanted to recognize other hobby shop owners who have captured his spirit and pay tribute to them with a new award in Steve’s honor. We awarded the first-ever Steve James award to Dan Fox of Fox Sports Cards. Dan is still considered a relatively new store owner having just opened up in 2006, but in that short amount of time he has become a role model for what to do right for other stores as he is having a lot of success in a relatively small town. He is not shy about sharing with others how they can be successful and we very much appreciate the cooperative approach he takes in that regard.
Another great part of the presentation was just getting to hear Richard McWilliam share some thoughts with those in attendance. Having founded the company more than 22 years ago, Richard brings tremendous insight and passion for this business to the table. Richard was the only owner of a major trading card company to attend the event. It is definitely hard to make time to attend with how busy an owner can be, but he shared with me that he loves this event for many of the same reasons that I shared earlier. It is inspiring to see someone like him take time out of his busy schedule to share and get feedback from his customers. Here are just a few memorable quotes from his address:
“I’m here, I’ve been here 25 years, and I plan on being here another 25 years.”
“I have supported hockey since day one; we bleed hockey. Upper Deck is always going to provide you the best hockey product on the market.”
“Our plan for the future is to continue what we’ve done in the past and that is to grow the industry wherever possible, to be as creative as possible, to support you in the hobby as much as we can, and to ensure that this industry continues to get healthy and grows, and grows and grows.”
“I’m here to support this industry for the rest of my life.”
One of the last pieces that I really enjoyed about the Upper Deck presentation was being able to share some special gifts with attendees. We created a special trading card set for attendees and hobby shop owners were loving what they pulled from those packs as names like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and more were included. We were able to bring two sealed packs back with to use with our fans.
Here’s how the giveaway will work. The Las Vegas Industry Summit is about promoting hobby shops so that is how we will give away these two packs. If you have a hobby shop in your area, go there and take a picture of the shop. Post the picture to the wall of the Upper Deck Facebook page with comments as to why fans should visit the shop. If you are a hobby shop owner who couldn’t attend the event, show off an image of your store and why people should visit you for your chance to get a pack. And if you don’t have a hobby shop in your area, you can still participate. All you need to do is find a commercial space or center where you would like to see a hobby shop. Take a picture of it, post the picture to the wall of the Upper Deck Facebook page and comment as to why you would love to see a hobby shop there. We will randomly select two winners at the end of the day on Friday to take home these two sealed packs from the event. Good luck!