PNBA's Spring Show: Education, Discussion & Change

Although the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's (PNBA) Spring Show, on Thursday, March 15, through Saturday, March 17, at the Holiday Inn, Portland Airport, was a hit with attendees, this spring's event will be the last for a while. The PNBA Board voted to place the spring trade show on hiatus for two years so the association can devote its resources to producing programs that will help bring customers into member stores.

PNBA Executive Director Thom Chambliss said the Spring Show "was a successful show, which is somewhat ironic.... Our numbers were up, and everybody seemed to have a great time."

The show offered educational programming from PNBA and from ABA. PNBA's sessions ranged from "The Basics of Buying Strategies" and "Cash Flow Management for Retail Booksellers" to "Employee/Employer Relations: Hiring & Problem Solving" and "Success From the Sidelines."

ABA programming at the show included the session "Participating in the Digital Revolution" and a Booksellers Forum & Strategic Planning Session. At the digital session, ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz discussed how phenomena such as digitization of content, social networking, and open source and distributed computing are affecting booksellers now, as well as their implications for the future. He also presented a look at some of the latest technological developments and how booksellers can make the most of them.

Pat Rutledge of A Book for All Seasons in Leavenworth, Washington, who is a member of the PNBA board, told BTW that she thought of herself as being fairly techno savvy, but Domnitz's session was still "a really eye-opening experience.... He discussed the top 10 ways of communicating and told us that e-mail didn't even make it in the top 10... he said e-mail is just noise now."

At the Booksellers Forum & Strategic Planning Session led by Domnitz and ABA President Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Montana, booksellers were presented with updates on the association's programs and initiatives. They were also encouraged to offer input to help formulate ABA's next five-year strategic plan. Hot topics of discussion were ISBN-13 and how to define ABA's core membership.

"Avin said we needed to clarify the core membership and how programs would then be geared to this membership," said Paul Hanson of Eagle Harbor Book Co. in Bainbridge Island, Washington, the incoming president of PNBA. According to Hanson, most of those in attendance thought ABA should "keep the [current] definition of our core membership."

Said Bruce Delaney of The Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, Idaho, "We get at least one person a week coming into our store who asks why they shouldn't buy a particular book at Wal-Mart, and we need to have an answer for that. ABA is in a position to help people like me, and we, in turn, can then help other booksellers."

During the forum discussion, ABA's Domnitz also pointed out that ISBN-13 is still a big issue for booksellers. "I personally believe it is, too," Rutledge said. "All booksellers need to look at it and need to get back to their POS vendors and make sure they keep on making progress on this issue." She noted that Domnitz stressed that "when 979 comes into play there will be tremendous upheaval, and he said he could foresee some stores closing because of it."

"It was a very good discussion," said Luanne Kreutzer of St. Helen's Bookshop in St. Helens, Oregon. She said that the Strategic Planning survey was also discussed and Domnitz and Lawrence stressed "how important it is to get that information back to the association."

Of the PNBA board's Saturday vote to put the Spring Show on a two-year break, Eagle Harbor's Hanson said he fully supported the decision. "At our latest retreat, the Board and PNBA staff prioritized and [concluded] we should be driving customers into stores instead of being a trade show company. It's a clarification of purpose," he said.

PNBA Board member Rutledge called the hiatus a "smart decision" that was made based on "input from the membership. It was a hard decision, it's such a really good show." Nonetheless, putting on two trade shows on top of the holiday catalog was a lot to ask of the PNBA staff, so "we're taking the burden of the spring show off them."

Chambliss said the board would be re-examining "whether or not to do a Spring Show again in two years." PNBA will continue to produce its Fall Show. --David Grogan