The fall of 2018 will be a busy season for the hobby industry—two shows set one month apart will offer a wide variety of opportunities to retailers who attend.
The first show, slated for sometime in September 2018, is the annual National Retail Hobby Store Association (NRHSA) Table Top Expo held in Las Vegas. This tried-and-true dealer-only event is moving from its traditional May time slot so vendors and distributors can capitalize on holiday orders.
The other show will be the second annual Rocky Mountain Hobby Expo, sponsored by the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA) and scheduled for Oct. 24-28, 2018 in Denver. (See information about the upcoming 2017 show here.)
While having two industry shows so close together might force some attendees to choose between them, the events' coordinators are confident the shows are different enough so as not to compete for attendance.
Model Retailer spoke with Noel Bays, the current president of NRHSA and store manager of Hobby Force, which is under the HobbyTown franchise. He explained that the only thing that is changing with the 2018 show is the date. "The board of directors discussed moving NRHSA's show date to provide a better return on investment for vendors and distributors, because that's what it's all about," said Bays.
When past attendees were asked how the change would affect them, most responded that the move to September would either benefit them or not impact them at all. R/C vendors were excited, answering that September is the prime time for them to make holidays sales.
"What I tell people is to buy a table," said Bays. "Buy a table at NRHSA's show and see for yourself what the exposure in a relaxed atmosphere can you do for your business."
The show will remain a dealer-to-dealer table-top event designed to help store owners learn what's new in the industry and purchase quality merchandise that will be delivered in time for the holidays. "Spring is simply not the buying season," said Bays. "The only people who might not like the change from May to September are the trains people because product can take so long to arrive after it's been ordered."
Fred Hill, treasurer of the HMA and owner of The Coach Yard in Del Mar, Calif., is one of those trains people who voiced concerns over NRHSA's later date and the slim amount of time between that show and the HMA's expo. "The HMA had already been vocal about our new October expo when NRHSA asked what we thought of them having a September show; we told them not to," said Hill. "Traveling to shows is already very expensive for attendees and vendors, so to put two shows so close together might cause some to pick one event over another when they would have gone to both back they were further apart."
Hill says that changes like this work to divide the industry more than help it.
While Hill feels that the two shows will be competing for attendees, both Bays and HMA president Bob Wilke think that the shows are different enough to each draw a unique crowd and not become rivals.
"The Rocky Mountain Hobby Expo is going to be heavily based on consumer attendance," said Wilke. "This is something NRHSA's show does not have. While there will be two days’ worth of trade-only events, the last two days will be for vendors to sell directly to consumers."
Bays echoed Wilke explaining that the main draw to NRHSA's show is the dedicated business-to-business aspect.
Wilke understands Hill's frustration with the change, however, saying that miscommunication between the groups triggered NRHSA's decision to change the dates. "I don't know how [NRHSA] didn't know its September show might step on the heels of our new expo—an event which they definitely knew was in the making—but it is what it is. I'm certainly not contentious, and think it's best for us to work together at this time, rather than splinter apart. It's important that we all support the industry by attending and being a part of as many events as we can."