‘Rookie’ Retailers Putting New Ideas to Work

More than 25 first-year “rookie” attendees got a healthy dose of retailing advice, the chance to network with other retailers, sneak peeks at upcoming products and frank discussions on the state of the sports collectibles industry at the 23rd Hawaii Trade Conference/Mainland Edition. Many of those rookie participants headed home with a list of new ideas they were eager to put into practice.

 “It was very good. We got a lot of information from other dealers,” said Rich Huemmer, owner of Uncommon Sports Cards in Richfield, Minn. “We got a lot of different ideas on how to network ourselves with others, and just the interaction with other people and having the opportunity to listen – you never get the opportunity to listen to card companies and to hear from company executives.

“There are a lot different products out there that we don’t normally get that we are on the lookout for now. We’re hoping we can make (the conference) a regular stop.”

Almost all the retailers on hand took part in the Topps-sponsored “Retailing For Success” seminar by Florida retailer and Card Trade columnist Alan Narz that kicked off the week. Narz has been doing seminars on behalf of Topps for more than a decade, and he made retailers aware that the relationship might not have happened had it not been for the contacts he made at the trade conference.

“The best decision I ever made in the industry was to attend my first trade conference back in 1995,” said Narz. “I haven’t missed a trade conference since and have always found each to be very beneficial to the short and long-term success of my business.”

The father-son team of John Gaglione Jr. and Sr. has run Lakeland Sportscards & Collectibles in Lakeland, Fla., for many years, but this year was their first extended visit to the trade conference. Both said they benefited from networking with other collectors and getting advanced information about upcoming card and collectible products from the manufacturers.

“It was fantastic getting to meet the people behind the scenes. I felt like they truly do, to a great extent, care about the future of the hobby shops,” said John Jr.

John Dunphy, of Cards-R-Fun in Nashville, was an interested spectator at a panel discussion where retailers discussed their own websites and offered advice and opinions on e-commerce.

“I don’t do much Internet stuff, so that kind of got me a little motivated to do something different,” Dunphy said. “I was glad I went. The hotel was great. Everything was done well. I was very impressed with the professionalism of everything.”

Mike Westropp and his wife Marilyn, of Wonder Water Sports Cards, Comics & Games in Clearwater, Fla., were busy much of the week networking with other retailers and collecting new ideas that had been successful in other card shops. “We had a great time. We found it very informative,” Mike Westropp said. “We particularly enjoyed the segment where we were learning from the other retailers. It was refreshing that so many people wanted to share information with us.

“We’ve already scheduled a Box Bash with Tristar as a result of the conference that will tie in with an open house for a kind of grand opening we’re having. We’ve been in touch with the Boy Scouts and I’m trying to get a Major League Baseball Players Association program going. We came back with a lot of good ideas that we are trying to implement. As competitive as the market is, you can’t really afford not to get ideas from other people.”

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