Summer NAMM Will Give You The Key… And Here’s Why
Well, it’s official: summer has finally come! For most of us, the season’s arrival evokes images of baseball games, frosty cups of beer, hot dogs, backyard barbecues and, perhaps, a passing thought that The Retailer is going to bring you another “same old, same old” Summer NAMM show preview. In the case of the last item, though, you’d be wrong. As a veteran of numerous Summer NAMMs—including a couple when the show was struggling—I can attest to the fact that, this year, things are different…really. The value proposition of trekking to Nashville for a few days next month has never been more persuasive, nor have the potential costs of “waiting one more year” ever been as substantial. Give me 10 minutes, and I’ll tell you why.
The first thing you need to know is that there are good reasons for manufacturers and retailers alike to be optimistic. Joe Lamond, NAMM’s President/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Retailer, saying, “We just got done with the NAMM board meeting last week. So, we had 29 industry members gathered and, to a person and to a company, they feel that they’re growing. They’re growing better than they have in the last five or six years.” Perhaps, finally, the pall of The Great Recession is lifting.
That auspicious observation dovetails nicely with early statistics about the upcoming summer show, scheduled for July 17 to 19 in Nashville TN. As of Lamond’s and my May 1 conversation, sales in exhibit space were up 19 percent over the same time last year, and exhibiting companies were up 13 percent. There are 50 new first-time Summer NAMM exhibitors (including Dave Smith Instruments and Slate Digital) scheduled for the show, plus 65 companies that are returning after lapse of a year or more. “Hotel nights are a really good indicator, because that’s hard money…people putting their credit cards down,” Lamond explained. “And, right now, the hotel numbers for Summer NAMM are up 22 percent.”
The show floor—now taking up the entirety of Halls A and B in the gorgeous Music City Center—will be packed with new products and innovative technologies…and not only the kinds of products you might be expecting. If you think Summer NAMM is “just a guitar show,” you’re mistaken. The categories of product and relative percentages of each are virtually identical from the NAMM show in January to Summer NAMM in July. Which companies can you expect to see exhibiting next month? It’s only scratching the surface to mention Yamaha, Hal Leonard, Taylor, Alfred Music, Yorkville Sound, Sabian, KHS America, D’Addario, C.F. Martin, Schecter Guitars and Hanser. Anchored by A-listers like those, the show is an unrivaled opportunity to catch up, network and cultivate relationships, absent the frenzy of NAMM-mania in January.
Networking goes hand in hand with professional development, and Lamond, NAMM’s Director of Professional Development Zach Phillips and the team have crafted a program that—even if the show floor were bare—would make Summer NAMM a magnet for savvy retailers that want an upper hand headed into the fall and holiday seasons. According to Lamond, “The way Zach summed up the NAMM Idea Center courses was, ‘This might be the most progressive schedule in Summer NAMM history.’ There’ll be more sessions than ever on practical uses of technology. I’m talking about the actual ‘How do you do it?’ questions. Also, we’ll be focusing on retail promotions, operations and Web sites.” Lamond continued, “For the smart ones who are trying to seize the opportunity we might be getting in the next couple of years, this is the kind of stuff that’ll allow them to skip other people’s mistakes.”
Two events that I am most looking forward to will actually occur before the show gets into full swing. Although this will only be its third year, Retail Boot Camp, set for July 16, has already become legendary among those who experienced it in 2012 and 2013. Created by iMSO (Independent Music Store Owners) and NAMM, it’s intensive, all-day training for your retail business; topics covered include getting more customers and closing more sales, taking control of inventory and running successful promotions. And on the first day of the show, July 17, the NAMM Retail Summit promises to provide actionable insights for your store. “We’re going to talk to dealers that are growing faster than anybody else…that are growing double-digits,” Lamond remarked. “We’re going to find out what they’re doing that’s allowing them to grow so fast.” Who better to get advice from than fellow retailers, just like you, whose businesses are growing?
Although I’ve only scratched the surface of Summer NAMM 2014, I’ll limit myself to just two additional unmissable events. On the evening of July 16, country music superstar Vince Gill will make an encore appearance at Summer NAMM as he joins co-host Tom Bedell of Two Old Hippies for “Insight: Iconic Artists and the Gear That Inspires Them.” If you attended last year’s show, “Insight” was probably the most buzzed-about event of the entire Summer NAMM experience; this year promises to capture “lightning in a bottle” once again. Gill and Bedell, joined by some of their all-star musician friends, will tell never-before-shared stories behind the treasured instruments that brought their greatest hits to life. All eyes will be on “Insight” that evening…and you should be there.
And last, but certainly not least, the 4th Annual Top 100 Dealer Awards, set for July 18, will honor the industry’s most progressive and innovative music products retailers. “The Top 100 Dealer Awards is really great for the winning dealers,” Lamond enthused. “But, even for everyone else in attendance, it’s a great learning opportunity. Because, really what we’re doing is highlighting the best practices of those dealers.”
In closing, Lamond identified several arguments for why dealers like you should attend Summer NAMM. The perennial arguments, he said, include access to networking, reinforcement of best practices and the show’s smaller, more intimate size. Arguments that are specific to this year include remarkable growth, plenty of new companies to see and truly cutting-edge NAMM U content that will better equip retailers for the fall and holiday seasons. “If after laying out this really intelligent case for why it’s good for your business and why it’s good for you professionally, you still find that you’re curious,” Lamond concluded, “then you really owe it to yourself just to come this year and see it. If you’re not sure, how can you make a decision unless you see it for yourself?” It’s an investment—both in your business and in yourself—that you won’t regret.
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