2011 Collectibles Industry Summit Update: 3/23/11

2011 Collectibles Industry Summit Update: 3/23/11

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ISAACSONSTOP345 ImageLAS VEGAS – Below are Kevin Isaacson's (Summit Host) top 10 highlights from the 2011 Industry Summit, which concludes today at the Orleans Conference Center with a strong lineup of panel discussions on the future of distribution, micro-manufacturing and, to cap the business program, the widely enjoyed 5-minute idea exchange.

10. The TOPPS 60th anniversary party, Retailing For Success seminar and Corporate Presentation, featuring Pack Wars with the incomparable Alan Narz and a warm and gracious opening toast to brick-and-mortar retailers from VP/Sales John Buscaglia.

9. The emotional introduction from UD marketing manager Chris Carlin, prior to awarding the inaugural Steve James Award. Revered for his unwavering customer focus, James was part of the inaugural SUMMIT planning committee but was too ill to attend the inaugural event. He passed away late in 2010. The inaugural Steve James Award was presented Tuesday to respected Illinois retailer Dan Fox, and will become a staple of Upper Deck's annual participation in the Industry Summit.

8. Animated SOLUTION SESSION discussions, moderated by more than 20 industry leaders and featuring topics as diverse as redemptions, target-market autograph authentication and maximizing promotions. A notable highlight: The blue-sky “what if'' segment co-moderated by Mike Phillips (Upper Deck) and Janyce Mabra (Tristar). (A download summarizing all Solution Session discussions will be provided to Summit attendees early next week.)

7. A compelling speech from CEO Richard McWilliam during the Upper Deck retailer meeting, focusing on the renewed vigor, stability and innovativeness of the venerable West Cost manufacturing company. Among McWilliams' many memorable comments: “I am here, I'm going to stay here, and I will support this industry for the rest of my life.''

6. Licensor engagement. From Dan Weinberg's proactive presentation on behalf of Major League Baseball to the NHL/NHLPA luncheon and everywhere between, the licensor community effectively communicated its intent to champion the sports card category. Retailers were clearly impressed with Christine Bove's (NBA) insight and commitment during her Meet the Industry session, while Evan Kaplan's (MLBPA) unwavering support of brick-and-mortar retailers and their customers was readily apparent during his Tuesday podium appearance.

5. Wizards of the Coast's strong and impressive support of its wholesale distributor partners throughout The Summit. Product diversification was a leading theme of this year's Summit, and the WOTC presentations were received very favorably by retailers from across the US and Canada. Look for a significantly expanded Summit presence from leading gaming companies in 2012.

4. A positive initial discussion on the potential for a new “umbrella'' national trading card celebration involving multiple licensors, manufacturers, wholesale distributors and retailers. Thanks to facilitation by industry leaders including Dave McCarthy (NHL Properties), Chris Carlin, Mike Phillips & David Vatri (Upper Deck), Daryl McKay (Sports Images), Christine Bove (NBA Properties) Bill Sutherland and Mark Anderson (Beckett Media/BGS) and Lynne LaPlaca (UltraPRO) among many others, this opportunity will be a hot topic across the business during Q2.

3. Team Hockey. Tuesday's lunch presentation featured key execs from NHL Properties and NHL Players Association and their licensees Panini and Upper Deck – presenting to more than 150 retailers as one united, cohesive hockey-card marketing machine. It was an impressive display of collaboration – and in fact, marked the second joint podium partnership from Upper Deck's Chris Carlin and Panini's Tracy Hackler in as many days.

2. A highly professional presentation from Panini America executives, who unquestionably delivered on pledges extended last year during their Summit Address Monday. Said Florida retailer Chris Rodriguez afterward: “Incredible. Without a doubt, Panini stepped up big-time in support of hobby retailers.''

1. Talent and innovation in the wholesale distribution arena, notably from several first-time Summit attendees. Distributors were a driving force behind the record 135 retail stores to attend the 2011 Summit, and they didn't disappoint onsite with great booth displays, giveaways and sales outreach. Among the first-time wholesale staffers to make significant impact on retailers: John Wojick and Jeff Deane from All Sports Marketing, Dustin Laugherty from Southern Hobby, Nelson Chaves and Chris Edlebeck from Grosnor, Chris Carabio from GTS and Rich Haman, Matt Williams and John Capuano from Sports Images. Several wholesalers have already committed to an expanded presence at the 2012 Summit– and don't be surprised if Canadian distributors Universal and Grosnor work together to create special & unique programming for Canadian retailers at the 2012 Summit.

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PANINIBLACKBOX CHECKLIST562 ImagePanini America's “Year of the Hobby Shop" mantra carries over to collectors. The Knight's Lance will be giving out 5 of the company's Black Boxes to readers. Below is how to enter.

  1. Go to your local card shop and a purchase a hobby box of Panini America trading cards
  2. Video your break at the card shop (and show your receipt, you know, for proof)
  3. Post your video to YouTube and post the YouTube link as a comment to this post

The first five people to do this will win one of the coveted Black Boxes from this year's Industry Summit! For more details visit the Knight's Lance.

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Following weeks of anticipation and hype, Panini America finally distributed their legendary Black Boxes on Monday afternoon at the 2011 Industry Summit at the Orleans Hotel & Casino. The Knight's Lance (Panini's Blog) recently posted a video of members of the hobby shop community receiving their free perk.

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Mike Anderson, Panini America's Vice President of Sales, provided details at this week's 2011 Industry Summit regarding the company's well-publicized new distribution and pricing policies. Visit the Knight's Lance (official Panini America blog) to see the revealing two part video.

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(from the Upper Deck website)

It's almost here. The wait is nearly over. And the unveiling will truly be something to behold. The Upper Deck Company, the trading card manufacturer that time and again has reinvented the sports card category, will debut a never-before-seen insert card set inside its 2011 Upper Deck Football launch on April 12. What is it, you ask? Well, you'll just have to wait and see.

“It's highly proprietary and we're not at liberty to discuss the details just yet," said Jason Masherah, Upper Deck's vice president of Marketing. “But suffice it to say that this upcoming unveiling will once again revolutionize the trading card industry as we know it today, in a way that only Upper Deck is capable of doing."

Wishing to create buzz and excitement for football card collectors, dealers, distributors and fans, Upper Deck is currently running a series of online “Evolution" banner ads to create anticipation for the fast-approaching reveal and has a special landing page devoted to the product's debut next month: www.UpperDeck.com/Evolution. To see the company's new Evolution teaser video, click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rJJiJGsxOQ. The card set was produced through Upper Deck's exclusive partnership with the Collegiate Licensing Company.

“Our partnership with Upper Deck has allowed us to bring our fans new and innovative products never before seen in the trading card market," said David Kirkpatrick, CLC's vice president of Non-Apparel Marketing. “We are excited to share such in such an important launch, and are confident that collectors and college fans alike will embrace this revolutionary new product."

Revolutionizing the sports card industry is nothing new to Upper Deck. When the company made its debut in 1989 with its Upper Deck Baseball product, the company introduced the hobby's first-ever anti-counterfeit hologram on each of its card. Upper Deck's use of premium card stock and UV coating quickly put its competitors on notice.

A year later, Upper Deck became the first trading card company to put autographed cards into its packs with its “Baseball Heroes" insert collection featuring greats like Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan. Game-used jersey swatches embedded on card fronts from gridiron stars like Joe Montana, Barry Sanders and Brett Favre followed in 1996 and, two years later, the company made headlines once again by introducing its controversial, yet hugely popular Babe Ruth “Piece of History" bat cards, which contained one-by-one-inch pieces of a game-used bat once swung by the Sultan of Swat.

“Next month's introduction will definitely catch people by surprise. This is the most important trading card innovation since Upper Deck introduced the cut signature card in 1998, so it will certainly be worth the wait," added Masherah.

Other hobby firsts pioneered by Upper Deck have included “PowerDeck" in 1999, which was the world's first digital trading card that could be viewed on a computer's DVD player and contained video footage of the featured player, along with music, photos, player profiles and statistics; “Haircut-Signature" cards in 2008, which sported actual strands of hair and cut signatures from deceased historical figures including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson; and oversized “Entomology" cards in 2009, which contained actual insects/bugs that were showcased in their entirety inside beautifully designed shadowbox cards.

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(article from the Knight's Lance, the official Panini America Blog)
PANINIVP MIKEANDERSON ImageLAS VEGAS — Aside from Panini America's trademark Black Boxes, arguably the single most anticipated aspect of the 2011 Industry Summit came Monday afternoon with the long-awaited public unveiling of the company's new distribution plan and pricing policy.

Mike Anderson, Panini America Vice President of Sales, sat down with The Knight's Lance to provide an exclusive first look at some of the pertinent details, just minutes before addressing the more than 130 retailers in attendance.

1. Panini America has called 2011 “the year of the hobby shop." What exactly does that mean to you?
We have always believed the brick-and-mortar store to be the lifeblood of our industry, but the hobby stores have been under siege by internet sellers that have no overhead and can undercut the hobby store prices. We are implementing some distribution changes that will give hobby stores the advantage and start to direct traffic to and through storefronts.

“The year of the hobby shop" is not a simple campaign slogan but a very real commitment by Panini America.

2. What factors led Panini America to make such major changes to the way it distributes its hobby products?
Current distribution models offer no incentive for people to open new stores or expand their existing business and we have to reverse the trend. Without some intervention by Panini and a change in our distribution model, we could only expect more stores to close and begin offering products online.

Manufacturers have been hesitant to address the internet issues because of the significant revenue generated by the internet sellers, but it is now critical we take a stand. We finally feel we are in a position to make a difference. Panini America is a leader worldwide and as a true leader in the category, Panini America is willing to risk losing short-term internet sales to preserve and protect our true retail partners – the hobby store.

3. What are the key long-term objectives of the new plan?
To give hobby stores the opportunity to thrive again. To rebuild the community that used to surround the store. A place where people could come by the store, open packs with their friends, brag about their treasures and have an enjoyable experience.

We hope the store owners will make better profit margins that will enable them, with Panini America's support, to reinvest in their business and, simply put, grow again.

4. What are the key differences between how Panini America will distribute going forward and how the company has been doing it?
There are several key differences, starting with our minimum advertised price policies (MAPP). We want to protect the stores that have overhead costs by making sure no other competitor (primarily internet sellers) offer the same Panini America products at a “cost plus" price point that prohibits or prevents. We are also providing a seven-day window for the store to sell product without interference from internet sellers. If a consumer wants the latest Panini America product, they will have to find their nearest hobby store, at least for a week.

5. As a 30-year industry veteran, what aspect of the new plan most excites you?
It is fair! We have watched a lot of changes take place but not always for the benefit of everyone in the industry. I think it is clear to anyone that has ever purchased a Panini America product that we are trying to deliver good values at fair prices. No games!

We now have the opportunity and enough support to make a difference in how these products flow through the marketplace.

Good products, fair prices and a solid distribution plan is a recipe for success. We recognize if our consumers, retailers and distributors win, we will win.

6. What do the new policies mean to traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts?
It means they finally have a friend in the industry. They finally have someone who understands their situation and is willing to take a stand. It means they have a reason to be optimistic again.

7. What feedback have you received thus far from those most affected by the changes?
I have heard from countless stores that were “on the brink" of closing their stores. Our commitment has made the difference in their decision to renew leases, commit advertising dollars and involve their family in the business. We are so excited to see this renewed enthusiasm. It is a reward in itself.

8. Perhaps more than any other group, online retailers are the most impacted by these new procedures. What does the new program mean for them?
We have talked with many online retailers and every one of them has been supportive. Everyone recognizes the need for change and if we strive to be fair to everyone and everyone can start to profit again, everyone will win. Even the internet sellers have been caught up in price wars and they welcome the relief.  A “high tide raises all boats" and a fair distribution plan will definitely raise the tide.

I believe we have been supported by everyone in the entire food chain because we want to insure a place for everyone. We are not trying to eliminate anyone. We're trying to level the field. MAPP will allow internet sellers to be profitable again because they will no longer compete solely on price. We hope everyone will compete on the service they provide rather than who can sell the cheapest.

9. What does this new plan say about Panini America's commitment to the long-term viability of the hobby shop and, as a result, the hobby at large?
This is a major commitment to the hobby store and to the industry and I am grateful the senior management (Mr. Sallustro, Group CEO in Italy, and Mark Warsop, CEO at Panini America) has encouraged these changes. Programs similar to ours have failed in the past because it takes some time for everyone to adjust to the new flow of product.  We are already hearing of some large “buyers" frequenting hobby stores and getting re-acquainted. We hope everyone will help make this a smooth transition.

We need everyone to support our products now more than ever.

10. What will the industry be saying about this program one year from now?
I hope they will be saying they are proud to be in this industry. I hope they will recognize our intentions were honorable and Panini America made a difference. I hope they will be suggesting to friends and relatives that they should take another look at our hobby. It's safe to come back in the water again.

11. Finally, in the 24 months since Panini has entered the U.S. market, what one thing has stood out to you the most?
Wow, great question. It's hard to point out just one thing because the energy and everything that we've been doing has been moving so fast when you look at where we are today. I'd say I've been impressed with the adoption in the mainstream to our U.S. sports sticker collections. But as an insider, the one thing that stands out the most is how we went from one exclusive NBA license to securing one of two licenses with the NFL and NHL, and how fast our production teams have had to ramp up to produce another 40 collections — and that's just on the sports side. That's a huge undertaking when you talk about the products we are building.

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Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

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