First Look at NAMTA Louisville!

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So… How was it at the 59th annual convention of the art material industry? That is the question everyone asked when I got back to the office. Wellllllll… what do you want first, the good news or the bad? Let’s start with the “not so good”. While pre-registrations showed that the number of retailers (buying companies) was slightly up compared to last year, the number of pre-registered people was down. In this catastrophic recession that makes a lot of sense. Companies need to save money on air travel, lodging and the like by reducing headcount, but they also want to make sure that they don’t miss out entirely on all the great new products, deals and networking opportunities. Tom Richards from Chartpak made an observation that resonated with me, on the show and its seemingly low population of retail personel. For him it was a great show because the buyers who came represented at least 90% of the sales of art materials in the U.S.A. Tom‘s optimism and positive attitude reflected the general atmosphere at the show.

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Enough of that, what about the good? I could write a book, but for starters the free NAMTA breakfast meetings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were full of valuable information opportunities, some scary and some not so. On Thursday we heard about the scary CPSIA legislation from a Washington insider, got a report on the status of artists in the USA workforce from an National Endowment for the Arts expert, got Sid Smith’s Environmental Scan, a fascinating look at changes we are likely to see in consumer behavior as a result of the recession and lastly heard nature artist Wyland wax on about how a semi-talented, “save the whales” visionary can get ridiculously rich  rich in America. On Friday, the theme was the NAMTA General Session and Annual Meeting where for the first time printed reports on the status of our trade association  were made available. We’re doing great financially thanks to Executive Director Sid Smith and his marvelous staff! So rather than bore us with the numbers, they took the time to celebrate the career and contribution of Jeff Goldfarb of A.I. Friedman in NY who was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his years of service in support of our association. Lifetime achievement awards were bestowed upon Zora Pinney and Claudia Myers and we heard a fascination panel of industry retailers, reps, wholesalers, domestic and international suppliers discuss the challenges and complexities of the global supply chain.

As for the exhibits and the rest of the show,  I will use the words of our stellar Northwest rep, Catherine Thoele, talking from the MacPherson’s perspective:

“The MacPherson’s NAMTA deals were concise and were rewarded quickly with the Mac Bucks (which boosted the Louisville economy) and made the dealers SMILE!”

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We held a VIP dinner event on Wednesday night at the Glassworks studio in Louisville and it was our best event ever! Thanks go to Rachel Thompson, our manager of trade show events. Retailers loved blowing their own glass ornaments and watching the comedy around the activity!

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The NAMTA President’s Reception was another smash event. Held at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, the walls were still buzzing about Mine that Bird’s miraculous 50:1 win at this years derby. The food, drinks and conversation made the evening truly memorable. After it was over, a group of intrepid souls walked over to the track to imagine past races and bask in the sultry spring weather and full moon.

bio_chipwoolleySpeaking of this Mine that Bird, trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. was spotted at the Louisville Holiday Inn’s bar, posing for photos and signing autographs. It turns out  he was “hangin'” until he decided whether he wanted to drive his horse all the way to the Preakness in Baltimore, MD!

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Friday evening, after the busiest day at the show, MacPherson’s hosted our annual Beer Bash, this year with a Bluegrass theme. Everyone was there to unwind and enjoy the the Bluegrass band, Hickory & Friends. The event was sponsored by our terrific suppliers: 3M, Ampersand, Art Alternatives, Borden & Riley, C&T Publications, Canson, Chartpak, Chroma, ColArt, Creative Catalog Concepts (CCC), Crescent, DaVinci Brush, Daler-Rowney, Delta of North America, Elmer’s, Gamblin, General Pencil, Golden, Grafix, Holbein, Kolo, Krylon, Kunst & Papier, Lefranc & Bourgeois, Letraset, M.A.B.E.F., Montana Cans, Okido, Princeton Brush, RGM, Royal Brush, Sakura, Sanford, S.O.S., Speedball, STABILO, Strathmore/Pacon, and Yasutomo. Special thanks go  Krylon, the official sponsors of the band!

Saturday morning, before the show opened for the last day, MacPherson’s held an intimate Retailer feedback breakfast to find out what products and trends were considered the hottest. Read our additional posts and see what a select and influential group of independent retailers had to say.

In the meantime, enjoy some authentic Bluegrass by checking out the video taken at the Beer Bash!

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