Each spring, the Book Depot sales team embarks on our annual trip to Book Expo America (BEA), the premier event in North America for publishers, book distributors and wholesalers, booksellers, and generally anyone related to the book trade. I think back 17 years ago to Book Expo 2000 (yes, the world did not end that year!), when three people including myself and one of our owners made the trek to attend our very first BEA as exhibitors. We set up our little 10’ x 20’ booth and were ready for business, a little minnow in the ocean of bookselling and publishing. We did come home that first year with a nice order from one of the big retailers in our pockets, along with meeting some of the other great contacts in the bargain bookselling industry, and so began our long relationship with this show.
Eighteen BEAs later, it was off to New York City for this year’s event. We now have a booth that is 10’ x 70’ on both sides of an aisle that runs through the middle of our booth to allow attendees to walk through our corridor of book offerings. That is a total of 1,400 sq. ft. compared to our meager 200 sq. ft. from 17 years ago. We had approximately 8,000 samples at the show in either full-book format or, for a couple of categories, just the front covers for customers to flip through. The show proper opened on Wednesday, May 31 at 1:00pm for bargain booksellers, but there were a handful of buyers who were in the city even earlier, looking for anyone doing “pre-show” selling. That precipitated me selling from my hotel suite already on Monday morning, working with a handful of accounts. Tuesday was set-up day, a day that all of the sales reps circle on their calendars and look forward to with much joy and excitement. Not!!! For most of the reps, it was up early and off to the Buffalo airport to catch an 8:00am flight to NYC. I was the “advance team” this year, so I was already at the Javits Center by 8:00am to make sure all our pallets had arrived to the floor location and get the carpet down before everyone else arrived. The entire team was pretty much assembled by mid-morning, and we were busy putting together shelves, opening boxes, and displaying the books over the next 8 hours, transforming a bare exhibit floor into the Book Depot bargain book showroom.
Wednesday brought the start of the show, and even though it was scheduled to begin at 1:00pm there were a few buyers who had advance passes to access the show floor early so we kept busy from 9:00am until closing at 6:00pm. For bargain booksellers like us, these shows tend to be very busy at the beginning, as buyers want to come in early and get the good books before they are all gone, knowing there is a limited supply. Typically we will have a very busy first day where we will do 75% of our business, and then the show will dwindle down over the next couple of days with minimal activity going on by the final day. By the end of the first day, you pretty much know if it will be a successful show or not. This year our first day was fantastic. Over the years with more of our customers buying from our website, doing warehouse visits, or maybe reviewing focused lists supplied by a sales rep, we have seen a trend towards fewer buyers attending the trade shows. However, this year at BEA was a bit of throwback to the old days where we had lots of appointments, and buyers came with pen in hand ready to write some big orders.
As the week went by, some of us were able to leave a bit early, while others headed out late Friday afternoon, and Dave Wiggins, our Sales Manager, hung in right to the end to close the show and pack up the supplies that needed to come back the warehouse before catching the late flight home. We are all glad to be back safely, and Book Depot’s 18th Book Expo is now in the books—at least from a sales standpoint. There is still some follow-up to do with new prospects, but for the most part the baton has been passed off the warehouse to do the awesome job of pulling, cleaning, and packing all these orders, and then handing them off to our shipping team to get them out the door. Thank you again to everyone who stopped by to say hello or place an order, and we look forward to another great show again next year!