Strategy Sessions: PMA Show Set to Become a Fall Classic

Strategy Sessions: PMA Show Set to Become a Fall Classic



For the veterans in the photo industry, February may never be the same. Every year, just as we hummed the final bars of Auld Lang Syne, PMA became our mantra. Travel plans, booth preparations, sales meetings, spring buying. It was as if we all had our internal PMA alarm clock go off at the same time.

Now that the Photo Marketing Association has announced the PMA show is moving to September beginning in 2011, we all have to reset our photo clocks to the fall. From where I sit, I think the change is long overdue, if only to stop the whining of PMA being too close to CES. 

The PMA show needs its own stage, and I believe moving to September, just prior to the key holiday selling season, will result in a renewed excitement about the show. I also believe it will once again renew the spirit of our industry as technology leaders and innovators, which is exactly where we deserve to be.

To get the full story, I called Ted Fox, executive director of PMA, to explain the reasons for the change, as well as to shed some light on some questions that are still out there. 

JG: The PMA trade show and convention have been moved to September 2011; what drove that decision?

TF: As you know, there are now two big buying seasons in the photo industry—one is early in the calendar year, and one is just before the holiday buying season for consumers. With the switch from analog to digital, the last half of the year has been extremely important, not just from a hardware standpoint, but from a custom gifting standpoint as well. So we felt the September time frame was early enough to introduce the new models for the holiday season and also for the channels to fill the pipelines.

Was part of this driven by the duplication with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?

There is some of that, but it’s also recognition of what has become a straight-line tail at the backend of the calendar year, in terms of industry revenues. It used to be with film that there was a consistency with seasonality, especially at the service end of the industry: you’d have a python ramp-up, then a ramp down during the summer months from a processing standpoint; then you’d get a pretty good bump at the end of the year, and some carryover into January because of the holiday season. With digital, with the exception of a very vibrant gifting market at the end of the year, a lot of that seasonality has been eliminated. You never know when that card is going to fill up and you’re going to get a big order.

So, what has the reaction been from the major manufacturers?

They really have embraced it. In fact, a lot of the discussions came from our follow-ups of PMA 2010. Obviously, we have our voting members to consider, so we discussed it with PMA’s executive committee of the PMA board. 

Have there been any further discussions with Canon? Might this be a way for them to return to the PMA show?

We have met with Canon, and we’ve continued to stay in contact with them. We haven’t received anything definitive from them. But it seems to me that it creates a new opportunity to come back together. But, of course, I’m not in the position to speak for Canon, so you might want to follow up with them.

What about the whole notion of the conflict with photokina?

We have a very good working relationship with photokina, and we will work together to maintain two strong events in the future. Though no decision has been made regarding the photokina year, we are very sensitive to the timing of their event, and it is not our intent to do anything to disrupt that.

I notice the third day of the show (in September) will be the consumer day. I assume, as opposed to Anaheim last year, that the consumer show will be in the same venue as the trade show.

Absolutely, one of our goals is expanding in terms of the audiences for this event, and we think there’s tremendous PR value in having a single consumer day as part of PMA going forward. We’re really going to focus on the photo enthusiast. If you think about it, PMA is just really following what has been standard practice for other shows around the world. photokina has always had consumers as part of their event, as well as CP+ in Japan. We think bringing consumers in during the fall to see the products that will be available for the holiday buying season will help everybody.

Will the consumer show be a selling show?

Our plan right now is for this to be a product exhibit show, but we think there’s an opportunity to also educate consumers in some of the areas they may not be fully aware of—including product features and functionality. So PMA will be investing on that end to help educate the consumer as well; you’ll see education sessions both on the floor and in meeting rooms. This has been very successful, for example, for our show in Australia, which is held this month.

Have you received feedback from the dealers?

Sure, we’ve received very positive feedback from the dealers. They’re very excited about this. I’ve been getting unsolicited e-mails from dealers around the world who say they’re very excited about this.

There’s no real decision about this being an every-other-year thing?

I think there are some issues that have to be resolved before any commitments can be made in that regard, and we’re meeting with the right people to resolve those issues.

Do you think we’ll see greater attendance?