PMA: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Las Vegas is the city of choice for most conventions. And that is true for this year’s PMA (Photo Marketing Association) International Trade Show. It is suppose to drive extra traffic and excitement.This year, however, given the already steady decline of the show due to the shrinking numbers of photo retailers, and given the “depressing” economy, most exhibitors feared for the worst. So here’s the Good, Bad and Ugly:

The Good: Many vendors reported to me that despite the much smaller traffic numbers, many attendees were of the “High Quality” type. By my casual surveying most said they had a decent show, better than expected and were nicely surprised. In fact, Ilford indicated that they had the best trade show ever for them.

The Bad: Attendance was clearly down. By my observation, I’d say 40%. The number of exhibitors was down I’d say by 30%. When asked about sales most reported, “not much” or “wish there was more.” The Fuji and Canon booths were the only ones with any kind of sustained traffic. You could roll a bowling ball in the HP and GE booths and not hit anybody. And finally the shocker of the show was no Epson!

The Ugly: The annual PMDA awards show which annually honors significant achievement in the photography field, the 2009 award recipients were as follows:

Person of the Year: Shigetaka Komori, President & Chief Executive Officer  FUJIFILM Holdings Corporation

Herbert Keppler Technical Achievement Award: Michael Deng, President and CEO of Arcsoft, Inc.

Norman C. Lipton Lifetime Achievement Award: Dave Willard, Director, Olympus

Photographer Award: Bill Eppridge

Bill Eppridge runs alongside a car carrying Robert Kennedy. © Burton Berinksy.

Bill Eppridge runs alongside a car carrying Robert Kennedy. © Burton Berinksy.

The highlight of which was Bill Eppridge’s dazzling career photo essay, spanning 50 years, which highlighted the only existing photographs of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and an amazing diversified career. So what is ugly you ask? Well the Caesar’s Palace dinner event cost $195 per person (for those who didn’t get in free like me) and was maybe the worst meal I have ever eaten. This is suppose to be a premiere hotel in Las Vegas.  This meal meal would get the cook tossed overboard on a submarine. The steak was an actual piece of shoe leather. The Salmon was so overcooked it jumped back in the water and the chocolate pudding/mousse (not sure which it was) tasted and looked like…. well you know. Shame on Caesar’s. At least I got an autographed copy of Eppridge’s book.

Toploader Pro AW Series from LowePro

As for new and exciting products, well there weren’t many. LowePro had a new line of bags, the Toploader Pro AW Series. Canon and Nikon introduced ONLY new point and shoots, no new DSLRs… how disappointing. Noritsu and a new and efficient line of high volume inkjet lab printers. The most interesting product I saw was a innovative wall frame (and it is hard to be innovative in this ancient category) by a company called EBBM, Inc. (www.ebbmsemi.com). It allows photos to be placed in clear frames and spaced on the wall in patterns. It should be a huge hit in the under 30 crowd. And it retails for under $30.

The show this year was from Tuesday Thursday, which is a departure from the historical weekend schedule. I’m guessing the crazy low room rates in Vegas, helped make up for the mid-week schedule. What we all have to fear is next year. The PMA folks, in their infinite wisdom, have scheduled the 2010 PMA show in….drum roll please… Anaheim, California.That should be a real attendance grabber for a declining show.

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