Conventions and the dealer

Why do conventions have dealer rooms? A cynical response might be that the organisers need the revenue to run their event. An organiser’s response might be that they are offering their members an additional attraction. Some conventions charge dealers just a nominal rate for tables, although the dealers still have to pay the same membership fee as others but without the ability to visit the panels, while others will shock you with a mortgage! Some conventions make the dealer room the main attraction while others add a dealer room almost as an afterthought. But what are dealers doing there in the first place? Selling their wares seems the most obvious answer but that’s often too simple. Of course dealers need to cover their costs – that probably happens less than you think if all costs are taken into consideration – but for the likes of Murky Depths and our publishing arm it’s also about promoting the brand, to let people know what we’re about. It doesn’t follow that the bigger the show the better the sales. MCM Expo get thousands through the door but it’s always been one of our most disappointing events, no disrespect to Bryan Cooney who made a bold pitch to get us to take a table again during Asylum – and we all think we can organise something better . . . Eastercon is a much smaller affair despite being probably the biggest ‘purest’ science fiction convention in the UK and, though this year was very disappointing for us (but that may have been due to the venue), it’s usually one of our most fruitful events. The SFX Weekender, with its membership of ‘ordinary’ SF readers with a far more open mind than the pure genre cons, and with no preconceived idea of what is ‘trendy’, has so far been our most lucrative event ever, but from year to year it’s difficult to predict what your sales are going to be. But, like I said, it’s not all about sales when you’re at a convention. MCM Expo might have been a financial disaster but we spotted and commissioned five new artists.
At the end of the day do convention members want dealer rooms? It’s somewhere to go and browse between panels, but if browsing is all that’s done then some dealers will eventually not support the event any more. Organisers can sometimes forget that that is exactly what the dealers are doing . . . supporting the event. There has always been a new dealer ready to fill the table of the ‘fallen’ with aspirations and hopes of success, but will that always be the case?

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