The California Book Fair is a rite of passage for collectors on the west coast and as always, the event was very professional, well lighted and spaciously laid out in the Pasadena Convention Center. For private and institutional collectors this environment confers a very positive impression of book, manuscript, map and ephemera as mainline serious focuses.
This year’s Pasadena Fair was a magnet for many of the most important dealers across 25 of the American states and around the globe 40 international dealers from 11 countries based in the EU along with a handful of others from Argentina, Australia and Canada.
Logistically this fair is a remarkable experience.
For dealers it’s a significant financial commitment. Altogether there is the cost of one or more booths, inventory is selected and shipped, along with manpower, transportation and hotel costs. Such commitments clearly involve thousands of decisions that fit all the many complex factors and elements to convert complicated business judgments into financial success. It’s very impressive.
One stark omission however is a unified event database of all material that these dealers are stocking and presenting. The math is straightforward. Typically dealers have extensive inventories but because of the logistics of choosing and transporting inevitably they select a small percentage of their stock for display. For this event the math works out to perhaps about 250 items on average selected for each of the 167 exhibiting dealers. So altogether in the show about 41,750 items are stocked and displayed. It’s a wow number.
However an immense opportunity is missed for these dealers because the incremental 250 items physically present for each dealer is only about 2% of their actual holdings – that I estimate to be about 20,000 items each on average. Hence these 167 exhibiting dealers typically have more than 3,340,000 items. A show database with all this material would transform each dealer’s experience; creating inquiries and transactions many times greater than a show generally generates.
The show database ideally would be posted on the event’s website 30 days ahead of the event’s opening. Then this database will let the motivated public run searches and mark interesting material within two categories; material to be on physical display as well as the exhibitors’ full inventories to be investigated and discussed and subsequently shipped to buyers. Between these two processes this will substantially increase sales and participation.
Hence material would be characterized as physically present [41,750] as other items also available [3,298,250] that can be color coded as customarily shipped in 1 to 3 weeks.
And of course, many expressions of interest will convert into mail order transactions. For the recent fair it had the feel of total sales totaling $2,000,000. With the database installed on the show website I estimate another $2,000,000 will be generated.
Such a resource will be useful to the thousands who visit the fair because their principal purpose of joining the fair is to buy. So both sides will win, the dealers create additional sales and visitors find additional material they want.
Clearly, the number of transactions will increase exponentially.
Looking ahead, such a database will materially transform the fair experience.
Based to these ideas a survey is posted on a separate article titled Here are your thoughts on how to enhance the client/dealer show experience.