A quick note: Our June issue was already at the printer while the 25th Annual Conference for Catalog and Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) was taking place on May 19-22 in Kissimmee, Fla. So belatedly, here’s my postconference recap.
This was my 22nd consecutive tour of duty at what was once known as the National Catalog Conference, and the Annual Catalog Conference after that. But rest assured, I’m not going to give you one of these old-fogey reflections on how “it ain’t like it used to be.”
Instead, let’s track back just a few years to Boston, June 2001. That was probably the most apprehensive I can ever recall seeing attendees at an NCC/ACC/ACCM — and to think, the Red Sox hadn’t won their first (modern era) World Series yet.
Just three months prior to Sept. 11, the dot-com bubble was bursting and the economy was beginning to tumble. The mood among attendees was one of gloom and doom. Similar issues to today: costs rising, response falling.
Fast-forward to this year’s ACCM. Economic conditions are decidedly worse than June 2001: Postage is practically unaffordable, consumers aren’t spending any money, and environmentalists are on catalogers’ tails. It’s not a pretty picture right now. But the mood at this year’s event wasn’t that bad, even though attendance clearly was down (though I can’t confirm this since attendance figures are proprietary).
Perhaps that’s because most people I spoke with were of the mind-set that “well, duh! Of course business is bad, stupid!” Or perhaps they were just BS'ing me. But I doubt that. After so many years attending this event, I truly believe that most are a whole lot more candid with me about how they’re doing than, perhaps, in years past.
Certainly the exhibitors had reason to be unhappy — although not entirely miserable. Traffic in the exhibit hall was very quiet. That’s nothing new, however. For as long as I can remember, in good times and bad, exhibitors have complained about the lack of booth traffic at this conference. But hold on there. This year I also heard something a little different: A good number of vendors I spoke with said those visitors they did receive came prepared to do business. They felt that, despite the light attendance and lack of traffic, their money was well spent.