paul smith's Snaps & Bytes e-home
May 1999: Cheap, cheaper, cheapest, free.
I look down at my collection of Baseball Caps, T-shirts and colourful plastic bags with string handles and I know I've been to a trade show. Because I attended the damn fine NASCR/Indie event in Nottingham on April the 11th, I can now see character key rings, very useful squeezie-balls and logo bedecked pens by the thousand, all around me. And I've got little brochures, and big brochures and huge brochures; some as big as your 'ed! Catalogues and price guides, company profiles with glossy pictures and poorly photocopied reviews from magazines, etc. Basically my lounge floor is covered in what my girlfriend, Judith, calls 'Piles of Meaningless Crap', or PMC for short. She is not sympathetic to my cause. She doesn't understand that if one attends a trade show it is imperative to collect as much gratis 'stuff' as possible. But most shockingly I wasn't there as a punter, I was there as an exhibitor! However I found talking to other exhibitors almost as useful as talking to the many retailers who attended. Meeting other disties gives me an insight into the industry I can't usually get from the corner we call PC Cables and Accessories plus, of course, a big pile of stuff, free. I appreciate I wasn't exactly the type of potential customer other exhibitors were there to see, so I did try not to take anything I really wasn't interested in. Stuff that I'd call GPMC (Genuine PMC). What I did see was plenty of new lines we might consider distributing, seemingly at every turn. Budget software, inkjet cartridges and digital cameras all caught my eye, so expect to see some interesting, fresh products on our fax-shots. A new feature at the NASCR/Indie event was a rogue element from the ECTS; semi-clad women. A special mention must go to the SNK Girl who managed to look respectable in a grey bin liner with an uncovered midriff whilst suffering the indignity of people trying to guess her weight. The other highlights of this year's show for me were the stands of Planet and FastTrak.
Last first, Jon Silvera of FastTrak was a star for giving me a copy of the hip 'n' happenin' new music making software Dance E-Jay 2. We got chatting about the 18-month-old 'E-jay' range, which he tells me is the biggest selling music creating software range ever. I'm not surprised. As a kid I tortured family and friends with a recorder because I have the musical ability of a badger in a tumble-dryer, and yet with the Dance E-Jay demo disk I got in The Indie last year, I could knock together pretty passable tunes. Even my girlfriend likes the package and she won't usually touch my PC with a pokey stick, preferring instead to mow our lawn. Which kind of leads me on to another of Jon's interesting products; 3D Gardening software. Jon and I chewed the fat over the very limited and often patronising software for ladies of the female persuasion. Barbie anyone? Family PC's supplied with a games bundle for the kids, a CD-ROM DIY guide for him and the E-Kitchen Companion for her just aren't 'PC' anymore. I've a feeling a lot of women would turn their noses up at make-over or flower arranging software too. Like gardening software, the E-Jay range has a big female following because it isn't trying too hard to be 'just what the little lady wants'. I've just had an idea. 'Virtual Shopping for Shoes'. It could use the Quake engine and you would have to attitude-adjust unhelpful sales assistants by threatening them with your cork bottomed sandals. The grand prize, found on the last level, could be a huge pile of virtual chocolate.
Those nice people at Planet deserve, or rather are owed, a mention for their huge stand. Enough room for tables and chairs (and cat swinging) proves their serious commitment to the Indie sector and/or a desire to make exhibitors on 2m x 2m postage stamps green with envy. I say owed because I swapped a positive mention in the Indie for a copy of Ridge Racer Type 4 for the Playstation. And what a deal that was. On the one hand I had to kiss goodbye to my (hah!) journalistic principles and on the other I got a £40 game which plays as sweetly at Gran Turismo and looks almost as good! However, when I play RRT4 I get a hankering for an arcade game called GTi Club, which I used to love. It takes a lot to part me from a shiny £1 coin but this multi-player racer was so good I'd have pumped my savings into it all night long. For those of you who've not seen it, you drive a choice of small cars (Mini, Fiat 500, Renault 5, Pug205, etc) around a highly detailed mountain course and through a Mediterranean (?) seaside town. You could cut down back alleys, scattering alfresco diners as you went, to get ahead of the field then handbrake turn to take a sharp corner… Ah, memories! Let me put it this way, it's the only game Sega could port which might make me fork out hard currency on a Dreamcast.
Lastly I have to mention our own stand, and not just to tell how we gave away a nice TV to a very surprised Peter Johnson of North Notts. Computers. Exhibiting at trade shows is clearly a good way for us to meet retailers, old and new, and maybe do a bit of business, but it's also a PR exercise and, if we're lucky, a bit of a jolly. That's why we'll be shelling-out several grand on next years NASCR/Indie event too. Our only concern is the location of the show. While keeping (do funny accent) 'in t' Mid-londs' (and relax) is great for the immediate locals and ok for you boys from Manchester and Birmingham, spare a thought for John and Diane from GZ Computers in Ashford, Kent, who made a high-mileage effort to attend. Holding it in one general location saturates that area, because the show is still too small to have the nation-wide pulling power of some of the larger ones. I'm sure moving the show to less central areas would draw in a lot of new faces. Ok, it wouldn't be so good for the Sheffield contingent, sorry guys, but it could be a lot better for John, Diane and their ilk. Having advertised in the Indie for nearly four years and been very active with the NASCR membership, there couldn't have been that many people at the show that didn't know our products and us already. In that situation you're playing with the law of diminishing returns, yet we wouldn't have missed it for the world. All six members of the team attended the show, with a very early start on a Sunday morning, with tons of sport on the telly… voluntarily. We weren't even going to get paid or get time off instead, and no one was complaining! In my opinion that's real enthusiasm and serious dedication. Call us mad but we all went because we knew it would be good for us personally and good for the company in general. Except for me. I went for the free stuff.
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