I was sorry to hear that the annual KnowledgeFest trade gathering was cancelled this year, but I wasn’t that surprised.
The budgets of small auto sound shops are already slimmer than a credit card remote, and fewer retailers are springing for dues for the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) that sponsors the event.
In 2001 MERA had 600 member retailers and today it has less than 300. MERA president Barry Vogel is a realist and optimist at the same time, and he says forgoing the trade event was not easy.
“I hate the idea of cancelling KnowlegeFest but we but we circulated the floor at CES and tried to take the temperature of the retailers we ran into and the manufacturers. To their credit, the manufacturers… were going to come to the event, but with the economy being what it is, we had to ask were we going to get enough retailers to close their stores and come to this. An unfortunately, we don’t think so.”
He said the priority for many retailers right now is survival and not the “skills enhancement” taught at the seminars during KnowledgeFest.
He assumes by the spring of 2010 the economy will have rebounded and KnowlegeFest will return.
MERA is “not sitting still,” he says with a number of new member benefits now available, including insurance packages that save money in more states and credit card processing discounts without hidden fees.
The association is also adding a turnkey Internet design site with templates that can get a site up on the web for $599. Finally, MERA is aligning with motormusicmag.com, a new online consumer magazine. MERA members will answer questions posted in the magazine’s Q&A section.
“The biggest thing I’m concerned about is that KnowledgeFest is our key event and everyone associates it with everything MERA does. MERA is not going away; this industry is not going away. Yes, we’re stepping back, but we’re going to move forward and….by the way, the economy will recover,” said Vogel.
KnowledgeFest 2009 had been scheduled for March 14-16 at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in Overland Park, Kan.