Being fairly local to the event, I have been a regular CRE attendee for many years. With the demise of CBC I can understand the rationale for the 2 events to be combined. And having a separate Retailers Day in a side area is a clear improvement on last year.
Having attended the Stronger Together Weaker Apart Retreat at High Leigh the week before, I arrived focussed and ready to meet suppliers and generally make the most of the day.
Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher - Venue for CRE
I arrived at 10am to be greeted by Guy Marshall with all the information I needed for the day ahead, including the treasured CRE Handbook and separate Retailers’ Day programme. I decided that I would spend most time and energies in the Retailer area first, visiting the remainder of the exhibition later in the afternoon.
I had met many of the suppliers present in the Retailers’ Exhibition the week before, however it was good to revisit some where I needed to arrange business.
In the centre of the exhibition area there were coffee tables laid out where authors sat and signed complimentary copies of their books. Having memories of CBC author signing queues I welcomed the more informal approach and the opportunity to have a conversation with the authors.
At 12.30pm the Retailer Lunch reception was available. This was a very informal affair in a side room. I feel that the lunch was perhaps a little bit expensive at £25 (£20 early booking) for soup and sausages in rolls.
At 1.15pm the keynote address by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, took place in a seated area in the front of the exhibition hall. It was a very interesting talk in which Phil told his story. He was very open and honest about his experiences. Phil also promoted his new DVD series with Kingsway, What’s in the Bible?, which looks like a fantastic resource.
This was followed by a presentation about Biblefresh and the new resource book being launched. This presentation marked the end of the up-front programme. Time was then scheduled for more of Meeting the Suppliers and Author Signings. Having spoken to most suppliers I decided to work through the rest of the exhibition which included Trade Suppliers who were not in the restricted area. I did not remain for the Awards Dinner in the evening on this occasion.
In reviewing the event I feel that the Retailers’ Day was unfortunately too close to the Retreat. I returned home somewhat weary. I understand that next year proposed dates for the Retreat will be further apart from CRE. If I had to choose to go to just one of the events then my preference would be to go to the Retreat. Walking around the Retailers’ Day exhibition it was clear that many retailers had probably made that decision as there never appeared to be lots of people in the hall and during Phil Vischer’s keynote address the seats were certainly not full!
The organizers had definitely listened to the criticisms of last year’s event. One noticeable improvement was the badges. When I went to one stand in the main body of the exhibition I was welcomed with the words ‘Great, a Retailer!’
Clearly, Retailers’ Day at CRE will never be a replacement for CBC but together with the Retreat, if there is a larger time gap between them it should provide a good resource for Retailers in the future. I congratulate Steve and Mandy Briars for the hard work they have put in to establishing the event and the Retreat the week before.