Booksellers Discover New Products at MSA’s Retail Conference & Expo

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ABA CEO Oren Teicher, Cynthia Compton of 4 Kids Books & Toys, and incoming ABA Vice President Steve Bercu of BookPeople.

The Museum Store Association (MSA) held its 56th annual Retail Conference & Expo from April 30 - May 2 in Rosemount, Illinois. Nearly 300 vendors exhibited merchandise targeted to buyers at museum stores, performing arts centers, and other cultural institutions. ABA CEO Oren Teicher, Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith, incoming President Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops, incoming Vice President Steve Bercu of BookPeople, and several other ABA member booksellers attended the show.

“As a source for new product, and a complement to BEA, it was a worthwhile show,” Bercu told BTW.

“This event was so much fun – I’m so glad we got to attend, and I hope this is the beginning of a long-term partnership/friendship with this organization,” said Cynthia Compton of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Indianapolis and Fishers, Indiana. “Events like the MSA show allow us to source items that we may not have otherwise discovered.”

Compton added, “The [MSA] members were welcoming and interested in our feedback on the show, and I hope to see many of them again when we go to BEA and our fall regional shows.”

Founded in 1955, MSA is a nonprofit, international association organized to advance the success of cultural commerce and of the professionals engaged in it. The MSA Retail Conference & Expo provides education, networking, and shopping opportunities. At last weekend’s event, Teicher and Anderson presented the ABA education session “Linked by Passion: Grow Sales Via Local Retail Partnerships.”

On the show floor, booksellers found quality merchandise on display. Among Compton’s finds was Grimm’s Spiel and Holz Design, a line of wooden toys produced in Germany and Poland. “In years of attending toy and gift shows, I had never seen this company or its hundreds of beautiful toys,” Compton told BTW. Another of her finds was EcoKids products, a line of non-toxic children’s art materials made with natural ingredients, produced in Maine. “I had the opportunity to test the products in the booth with the creator and company owner, and am planning to introduce the line in our stores in our summer ‘Story Artist’ program,” she said.

Bercu said, “I found almost all of the vendors to be good ones. There were at least 50 new companies whose catalogs I took back and plan to buy from.” A few items he plans on selling are pens and wine-bottle stoppers from Encore, mobiles from Q3 Art Inc., and cards from The British Museum.

“The vendors were very diverse,” said Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, who picked up dozens of catalogues to sort through. “There were many vendors I was interested in.”

The show’s Member Marketplace, a separate, smaller exhibit hall for MSA members who had their own products to present to the attendees, was of interest to Compton. “This hall was open for about one and a half hours prior to the opening of the main hall, allowing these ‘member vendors’ a chance to highlight their product lines, and still attend the show,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised to see a great display from our own Indianapolis Museum of Art, featuring the iconic Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture pieces.”