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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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November: March Madness
November 2022

I do love this sport and this industry. It has, after all, held a firm grip on me for more than 40 years, so there is clearly something here.

But it is also frustrating to be in a business ó the competitive side and the product side ó that repeatedly proves that it just canít stay out of its own way.

On the competitive side, just as tournament opportunities and prize money are getting to satisfactory levels again, playersí allegiances are getting tugged in opposite directions. Nineball or 10-Ball? Predator or Matchroom? (Pink 4 ball or purple 4 ball?)

And now, on the business side of an already fractured, shrinking industry, all-important buyers of billiard and home recreation products are being told that the manufacturers and distributors of those products will be staging two trade shows in the same month in 2023.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do realize that in recent years the industryís single trade show had been shrinking to levels not seen in more than three decades.

Still, that hasnít prevented the power brokers in this industry from staging a line-in-the-sand stare down that canít possibly end well for anyone involved.

The situation is this: The Billiard Congress of America ó the industryís defacto governing body in the U.S. for more than 50 years ó recently announced that its annual BCA Billiard & Home Leisure Expo would be moving from its traditional mid-summer slot to the last week in March. Additionally, the BCA announced that it would make this move by latching onto the coattails of the annual Amusement Expo International (AEI), a trade show primarily for the coin-operated games industry.

This move comes on the heels of the departure a year ago of some of the billiard industryís biggest players, who pulled up stakes from the BCA Expo to establish a partnership with yet another existing event, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo. The HPBE, it should be pointed out, is held each year in March.

It should also be noted that the rogue billiard group, called the Billiard Industry Group (BIG), established this new partnership because the BCA insisted on sticking to a June/July time slot, despite continued efforts by the companies that make up BIG to convince the BCA Board of Directors that spring is a much more effective time of year for manufacturers and distributors. An earlier time, they argued, would allow for better production decisions and efficiencies, and extend the sales cycle. The urgency of a move to spring, they also argued, was critical because of the supply chain issues that have crippled virtually every industry. The BCA refused to budge on the subject.

Taking the matter into its own hands, the 10 companies that created BIG set up shop at the HPBE in Atlanta in March 2022. The move cost the BCA more than 70 booths at its June 2022 expo in Las Vegas, which resulted in the smallest trade show in the BCA Expoís 38-year existence.

It was obvious to me that it was decision time for all involved. A fractured industry has no future. Billiards has always had to fend for itself. It canít afford to be divided.

The decision?

Astonishingly, the BCA board now believes that perhaps spring is the right time of year after all. Funny how that happens, isnít it?

After the BCA made that dramatic philosophical shift, surely the two sides would find a common ground and regroup, right?

Wrong.

Instead, to the spring the BCA has decided to go, but not together with the BIG members. The BCA is doing its own thing.

The he-said, she-said arguments from each side do little to clarify the reasons that a mutually satisfactory middle ground could not have been reached.

The results, though, are clear as a bell. The schism in the industry in 2023 will be bigger than it was in 2022.

The battle will soon begin for exhibitor commitments. An even bigger battle will be waged for buyer commitment. After all, in the end a successful trade show is more about buyers than exhibitors.

I guess itís possible a few retailers (buyers) will attend both shows, since itís likely they buy from exhibitors that will be unique to one show over the other. But those will be few and far between. Besides, making them choose or attend both is a disservice to the buyers, who simply want to see and buy product so that they can keep consumers supplied with billiard and home leisure items.

And exhibitors? A few of them will pitch tents at both expos for fear of alienating buyers who attend one or the other. But, trust me, that wonít last long. Given the paltry buyer traffic at billiard trade shows in recent years, the costs involved in exhibiting will force their hand.

And you know what? The biggeest companies may end up throwing their hands up and simply deciding to skip trade shows and bring their biggest buyers to their factories/offices. Then theyíd have captive audiences.

I will say it again: The billiard industry canít afford to keep shooting itself in the foot. Turf protection has slowed both the play and business side of the industry for as long as I can remember.

Who is right and who is wrong in this current situation doesnít matter so long as the situation gets rectified before 2024. And itís not too early to start those discussions.

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