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Industry News - October 2008

Published: September 12, 2008
Dark Horse Comics and Jones Soda announce partnership
Dark Horse Comics, known for breaking tradition and bucking trends, is excited to announce the company's participation in the Jones Limited program at with the like-minded soda maker, Jones Soda Co.

As part of this program, fans of comics and soda alike will be able to purchase collectible-themed bottles featuring some of their favorite Dark Horse characters and art. One hundred numbered and limited six-pack bottles will be available just in time for Halloween on October 7th. The program will launch with Eric Powell's The Goon, and the iconic thirteen-year-old Emily the Strange, and will only be available at The Goon will be available on October 7 and Emily the Strange limited-edition bottles will arrive on October 14th.

MyJones was developed to create a unique and personal connection with Jones consumers by allowing them to customize their own bottles. In 2002, Jones Soda received the patent for the unique MyJones process, and the service continues to be one of the most popular features that Jones Soda offers today.

"This is a really fun way to expose our characters to a whole new market," says Dark Horse President and founder Mike Richardson. "We have a lot of great ideas on how to make this partnership an exciting one and the flexibility and creativity of the Jones staff make them the perfect company for us to work with. Most importantly, we love the soda!"

"We are excited to work with such an iconic company like Dark Horse Comics that has always inspired the imagination and challenged the status quo," says Jones Soda COO, Joth Ricci. "The spirit of these two brands will be an exciting partnership combining our premium soda and their epic characters."

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Michael Gross
Michael Gross to attend 24th annual iHobbyExpo
Actor and avid model railroader Michael Gross, best known for his portrayal of Steven Keaton on NBC's award-winning Family Ties, will appear at the 24th Annual iHobbyExpo. Gross will join HMA and industry members at the Welcome Party at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 16, and will appear at the Expo during the trade day on Friday. He'll sign autographs for consumers Oct. 18.

During his thirty-five-year professional career, Gross has portrayed a wide range of characters, including recurring roles on both the Drew Carey Show, as well as on NBC's acclaimed series, ER. He has appeared on the original Law & Order as well as its popular spin-offs. Other appearances include The Outer Limits, Ally MacBeal, CSI: New York, How I Met Your Mother, Boston Legal, Spin City and Medium.

Gross is no stranger to the hobby industry, having been the spokesman in the World's Greatest Hobby promotional video. He was also the longtime spokesman for Operation Lifesaver, which promotes grade-crossing safety for the railroading industry.

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Anthony Gallela
GAMA's Executive Director leaves post
Anthony Gallela, the Game Manufacturers Association's (GAMA) executive director is leaving the position he has held for the last four years to become the vice president of sales and marketing for the new game company, Bucephalus Games.

Gallela said that he's been working on a number of other projects on his spare time, and that his work with Dan Tibbles, owner of Bucephalus Games, just took off.

It is the goal of the GAMA board and hiring committee to have a new executive director hired by mid-November. Gallela will continue to serve as GAMA's executive director in a part-time capacity after Oct. 6, when he'll make the move to Seattle, Wash., where Bucephalus is based.

"I am making myself available to help keep continuity for ongoing projects," Gallela said, citing specifically negotiations for the GAMA Trade Show venue in 2011 and advertising contracts.

GAMA organizes the GAMA Trade Show and Origins game fair, along with a number of member programs and benefits, such as the GAMA Association Health Insurance and 401K plan.

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Lots to see and do at iHobbyExpo
Retailers, exhibitors and other hobby industry people will be gathering at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., for the 24th annual iHobbyExpo, which runs Oct. 16-19. Trade exhibit hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on the 16th and 17th. Consumers may also attend 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on the 18th and 19th. The show will feature more than 200 vendors, including more than 50 new ones; booth space is sold out.

If you're a retailer, iHobbyExpo is worth your time, according to Ed Rogala, chair of the iHobbyExpo 2007-08 Show Committee, and not just because there's new stuff to see. The Ticket to Ride program can make the trip a cost-effective, too.

"Ticket to Ride is a way of subsidizing the cost of the show," Rogala said. By placing orders with participating vendors, retailers receive coupons they can use to defray their travel expenses, including food and hotel.

The Dealer Pak promotion is new. Product "paks" are available for each HMA division (radio control, model railroad, plastic and die-cast, general hobby) at $25 per Pak.

Dealers receive a new or current product valued higher than what they're paying for it. Dealers may buy up to one package from each category, but must attend the show to receive them. "It allows retailers to buy some products at a very nice price point to try some new categories or merchandise in their store," Rogala said.

Of course, having the hottest new products in your store is only part of hobby retailing. Getting customers in to see and buy them is another, and that's where Hobby University can help. The brainchild of HMA's Education Committee, "Hobby U" is a series of business seminars new to this year's show. The three sessions making up the inaugural Hobby U will focus on what it takes to grow a hobby store and how to motivate and train current and new employees.

Rogala urges retailers to come up with a game plan for the show. Decide who to visit, which seminars to attend and bring plenty of business cards and materials to help you network.

"We're always looking for ways to differentiate this show from some of the other shows," Rogala said.

Ticket to Ride, the Dealer Pak Promotion and seminars addressing topics pertinent to the industry - "all these things are an attempt to build as many attractions into the show as we can," Rogala said.

Here are just some highlights (for complete listings, see the 2008 iHobbyExpo Show Guide) :

Thursday, Oct. 16
  • State of the Hobby Industry, 7:30-9 a.m., sponsored by Model Retailer - Panelists from the hobby industries most successful companies discuss the state of the industry and offer their views on what can be done to reinvigorate consumer sales.

  • The HMA Welcome Party, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Join others in the hobby industry for a celebration of companies that have recently had anniversaries.

  • Friday, Oct. 17
  • Hobby University: Store Location & Design, 7:30-9 a.m. - Bob Jacobsen showcases the best and brightest of hobby stores, including ones who have managed to keep customers over the years and identify trends. His presentation will include slides that portray these retailers.

  • Hobby University: Selling Products Online II, 1-2:30 p.m. - Staff from Practical eCommerce magazine reviews the basics for launching an online store and focuses on improving your existing online operation.

  • Games in Hobby Stores, 4-6 p.m. - Dave and Kelli Wallace of The Fantasy Shop game stores will discuss the various types of games that can be added to a hobby store and available distribution.

  • Retailer Mixer, 5-6 p.m., sponsored by NRHSA - Mix and mingle with others in the industry while enjoying drinks and snacks.

  • Saturday, Oct. 18
  • Hobby University: Advertising & Promotion: What's the Buzz? Stealth Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business, 8-10 a.m. - Retail experts Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender teach you to make the most of your advertising budget and offer ideas for in-store events.

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    Gen Con a success
    By all accounts, Gen Con Indy 2008, Aug. 14-17 in Indianapolis, Ind., was a resounding success. Attendance was up 6% over the previous year's show, with a total of 28,600 unique visitors (95,800 turnstile). Visitors participated in over 6,000 events and mobbed the exhibitor hall to be the first to see what's new for the fourth quarter.

    Gen Con Trade Day on Aug. 13, was specifically geared toward retailers, librarians, educators and game publishers, with seminars about store identity, marketing, licensing and using games as educational tools.
    The high point of the trade day was Publisher Services Inc.'s (PSI) game night, where companies were able to show off their games for trade day attendees. Among the games attracting a lot of attention were Cash 'n Guns, Asmodee Editions; Dragon Lairds, Margaret Weis Productions; Ilium, Playroom Entertainment; and Say Anything, North Star Games.

    "The [Gen Con] trade day show was good," said Bob Carty, vice president of sales and marketing for Mayfair Games.

    Mayfair Games unveiled its new Catan Board Game Gallery Edition, which is specifically designed for customers who aren't necessarily hardcore game players, with simplified setup, more user-friendly rules and a lower price point (SRP $33). The gallery edition also makes it easier for non-game stores to introduce game products into their mix.

    Anthony Gallela, executive director of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), a sponsor of Gen Con Trade Day, believes it's an excellent addition to Origin's GAMA Retail Summit, ACD Distribution and Alliance's summits, and the GAMA Trade Show (GTS).

    Peter Adkison, CEO of Gen Con LLC and Hidden City Games (publishers of the Bella Sara CCG), said that he needs to see the people he does business with more than once a year, and believes that retailers, vendors and distributors do too.

    "I think the ideal cadence is about three times a year," Adkison said. "Ultimately, I want to grow the show ... It's becoming an emerging format for consumer shows to add a trade day at the front end of the show," he said. "Everyone's coming here anyway, so we might as well facilitate them and have a day when they can talk to each other."

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    Osprey 40 years old
    Osprey Publishing is celebrating its 40th anniversary in London, England, this November. Founded in 1968 as an imprint of Berkshire Printing, which was in turn owned by Brooke Bond, a tea company, Osprey's first book, North American P-51D Mustang in USAAF-USAF Service, the first in the Aircam Aviation series, appeared in 1969. The art of then leading aviation illustrator, Dick Ward, and authoritative narrative set the standard for all Osprey publications to follow.

    Well known among history enthusiasts, military modelers and wargamers, Osprey's books have become indispensable reference materials and cover a wide range of topics from the armies of ancient times to the uniforms of Napoleonic grenadiers to the merits and faults of the P-47 in the skies over Europe during World War II.

    To commemorate the event, Osprey is publishing two books. The first, Men-at-Arms: A Celebration, is a hardcover book that collects the best art from Osprey's popular Men-at-Arms series. The book, which comes with a slipcase cover, will retail for $100 and includes an introduction by the series founder, Martin Windrow.

    The second book is a reprint of From Rocks to Rockets: Arms and Armies Through the Ages. Written by artist and scholar, William Gilkerson in 1964, From Rocks to Rockets, which will retail for $14.95, traces the development of military might through prose and sometimes comic illustrations.

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    Smethport to Patch
    Patch Products has entered a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of Smethport Specialty Co., a manufacturer of toys and specialty line products.

    According to a press release from Patch Products, Smethport Specialty will become an integral part of the growing specialty line offered by Patch Products. Smethport's primary products include educational games and activity sets.

    For more information, visit

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    Ralph Warner
    Marc Jensen
    Mark Schwing
    HMA R/C Div. elections
    The Radio Control Division of the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA) elected one new member and re-elected two members to its council.

    Joining the R/C Division Council for a three-year term, and elected the Council's vice president for 2008-09, is Ralph Warner of RAM Models, which produces almost 200 products for R/C, railroad and plastic models.

    Marc Jensen of Byron Originals was re-elected to a second three-year term. He has 25 years of experience in the R/C hobby industry and has focused his industry involvement on increasing awareness and participation of R/C hobbies and helping with legislative issues affecting R/C.

    Mark Schwing, owner of Electronic Model Systems, was elected once again to a three-year term after a one-year hiatus. He has also been elected president and currently serves as one of the two representatives from the Council on the HMA Board of Directors.

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