Four key observations from the NAMA Show 2024

May 14, 2024
The 2024 NAMA Show in Dallas was notable for several reasons, including attendee turnout and trade show floor exhibits, the positive vibe, education sessions, and the many new entrants to the convenience services industry.

As an operator for 37 years and a contributing editor for over seven years, I have attended plenty of industry trade shows, including at least 40 shows relating to amusement and vending. For me, the 2024 NAMA Show in Dallas was among the most notable.

My primary activity at the NAMA Show is to conduct interviews. From video interviews with suppliers in their booths to operator interviews on the convention floor, I’m busy doing what I love to do at industry gatherings – listening to and engaging with operators and suppliers. The next two Automatic Merchandiser Vending & OCS Nation podcasts (May 21 and May 28) will feature the following four observations – plus six more – along with many more operator interviews.

1.  The size

“Big” is the best word to describe the show. The crowds, the convention floor itself and the size of the booths were all bigger than we have seen in quite some time. Clearly, the exhibitors invested more in their exhibits.

Dan Welch, owner of World Cup Coffee in Portland, noted that his feet were telling him just how big this show was. There was quite a bit of ground to cover.

Dean Prather, of Quality Vending in Kansas City, said he was pleased with the size of the show, the number of products on display and the quickly evolving technology that was showcased. “Compared to what we saw three years ago in New Orleans – there is no comparison,” he added. “We were able to accomplish our objectives at this show.”

2.  The vibe

Operator after operator agreed about the overall attitude surrounding the show. The vibe was positive – more positive than they had seen in years. Chip English, president at Continental Convenience Solutions of Anaheim, California, said he was pleased with the overall vibe of the show. “New people, new suppliers, new manufacturers, very good content. I’m happy we made the trip out here,” he said.

James Evans of Evans Coffee and Vending in New Jersey was thrilled by the positive nature of the show, after going through some rough times over the last several years. “This is positive … This is, by far, down here in Dallas, Texas, the most exciting show in years,” Evans said. He also noted that even after 4 p.m., operators were still interacting on the convention floor.

3.  The education

Based on the attendance at the education sessions, attendees were hungry to learn. The mere mention of the term “AI” in the title of a session made one meeting room too small as operators flowed out the door into the hall, straining their necks and ears to be a part of consultant Gil Cargill’s session, “How to Use AI to Streamline Lead Generation.”

Welch, of World Cup Coffee, noted that attending the education session, “How an OCS or Pantry Services Salesperson Can Become a Workplace Consultant,” led by Linda Saldana from Seventh Wave Refreshments, Fabian Campos from InReach, Kim Lenz from Associated Services and Bill Kirchoff from Distant Lands, was worth the price of admission to the NAMA Show. “Hearing them share their thoughts on listening, understanding the pantry and micro market differences and how to make pantry service and micro markets more successful – that’s what I needed,” Welch said.

Hats off to Eric Larson of NAMA and his team for putting together a series of education sessions that clearly resonated with operators.

4.  The new entrants

The education sessions were full of new operators. Suddenly, the industry is attracting a new generation of entrepreneurs – attracted by technology, the opportunity and the idea of “passive income,” a concept that is regularly promoted on social media. From all indications, the many new entrants are eager to learn. They want to do it right from the beginning.

Jennifer Montana of 605 Vending and Markets, a new operator from Souix Falls, South Dakota, said she was at the show to learn as much as she could, with a special interest in OCS, because she sees the opportunity of using OCS to get in the door at some major micro market and pantry locations. “I see that coffee service is an easy adjunct to add to a location. I need to learn how to be an expert in the coffee business,” Montana said.

“In multiple education sessions that I attended – and I mean multiple – I heard many people raise their hand and say, ‘I am a new operator,’” said Arthur Siller of Evergreen Refreshments in Seattle. “They would either be asking the panel questions or members of the audience questions, and to me, that is the healthiest sign we can have – lots of new people who are excited to be a part of it.”

Do you agree with these four observations from the NAMA Show? Let me know, send me some of your own at [email protected], and I’ll include them in the upcoming podcasts!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and the contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/VendingMarketWatch.com. He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. 

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser's podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, hosted by Tullio and designed to make your business more profitable.

Tullio welcomes your feedback. He can be reached at 818-261-1758 and [email protected].