The first Mid-Year Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit Expo, a mid-year show designed for liturgical Christian booksellers and publishers, held at the Garden State Convention Center in Somerset, N.J., November 9-11, presented empty aisles and idle exhibitors.

Co-organizer Peter Dwyer, marketing director of the Liturgical Press, admitted, "It's light on stores, but we expected that the first year." Although before the show Dwyer had projected 75-80 stores in attendance, by November 11 he told PW he expected no more than 60 stores.

Exhibitors who spoke with PW noted that the show's timing was bad, since retailers are reluctant to leave their stores during the pre-Christmas season. Jeff Fortune, sales and marketing assistant for Paulist Press, agreed that "an earlier date would draw more dealers." Dan Twork, Thomas Nelson rep to the Catholic market, suggested "someplace warm and in January when people need a break after Christmas."

But the stated purpose of holding the show in the Tri-State area was to accommodate merchants who might not attend the RBTE June show in Chicago, according to Dwyer and RBTE co-organizer Bob Byrns, marketing director for Crossroad Publishing. Several exhibitors who wished to remain anonymous suggested to PW that part of this motivation might also be a desire to offer area booksellers a broader based, "more liberal" selection of exhibitors than the four-year-old Catholic Marketing Network show, held in June in the same area. (CMN is seen as representing more conservative viewpoints within Roman Catholicism).

Doubleday senior editor Mark Fretz questioned the need to hold the show at all: "What will the dealers order here that they haven't already ordered? I don't think that people who don't go to Chicago will come here either."

Dwyer noted that the first RBTE in 1991 drew only 65 stores and 75 exhibitors, "so we're hopeful that this show will grow, too." At this first expo, the more than 100 exhibitors ran two to one over dealers. Still, Dwyer said, "Exhibitors are not discouraged," and he added that he plans to survey dealers on their preferences. "We want to continue, although we will change the timing."