The International New Age Trade Show, which met June 26 -- 28 at the Denver Merchandise Mart, drew 1147 buyers (down from last year's 1300) and 275 exhibitors (up from 250 -- though the number of book publishers held steady at 51). Exhibition organizer Susie Hare said she expected to be in the black for the first time. "It's an expensive show to produce because it's smaller -- there are fewer economies of scale. And we do so much."

Exhibitors and buying stores who spoke with PW agreed that INATS is a well-produced show, and complaints were few. Some felt the abundance of seminars and author signings drew buyers off the floor, but the gripe most consistently heard on the show floor was about the newly instituted entrance fee ($25 in advance, $35 on site) for all attendees -- including buyers.

Many publishers told PW they felt the fee had reduced traffic, and the lower retailer count seemed to bear that out. "It may have been a little lighter," Hare acknowledged, "but that's because it cut down on people who had no business reason to be there." She added, "We will rethink it for next year and try to come up with a better structure that achieves the same goal."

As New Age books and sidelines have become increasingly mainstream, one of the biggest issues for New Age specialty stores today is how to retain traditional customers yet attract new ones, without losing their identity or compromising their sense of mission. As with Christian and other specialty bookstores, increased competition on the bookselling side has led most New Age stores to expand their stock of music, apparel and sidelines while reducing the proportion of books they carry -- a balance reflected in the overwhelming dominance of nonbook product at INATS.

Harper San Francisco -- which had a presence at INATS in previous years -- chose not to exhibit this time. Instead, Bookpeople repped a single title for HSF, The Invitation. Said Bookpeople sales coordinator Edwin Bish, "I think they're recognizing what's hot and spending their co-op dollars where they think it will do the most good." At the Penguin Putnam booth, however, staff reported good sales and a continuing commitment to the show. Its contingent included new Arkana editorial director Janet Goldstein, who told PW, "This has been very worthwhile for me. I've learned about areas we don't want to stop publishing in altogether -- like angels -- and I've picked up two or three good book ideas."

Among the first-timers this year was Barron's. It produced a brochure of 16 alternative health, tarot, astrology and children's titles appropriate for the market, which sales rep Dan Long said the company is actively pursuing. More traditional New Age publishers, like Lewellyn, Samuel Weiser and Inner Traditions, reported good order-writing activity.

Asked whether she sees the bookstore constituency for this show shrinking in the face of its competitive challenges, show producer Hare responded, "Actually, we're seeing a lot of new stores here this year." Indeed, both retailers and publishers expressed general optimism about growth in the New Age market, particularly for alternative health titles. But sounding a note of caution, John Duncan Oliver, editorial director of BOMC's One Spirit book club, told a panel audience that "although this is a very broad market, and most people think the sky's the limit, I think it's self-limiting. People buy these books because they are on a quest for a transformed life, but most people aren't willing to do the work of transformation."