39: A Look Back on the History of PrimeTime

Written by Rob Stott

September 15, 2020

Ahead of a historic PrimeTime this October — the first to go all virtual — we take a look at the history of the show, which dates (officially) back to 1992.

Rob Stott: All right. We’re back on the Independent Thinking podcast and setting up for, I think, a really awesome episode. Probably my favorite episode, don’t tell any of my other interviewees, since episode six, which, Doug, I think you’ll remember that one.

Rob Stott: Now we get to do it again and we’re joined, of course, Mr. Doug Marsh, our content director for Nationwide and joining us today, Mr. Rick Weinberg, our senior VP of business services. Rick, appreciate you taking some time out of your day and joining us.

Rick Weinberg: Thanks. I’m looking forward to it and thanks for the invite.

Rob Stott: Yeah. This, like I said, a cool opportunity. We’re talking here, we’re about 50-some days, I think, as we sit here, away from October 27th, which, if you’re listening to this, that date should ring a bell because it’s the start of our first ever virtual PrimeTime, a really unique year. I think we’re all living through unique times right now, but an opportunity now with PrimeTime, a historic PrimeTime ahead of us, to take the chance to look back at the history of this show, which I know has a history that goes prior to PrimeTime, which we’ll dive into. But, Doug, I know you’ve done some homework here. I didn’t mean to, but I really put you to work for this episode.

Doug Marsh: We did, but it was fun homework. I’m okay with this kind of homework. No, like Rob was saying, it was a lot of fun to dive into the history of Nationwide. That podcast we did was really neat, the company, the foundation of the company, and learning about where we came from, that we’re rooted in retail, and it was member first then, it’s member first now. It was awesome. And so it’s really cool to come back to, say, a part two and look at PrimeTime, which is another huge aspect of Nationwide. It’s another great thing we do as an organization, members and vendors, all of us come together. It’s really cool. And it was neat to look back and see where it started, where it came from, and how it’s grown and how it’s changed, but not necessarily changed, if you know what I mean. It was a neat homework assignment you gave me, Rob.

Rob Stott: Well, that’s what I try to do. It’s not in my job description, but maybe, as a podcast host, doling out homework is something, so we can add that to the resume.

Doug Marsh: That’s right.

Rob Stott: But, no, starting there, you touched on it a little bit, but there is a history prior to PrimeTime that I think would be … there are some members, for sure, that have been around with us since the pre-PrimeTime. We’re not only thinking about looking back on the history of PrimeTime, but looking ahead a little bit, 50th anniversary is coming up, so I’m sure there are some members that have been with us for these 50 years and they might remember what a time pre-PrimeTime was. But for those who don’t know, where did we come from with this event and how did we get here?

Doug Marsh: Sure. Yeah. As we talked about, Nationwide comes together with these seven independent retailers in 1971, and through the seventies, they organized more, and we get Lee Guttman as the president of Nationwide, and they then start to come together and have these meetings, regional meetings, sales meetings, that sort of stuff. We’ve got a great shot from some of the history of Nationwide, you can see it here, it’s from a meeting in 1977 in Phoenix of the Nationwide members, Nationwide TV and associate members, coming together to meet. As far back as the seventies, when the company was coming together, the members were … they were meeting, they were going over sales training, they were networking, they were doing all those things. A lot of times, they would meet around, say, trade events. Let’s say, CES were going on, “Hey, let’s get together at CES so we can do some buying, but we also get together and network with each other. We can do some sales training,” and that sort of stuff. That dates back all the way into the seventies, the humble beginnings, so to speak, of PrimeTime started way back when the company did.
And those meetings would continue as the membership grew, as the organization grew. Throughout the seventies, throughout the eighties, they were coming together. And so, just as companies are, there was a Nationwide TV & Appliance Associates and a Southeastern Business Association that were the two main organizations there at Nationwide. And they would have regional meetings and stuff like that, but as we got into the early nineties, they decided to partner and put on a convention of their own, so to speak, where they would bring in some of this product and some of these trainings and these networks, and they were going to call it Partners In Profit, coming together, bringing in vendor partners as well. And so in, I think, February of 1992, in Orlando, Florida, the two organizations Nationwide TV Appliance & Associates and SEBA came together for what, although not technically called PrimeTime, was the first PrimeTime-like  event they had done as a group, and it fed into what would officially be a theme of PrimeTime later on in the summer in August in Dallas. And so we date that back, that Dallas meeting, where they used the theming PrimeTime with the two organizations as the first official PrimeTime.

Rob Stott: Wow, that’s awesome. And it rolls off the tongue a little better than … what was the other, the come together in profit?

Doug Marsh: Partners-

Rob Stott: Partners In Profit.

Doug Marsh: … Partners In Profit, Partners In Profit.

Rob Stott: PrimeTime sounds a little nicer, a little cleaner. Even if it was just the tagline, nice to see that that evolved into the title of the show.

Doug Marsh: Yep, it does, it does. But, like you say, it wasn’t a grand theme or anything, it was just the theme of the show-

Rob Stott: That’s pretty cool.

Doug Marsh: … and here we are 56 shows later, still PrimeTime. It’s great. It’s great.

Rob Stott: Now, Rick, I know you bring a unique perspective to the table because, correct me if I’m wrong, but you were a member of Nationwide prior to being on the … is that right?

Rick Weinberg: I was on the staff of a member of Nationwide. Doug’s recap is great, very thorough and very accurate. It’s helpful to know that Nationwide Marketing Group was really a more modest-size group with larger regional players, and SEBA, the Southeast Businessman’s Association, had more modest-size players, but they already knew then what we still know today and that is, as the industry changed, our members were going to need to compete and have the scale to compete against other large retailing organizations, and scale mattered, the ability to help a vendor make their month, make their year, mattered when we were going to need to ask for the kind of products and programs, promotions, resources, and tools the members needed. We didn’t call them Amazon or Home Depot or Lowe’s at that time, but we certainly knew the word Sears and we certainly knew about other large independent retailers, some of which were or were not with Nationwide and everybody had to compete with them. Scale mattered.
They were meeting and having meetings in the seventies and the eighties as individual organizations, but when they came together for that Partner In Profit meeting, it was a chance and an opportunity to pull together and demonstrate their scale and then get, in return for that scale, the kind of programming from the vendors, the kind of purchase orders from the members that delivered value across the board so that members could grow their businesses profitably, vendors could find great value and offer the members real advantages that allowed them to grow to the next level. Doug covered it really well, but that’s why Partners In Profit existed and I recall, and I’m pretty sure that was the first meeting like that that I personally was at and, at that time, I was still with the retail member.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Rick Weinberg:  And I recall plenty of funny things happened at the meetings, we’ll mention a few later, but I recall that I was with a large retailer at that time, a member of Nationwide. There was another large member retailer at Nationwide at that time by the name of Best Buy, and I took a picture with the wrong person and I got home and was told that, “You shouldn’t have taken that picture. We’re not talking to them.” Okay, great. It was a lot of fun. It was a big meeting. It was the first big meeting like that, and I will tell you that it was an opportunity to learn and understand our business and to shake the hands of many of the vendors and see their products and see their booth that you wouldn’t normally see, and that was the Profit In Partner meeting and, in the short years ahead, that became the foundation for what would become the PrimeTime meetings.

Rob Stott: The awesome thing to hear about that, though, is that, even from those early days, the pre-PrimeTime days, education and talking and idea sharing was always part of this. We haven’t really talked about the product side of this, and I know it was important to get the programs and whatnot, but it sounds like it was about the idea sharing and how do we compete in this retail environment against these bigger stores and these outside threats to independent retail.

Rick Weinberg: Well, if you go back to Doug’s initial statement, Nationwide came into existence because seven retailers were scratching their head and said, “We got to learn how to sell at these other prices. We got to compete there.” That didn’t change. It was a matter of, even for those seven, figuring out how to scale their efforts together to get the products, the programs, the pricing, the promotion, and all the tools and resources they need. That also includes meeting with each other, networking with each other. The foundation, the seeds, were the same. The garden was going to have to get a lot bigger and the soil was going to have to be tilled differently, and that became the Partner In Profits meeting and migrated into PrimeTime.
And, if you think about a current PrimeTime and the most recent PrimeTime somebody would have been at recently, bringing together all the members, bringing together all the vendors, bringing together all the educational opportunities, bringing together all the networking opportunities, those basic tenets make PrimeTime work for everybody and deliver value and scale for the members, for the vendors, for all of us in the industry to participate.
And that’s why, today, a lot of those meetings that Doug mentioned earlier, CES, those meetings or other trade shows, some of those still exist, but many members don’t necessarily go to them because they go to PrimeTime, which is where they get all that exposure to products and programs and pricing, promotion, training and networking, and that really helps them. If you’re a modest-size of Nationwide with one store or under 50 employees, and a large percentage of Nationwide members are, well, you can’t necessarily go to a meeting every single month just to stay connected, PrimeTime helps deliver a lot of that value.

Rob Stott: Yeah. It certainly doesn’t hurt that there’s coverage out the wazoo of those other shows these days too. You can log on to any social media site around the times of those shows and you’ll see-

Rick Weinberg: That’s right.

Rob Stott: … thousands or articles, so it feels like you’re there anyway. Spare your time and go to the ones that you feel like matter and-

Rick Weinberg: That’s right. That’s right.

Rob Stott: … nice to see that PrimeTime is obviously up there for a lot of the members of Nationwide. Interesting question to ask you, Rick, you mentioned being at that Partners For Profit, that being one of your first shows. What do you remember as far as what vendors were there and any that stand out that might still ring a bell to some members today?

Rick Weinberg: Well, some of the vendors today, of course, were there, it was a more modest-size show with less vendors, but if you remember what the name of the organization was at that time, as Doug shared, is Nationwide Television & Appliance. There was a higher propensity toward electronics at that time and, of course, electronics was fun, exciting, new, and innovative, whether it was pre-nineties color TV or whether it was audio or whether it was other products or whether it was the early days of cellphones and early days of computers, electronics played a big active role. And while many of the vendors that are there today … it’s even more interesting to think about the vendors that were there that are no longer there. When I first joined Nationwide as part of the staff, Zenith was one of the big vendors and members really supported the brand. Amana was a separate company and a separate entity doing hundreds of millions of dollars with member dealers. Maytag was a separate company, not a division of Whirlpool.
Many of the brands, even with a more modest-size Nationwide, a more modest-size PrimeTime, many of the brands we know today have aggregated under other umbrellas. Some have come, some have gone. But there were many vendors in many categories there, and it wasn’t just all big vendors. In fact, PrimeTime today, where you have a giant show floor, maybe it’s 200,000 square feet and some of the biggest vendors might take 10 or 20,000 square feet to put up their display and meet with the members. We also had separate show floors for the more modest-size vendors or new product ideas. We called them Complementary Vendor Days. Sometimes we’d set up a separate show floor. Sometimes we’d turn the show floor overnight-

Rob Stott: Wow.

Rick Weinberg: … and set up one category of product and, overnight, flip to the other category of product.

Rob Stott: Could you imagine doing that today? We have, what, three days of the show, and I know it’s a massive show floor, so I know it may be a little bit more difficult to picture today, but going from one day where it’s all the appliance booths to, overnight, welcoming all the furniture dealers in and mattress dealers.

Rick Weinberg: I actually could imagine it, but I couldn’t convince anybody to do it. It takes so long to set it up and it takes so much space on the show floor, it may not be a practical thing. But the fact of the matter is is, look, when you’re growing, you try different things and, today, these vendors that we might have called complementary vendors are the vendors that add not just a lot of PrimeTime color but they bring new and exciting not just promotional ideas but maybe marketing ideas or extended categories of platforms for members to grow their business. Think about AT&T. That was an idea a few shows ago. Today, it’s a big and important piece of many of the members’ wireless business.
10 years ago or 15 years ago, furniture and bedding was a much more modest proportion of PrimeTime and, today, it’s a major portion of everybody’s PrimeTime business and everyone’s Nationwide business, or many members’ Nationwide business. Things change over time and we scale up to address the opportunity and I think that’s great. Change, over the years, has proven to be very good for Nationwide members and very good for Nationwide. It sometimes doesn’t look like it, but I have learned through experience that change ends up being a pretty good thing, you just got to find out which part of that change is really going to be the good one.

Rob Stott: Well-

Rick Weinberg: And I’m sure everybody feels, as we move into virtual PrimeTime and then back into normal PrimeTimes in 2021 and beyond, those changes will be welcome too.

Rob Stott: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Before we start looking ahead a little bit, I want to ask you, too, to your point about all the change and things that have happened over the years, you talked about it earlier, too, how there wasn’t Amazon and e-commerce, digital marketing strategies weren’t necessarily thought of at those early meetings as challenges that you guys would come together and talk about. What were some of the early things that retail members would come to these shows for and talk about that maybe they’re not talking about today? What were some of those early challenges that retailers faced, aside from just trying to compete with Sears or other big box stores in that way? What were some of the early NLAs that you would attend that maybe we’re not seeing today?

Rick Weinberg: Well, NLA actually, before NLA, we had plenty of educational sessions and then we created a platform called PrimeTime University. And PrimeTime University was the precursor to NLA, but it also didn’t just focus on making us better retailers or making us better merchants, it also focused on introducing new and exciting business categories, new and exciting platforms for growth, new vendors, new technologies. It’s been very helpful to see new ideas. Imagine, if you will, today, it’s hard to envision, if you go to a PrimeTime today, but not too many years ago, we had PrimeTime Universities or Nationwide Learning Academies to introduce members to the idea of thinking about getting into bedding. Today, a very high percentage of members merchandise bedding. We had opportunities to have members consider getting into these big flat televisions and they’re going to get really big screens. Whether it’s computers or other communications devices, PrimeTime, the Learning Academies, are great opportunities to communicate new and exciting ideas.
I think it’s been really good for everyone and it continues to offer opportunities to introduce new and exciting platforms. The Learning Academies, I think, have been really great. I think that, if you go back and ask members, the recent data will even tell you, it’s one of the top reasons people come to PrimeTime is they absolutely want to learn to not only be a better retailer but learn about new and exciting opportunities that can help them build a better, more stable business and an opportunity to grow their platform.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. And no easy way to transition to just talking about numbers, but, Doug, I want to bring you back in, and we talked about that homework at the beginning that you did. You pulled together some really awesome information that, when we talk about the history of PrimeTime, what it’s looked like, the number of cities, I know you’ve got some really cool stats that I want to make sure we get to.

Doug Marsh: Yeah, absolutely. As Rick was talking about, the Partner In Profit meeting was in Orlando, but then we, technically, with the PrimeTime theme, we went to Dallas in August of 1992. And somebody who’s been with us from that time, helping with the shows, is Wayne Thomas and Sterling Events, and to be able to go back and lean on him and his team, he was able to get me some numbers from that first PrimeTime.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Doug Marsh: Our August 1992 show, we had over 100 member companies.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Doug Marsh: I think he said there was 600, 610, total member and vendor attendees. Even then, that’s a good-size show, well represented, over 100 members, over 300 vendors, really cool stuff, even from the first show. And not to get ahead of ourself, but we just got done with Houston, and Houston by the numbers, I think we were at 3700 member, vendor, and attendees. From the first show at 600 to this show at 3700, as Rick was talking about, it’s gotten bigger, and it has, but it’s still about networking, it’s still about learning new products. It’s still about all those same principles that the founders of Nationwide started with all this, they’re still there. That’s what’s amazing about the story. Yes, the numbers get bigger and the cities grow and the 2,000 square feet, all that, but it’s still rooted in helping independent retail. Really cool stuff to look at the numbers, but, yeah, officially, 56 PrimeTimes, 56 official PrimeTimes. We’ve been to, I think, nine states, 11 total cities. Las Vegas is number one-

Rob Stott: By far.

Doug Marsh: … by far. Been to Las Vegas 19 times-

Rob Stott: Wow. That’s almost a third of the shows.

Doug Marsh: Almost a third of the shows.

Rob Stott: That’s, I’m sorry, more than a third of the shows, 56…

Doug Marsh: Yeah, it’s, by far, the winner. Orlando and Dallas are at 10 apiece, I believe, so been to Orlando and Dallas a lot, and then New Orleans, where we were for the 55th PrimeTime, is at eight. But one of the exciting things is, as we talk about this virtual historic PrimeTime that’s really cool, when we move into 2021, we go into some new cities, which is always exciting as well. We’re going to, hopefully in March, be in Denver, a new city, new state, very cool, and we have Phoenix on the schedule coming into the future as well. We’re going to go to Nashville again. Nashville, we’ve been to a couple of times.

Rob Stott: Something cool about that, I was looking ahead at the dates over the next couple of years and, typically, we find ourselves at either large hotel/casino venues, particularly with Vegas, or I know the Gaylords have been there, but you start looking down the road at some of these events and, Nashville, we move from the Gaylord, I think we’re going to next year, into in 2022 or ’23, we’ll be at the Music City Center, convention center.

Doug Marsh: Yeah, ’23 and ’25, downtown Nashville, so really cool stuff, similar to what we did in Houston, to be able to be downtown there with … Yes, very exciting stuff coming up, to see some new cities and get some new experiences to add to our PrimeTime history. But it’s amazing when you started looking at the numbers, and I really appreciate them being able to pull those, that we’ve had so many attendees and so much … we were talking about some of the changes and some of the things that stayed the same. We’ve had so many speakers from all different areas of life. We’ve had athletes. I can remember a PrimeTime, a keynote with Roger Staubach throwing a touchdown pass to a member. That’s an early memory of mine, one of my early PrimeTimes. And we’ve had politicians and business leaders and entertainers and-

Rob Stott: An astronaut. Don’t forget the astronaut.

Doug Marsh: … and an astronaut. We-

Rick Weinberg: That’s right. Actually, we had two astronauts.

Rob Stott: Oh, wow.

Rick Weinberg: Yeah, two astronauts.

Doug Marsh: Tell us the first one, Rick.

Rick Weinberg: I wasn’t in the room at the time, but I heard Buzz Aldrin addressed the Nationwide membership way back when-

Rob Stott: Wow.

Rick Weinberg: … and so we’ve had some great keynote speakers, very motivational, very focused. And some that, in the planning, it’s, “Well, I’m not sure how this is …” But you know what? They’re always awesome. Some are a little more awesome than others, but they’re always awesome. They’re very well vetted. They’ve always got a great message. They work hard with their presentation. And one of the things that leadership has known is that our members are going to leave their store and they’re going to come to this meeting and, for many members, whether they’re larger members or more modest-size members or for even that that are vendor partners, leaving their store and getting some time away is a tough thing to do, so these great meetings in these great cities and these great opportunities to meet people, to network, to have some social interaction, to find some great deals, to learn some things about their business, to catch up with another retailer friend that they met at the last PrimeTime, it’s mission-critical.
And these great cities, these great speakers, these great educational opportunities, they deliver on that promise to bring value. If someone’s taking a week away from their business and they do that twice a year and then maybe they throw a little family time in there, they can’t take much else off away from their business, they’ve got a life to lead, so it’s really important that we have these great speakers. You’re absolutely right, some of the PrimeTime speakers and some of the cities have been fantastic, they really have. We have had a mixed need over the years, as Nationwide has grown and as PrimeTime has grown, to understand that we need cities that have the facilities that are robust enough to have a growing Nationwide meeting and service our large vendors and our large members, while at the same time, watching the budget for our more modest-size members who might be financially constrained and to make sure everybody had something they could walk away with.
You mentioned Vegas, well, Vegas delivered on a lot of those promises, right? New Orleans delivered on a lot of those promises over the years. But these new and exciting cities are going to deliver that change that we’re talking about and, as I said, Nationwide usually finds out change is really good and is good for Nationwide and Nationwide members, Nationwide vendors, and everyone has fun with it. We think about Denver, we think about going back to Nashville, we think about Phoenix, I think these are going to be some great, new, fun and exciting PrimeTimes that members are really going to like.

Rob Stott: Thinking about those cities, to each of you, maybe I’ll think about it as you guys are talking and throw my own answer out there, but is there a city that stands out to you, not to throw favorites to a certain city, but maybe even a specific PrimeTime where you think what city really pulled out the stops or the experience was just so different that it stands out?

Doug Marsh: I’ll jump on this one. My first is in 2001, in August, and it was my first trip to Vegas. I was still fairly young and so I remember vividly just being blown away. And I think we had 50,000 square feet that day-

Rob Stott: Wow.

Doug Marsh: … at the Caesars convention hall at the time. I think about that first one, and then I think about three years later, in February of 2004, and we went to New Orleans, which we had been to before, however, we did it at the Superdome and, to go from that very first show at 50,000 square feet to walk into this iconic building that has hosted Super Bowls and, not to be biased, but as a kid from North Carolina, Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot in the NCAA tournament on this floor and here we all are. And it was amazing and we had these great images and stuff like that. Those are some of the ones that really maybe stand out, obviously, my first one, but that PrimeTime in New Orleans was pretty special there in the Superdome also.

Rick Weinberg: That PrimeTime in New Orleans was very special, but there’s a little back story there that you might find entertaining. At that time, Nationwide had a little bit smaller staff than it does today and I was one of the people, along with my buddy [Gershin], that was sent to the dome to go check this out as a venue for PrimeTime. PrimeTime had already developed into a platform, into a show, that, frankly, had a little bit of class to it. It really was always going to be at a nice place and we were going to always treat our members and our vendors right. We were going to have great food, great events. You mentioned Sterling earlier, they made sure that we treated members right. One thing I learned very early at Nationwide is Nationwide can be forgiven for not doing something, but not being forgiven for not doing it well. Nationwide went out of its way to do things really well.
We got sent down to New Orleans to check out the Superdome and went down there with my yellow pad and they gave us a tour of the entire dome and, of course, they took us into the locker rooms and they took us in the back rooms and it smelled like a stadium. And then they showed us these giant … and I had made three pages of notes with my mind in place that Nationwide has to have a classy, classy place and a classy show, and I had three pages of notes, and a bunch of it is why this isn’t up to Nationwide standards. And we got back to the office, we sat down with the guy you mentioned earlier, Lee Guttman, the president of Nationwide, and I had my notes and we were three minutes into the meeting and I realize, “This guy really wants to do this meeting at the dome.” I tore up my notes and said, “Yes, sir, it’s going to be awesome,” and it was awesome, and it was just a tremendous meeting.
It was a different kind of meeting. As I mentioned, change is usually good for Nationwide, but that New Orleans meeting was fantastic. It gave everyone some fun, some entertainment. It was a change in venue. It was different. People loved it. We had members showed up. People love New Orleans too, and it was a good memorable time. One of the reasons that people like Vegas is it can deliver things to everybody. You want a big, fancy meal, go have a big, fancy meal. You want to go to the casino, go to the casino. You want to have a great show floor, we can have a great show floor. People love Vegas too, but as I mentioned earlier, if they’re leaving their business, they need to go home with some memories too. It can’t just be all business. It’s got to be good networking, good relationships, some good PrimeTime fun, and some fun with their friends at Nationwide and PrimeTime among the Nationwide family. Vegas has been a very popular city for that too, but the more new and exciting cities we try, the more new memories they can create.

Rob Stott: Definitely. And I’ll call out, I was thinking about New Orleans. The New Orleans show most recently, last August, was my first. I had spent a day in New Orleans before. I know it was a little bit of a different experience being there for almost a week and getting to experience that convention center, which, I swear, is a mile long. It’s enormous. It’s something. But I want to call out Nashville because my first PrimeTime that I attended, as a member of the trade press at the time, was in 2016, I think it was, in Nashville in August. It was at the Gaylord, so that was my first experience staying in a Gaylord, so that was a bit exciting in its own right. To see how they turned this greenhouse experience into a hotel combined with a convention center was really cool. But then being outside of Nashville, you still got the Nashville experience because the Grand Ole Opry, I know there was an event there, and just seeing how everything can come together, it’s awesome.
And I’ll be interested to see, we talked about it already, but moving from the Gaylord into downtown Nashville and how that experience is different. Nashville is a city I love. I’m in Philly myself, but been to Nashville a couple of times, and I know what Broadway is like and what kind of fun that can be. You talk about Nationwide doing things classy, I look forward to seeing how we take advantage of being in a city that’s as vibrant and awesome as downtown Nashville. That will be something to look forward to, for s
Transitioning a little bit, we talked about favorite cities, we mentioned keynotes a little bit, do you have a favorite keynote that stands out over these PrimeTimes?

Rick Weinberg: I got a… Go ahead.

Doug Marsh: Do you want to go ahead? Yeah. No-
I was going to say, once again, I’m maybe going to be biased because it’s North Carolina-based, but we had a keynote speaker from a guy who I had never heard of. As soon as you see somebody, you’re like, “This is going to be tough,” and within 30 seconds, he had grabbed me, and it’s Nido … I think it’s Qubein, who is the president of High Point University here where we’re located. And his story was fascinating because he had come with nothing to America and gone to High Point College, at the time, and then had gotten into the business world and had done some really cool stuff and then High Point asked him to come back. And he had essentially come back with the mindset of, “I’m going to make this the best university there is because that’s what you have to do,” and he did and it’s amazing and his speech was just incredible.
And, granted, like Rick was saying, we’ve so many. I counted it up. I’ve been to 38 shows, which means I’ve probably seen 38 keynotes, I remember the people, but that one actually stood out because it something that you didn’t expect that turned out really, really good, so I’m going to go with Nido. And just to be fair, he hosts these big-time speeches on the High Point University Campus, too, that are broadcast as well. It’s really good stuff.

Rick Weinberg: I got to tell you, I did some quick math and, if I got it right, I think I’ve been at 53 PrimeTimes, so I would not want to call out one keynote speaker as better than the next. Many of them were just plain awesome and, frankly, a few of them, I heard about being awesome from the members because I was busy working the meeting as part of the staff to make sure that they had a great meeting. But there were great moments, like watching our president throw the ball, Roger Staubach is one you mentioned there, meeting Jack Welch, going to Nashville, taking pictures with celebrity, recently, having the military admiral address us, or even, most recently, meeting that astronaut. There were just some great keynote speakers, and whether they’re virtual, like the upcoming PrimeTime, or whether it’s going to be live again in Denver or Nashville in 2021, these are really great opportunities, they’ve been great speakers, and we look forward to them every single time.

Rob Stott: The name’s slipping my mind, but it was the Southwest … was it the CEO, the chief marketing officer, that was in Vegas only a couple of years ago.

Doug Marsh: Yeah, he had been the Southwest, yes, the chief marketing officer. Yeah.

Rob Stott: Yeah. The reason he stands out is because, like you mentioned, Rick, there are so many keynotes, they all stand out for their own reasons, but that’s the keynote that, to me, stands out as one that had probably the most actionable information and to-dos that retailers could take back to their businesses that day and put into place. I think Southwest has that reputation as the airline of keeping people happy. They’re very down to earth, no pun intended on that, I think, as an airline, but they do a great job of customer service and a lot of that has to do with the marketing, how they market to their customers and keeping people happy.
That’s the reason that one stands out is just because it had a lot of little tidbits that he dropped throughout the keynote, things that they were doing at Southwest that retailers could easily adopt in their own practices. I think a lot of it was handwritten letters to customers and things like that, which I know are things that, Nationwide, we’ve since adopted. I don’t know how much of an impact his keynote specifically had on Nationwide, but he certainly stood out in my mind. Lots of great keynotes though. I always look forward to that portion of the show and any time you can get an astronaut on to a podcast-

Rick Weinberg: There you go.

Rob Stott: … I’ll be happy, you’ll make me happy as an interviewer.

Rick Weinberg: There you go. There you go.

Rob Stott: No. But we’ll wrap it up a little bit. Is there a favorite memory that stands out? You talk about cities and you talk about keynotes, those are memories in their own right, but do you guys have a specific memory from PrimeTime that stands out to you that we can’t go a podcast without talking about?

Rick Weinberg: I think there are some bloopers that are worthwhile
…like the time we gave a university presentation in the evening. We had a whole stage full of computer professionals, the best of the best, making sure all of our members knew the benefits of being in computer retailing. And this was at the Dallas Anatole, and there’s a little theater up in the front, and it was a packed room, and I asked, “Does anybody need a break?” And, halfway through, I gave them all a break and most people didn’t come back, never repeated that mistake, so the bloopers, you remember. Even though it was a great meeting, it was late at night. There were other funny moments. One of the early meetings, we had a 5:00 a.m. wake-up session.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Rick Weinberg: We literally had such a busy schedule that we passed out little boxes of Wheaties, if I remember it right. We had a marching band come open the show floor. We had all the members on the show floor at 5:00 a.m. We’ve had some great fun and exciting things, but the bloopers end up more memorable for me, and the members are always fantastic, even when they come up to me and say, “This was really fun. Don’t ever do 5:00 a.m. again,” but they also say it with a smile.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Doug Marsh: I’ll highlight a blooper and a favorite. My blooper comes back to a Vegas show, to where we had gotten to the point we had outgrown Caesars, but we went one last time. And the way Caesars was, hey, we’ve got this 50,000 square foot, but we can put a 20,000 square foot tent, as well, up, and that’s where we were going to be, that’s where our station was, and I can remember thinking, “Oh, this is going to be great. It’s a tent in August in Las Vegas,” and, “No, it’s air conditioned, Doug, it’ll be great.” We fast-forward to the show, and I believe it was the first day of the show, the air conditioning system went out at Caesars, had a pipe blow or something-

Rob Stott: Oh, no.

Doug Marsh: … and so there was no air condition on the campus there except for in the tent that we had all been complaining about. It’s an early … I think that was ’03, one of my early shows. But the other one that jumps out, the thing that’s special to me, is I worked in Nationwide developing websites and such like that, and I was asked to teach how to turn a website into a mobile version. That’s showing how far back it was. I think was seven years ago. And it was pretty exciting I got to do it and it led to being able to be the PrimeTime University/NLA classes, and some of my best memories are transitioning those to these member-focused versions, to where we get to not necessarily lead a class but be more of a moderator. And we had members on the stage and it’s a question and answer, and those are some of my favorite memories because it’s members helping members. It’s-

Rick Weinberg: That’s right.

Doug Marsh: … what we talked about from the beginning of why we came together as an organization, which is networking and to learn, and here we are. It’s 50 years into the organization and 56 PrimeTimes in, still doing the same thing because that’s the important things. That’s very special to me.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. I fortunately don’t have any … only one show as a member of the Nationwide team, so no bloopers yet that I can think of, so I’ll hold off on those. But it does come pre being a member of Nationwide, a favorite memory, one that, I think, really cemented what it means to be part of Nationwide and it shows how awesome the membership is and it gives you that drive to want to get up and work for these guys every day.
And I know they’re probably tired of hearing about this, at this point, they want to get past it, but it was in Vegas, again, I think the same PrimeTime with the CMO from Southwest. Seeing the presentation of the money raised for Hudson’s and the check delivered to them, the big check on stage, is one that … not often do you get the big feels at a show when you’re attending a show as a member of the trade media. Not that it’s very Kumbaya-ish, but just to see how awesome a collective can be when they come together for one of their own, and that is certainly a memory that stands out.
I can’t imagine they were expecting anything like that, but just to see the shock on their face when they get handed I think it was $10,000 by Whirlpool and then Nationwide matched it with another 10, just how awesome it was for that to happen for them at a time when they were dealing with the California wildfires and losing one of their stores and just how awesome the members are to be able to come together and do something like that. And I know that permeates down throughout the rest of PrimeTimes with things like No Child Hungry and things like that, so

Rick Weinberg: That’s right.

Rob Stott: … just the service that members are willing to do and how they contribute their time at shows when they’re on the road trying to benefit their own business and they still think about others a lot.
That’s one that definitely stands out to me. Hey, we’ve talked a lot about PrimeTime, a lot of PrimeTime talk, and I appreciate you guys doing your homework, first of all… and pulling these numbers and sharing these stories. I know we’ve got a lot to look forward to over the next couple of weeks as we dive into virtual PrimeTime and preparing for that and getting off what I know is going to be a unique experience. And then, when we finally all get back together, hopefully, fingers crossed, in Denver in March, right?

Doug Marsh: Yep. Yes.

Rick Weinberg: We’ll look forward to it, absolutely.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Thank you again for taking the time and hope to see you guys soon in person.

Doug Marsh: That’s right. Thank you, Rob.

Rick Weinberg: Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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