Greetings, Learning Expressions Readers!
I hope you all enjoyed your time off this week. I have to say the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays—it doesn’t get much better than sunshine, fireworks, and quality cookout time with the family. Here at Learning Express though, the week before the 4th is also one of our favorite times of year. For the last 16 years, that’s the week Learning Express Toys has held its highly anticipated annual company convention. Members of the Home Office, store owners, and toy vendors from around the country gather together to learn, connect, and most importantly PLAY together. This year’s convention was held in Nashville, TN at the gorgeous (and gigantic!) Gaylord Opreyland Hotel. In today’s blog I’m going to give you a behind the scenes look at what it was like to attend this year’s convention—here are a few of the highlights!
Education is a huge element of this annual get together. We kick off our first day at convention with small group training for our first year owners. They get to know each other a little better and pick up tips on buying, merchandising, marketing, and more.
The second day at convention we all gather together to hear from a selected keynote speaker. This year we were lucky enough to hear from Shep Hyken, who taught us about creating “moments of magic” for our customers—and even showed us a few magic tricks while he was at it!
Next up after the keynote speaker session was the workshop portion of the day. Each workshop was hosted by a member of the Home Office and a panel of selected store owners, and owners could choose from three different topics relevant to their business. After a quick snack break (we love those) we finished off our “day of learning” with some roundtable sessions. There were 14 roundtables set up, and each table had a moderator who facilitated discussion around a certain topic. Store owners got to pick three topics they felt would be most useful and had 20 minutes at each table. Needless to say, we were quite exhausted by the end of that day!
One of the very best parts about convention is the opportunity to connect with other members of the Learning Express Family. In fact, our group is often mistaken for a family reunion rather than a business gathering!
Store owners first get to reunite with each other at our welcome reception—and at our Banquet & Awards Ceremony we invite all of the vendors who attend convention to join us as well. During dinner awards are given out to both vendors and store owners, and by the end of the evening you can find almost everyone tearing it up on the dance floor.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the convention is giving our store owners the chance to play. Each year we hold a two day vendor expo and invite over 120 vendors to attend. It’s exclusively for Learning Express franchisees, and it’s here that our owners write their orders for all of their holiday season merchandise. Vendors display and demo their products, and it’s a real opportunity for the store owners to play with the latest and greatest toys on the market. We also host a night called “PowerPLAY” which is a big hit every year. It’s like speed dating, but with toys. Pretty great, right? Each vendor sets up at a table and has 10 minutes to show off their toy, craft, or game to a captive group of LE owners. There were 25 vendor tables this year, and each store owner could “date” ten vendor tables total. I can say with certainty there were quite a few products our owners were in love with by the end of the evening!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog—where we’ll tell you all about the incredible donation our vendors made the Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt!
Talk to you again soon,