UNITE 2017 will be a very different CBA convention as the event’s format continues to transition so people can come together more affordably, see new Christian products quickly and easily, buy and sell, and be inspired in mission. CBA’s international convention is Wednesday through Friday, June 28-30, in the Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati. Exhibitor booth sales are to launch in October.

“The industry needs a place where everyone can gather regardless of internal tribe or affiliation,” CBA President Curtis Riskey said, “so we can share ideas, learn from each other, and keep this network of Christian stores serving the Lord in local communities around the globe.”

Despite varying perceptions, the CBA international convention remains a buying show with many exhibitors anticipating the annual event to introduce new products, meet buyers, and connect with media, Riskey said. Retailers love the show because they can meet suppliers they don’t often get to see.

The new format will facilitate buying by condensing the exhibit floor into an easy-to-manage area for both buyers and sellers. Exhibit space will be managed so suppliers won’t have to bring large booth configurations, which will reduce freight and other behind-the-scenes costs. It also will mean a more simplified approach for busy buyers, especially independent retailers, to see and connect with new suppliers, meet with existing suppliers, see old friends, and make new ones.

A survey of 2016 exhibitors indicated that building relationships with independent retailers is their highest-priority convention objective, next to increasing international business and meeting with customers. Nearly 80 percent said UNITE 2016 met expectations, and more than a third of those called it good or very good.

Another change from last year will keep the exhibit floor open throughout the day. Exhibitors and retailers both found the lunchtime general sessions an intrusion into the business process, with nearly half of retailers ranking satisfaction as poor and 44 percent of exhibitors saying it was an awkward interruption of business.

UNITE 2017 will host training on Tuesday before the exhibit floor opens and any plenary events will be after the exhibit floor closes in the evening. CBA planners expect actual exhibit-floor time may remain the same as it has for the past two years but likely will increase by a few hours depending on final programming plans. In related news, CBA is developing new attendee incentive programs to be announced and special events for attendees.

Watch for coming details at www.CBAUNITE2017.com.