Just got back from the HBL member convention and thought I'd share with you a few thoughts that bode well for the upcoming season if my main supplier is any indication. 1.- very well attended. everyone from last year and several new members, along with some folks that missed last year. this seems to indicate folks are doing well enough in thier business to travel and take off a few days. the economy may be getting better at the small business end. 2- people were mentioning some early sales already from existing and referred customers, myself included. indicative of the wealthy beginning to spend again. 3.- virtually no wholesale price increase from last year, and some items cost less. From HBL this is unheard of, as there have been signifigant price increases in each of the past 3 years, many items jumping by 15% or more in a single year. Most other vendors have held the line on prices the past few years. To be fair, steel, copper, oil and the Yuan/dollar ratio have all made things more expensive over the past few years. I just hate paying it and passing it on. This year all of those items are better than last year. 4. New product. HBL continues to innovate and offer new things that keep the product line fresh. The multiple size canvas indoor/outdoor gift boxes are a great example. UV coated, tough, beautiful, I predict selling 3-6 sets of those this year minimum. expensive but impressive. 5. the catalog. This thing takes HBL to the highest level of any Christmas distributor. thick ( 150 pages? ), heavy, gorgeous cover and feel, it immediately will impress any client that you are serious about this gig. This item alone will sell me 5000-10000 additional bucks in items compared to catalogs past. I have to pay 5 bucks each for those babies, and I plan to give out at least 200. worth it? you bet. 6. website- HBL is setting up a webpage for each member with photos, links, email, withing the HBL site. you can link back to your website. awesome. 7-members helping members-getting a chance to talk with other HBL members leads to solving problems in this business, and this convention was a gangbuster. Advertising, employee training, rules and regs, incetives, paperwork, efficiency, safety, showrooms, sales, prices. I picked everyones brain and came away with much shared wisdom. there are some things about HBL I did not like or was frustrated by, and they allow us to air alot of that out at convention. I always feel as though when I gripe about something, nothing changes. but when 5 members gripe about it, at least they think about changing something, and appear to care. but that is for another post. I'm fair, and overall the HBL convention was absolutely worth my time. I reccomend anyone thinking of buying from HBL to consider convention as an asset to your membership.