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First Canadian Edison Dealer's Convention, September 5-6, 1916

A pleasurable occasion and a profitable one, was the "First Canadian Edison Dealers’ Convention," held at Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 5 and 6, during the second week of the Canadian National Exhibition. The convention was originated and arranged by the R.S. Williams & Sons Co., Ltd., whose big building at 145 Yonge Street was convention headquarters and whose guests the Edison dealers were.

The visitors gathered in the R.S. Williams recital. hall on Tuesday at 12:45 as per schedule and were extended a hearty welcome by Mr. H.G. Stanton, vice-president and general manager of the company. Mr. Stanton then spoke as follows:

"The Edison phonograph has developed so many new features as compared with former lines that there is much to learn, and in learning it we all want to cooperate with the Edison Co. - so as to learn the same things in the same way, and consequently enable us to Pull Together. If this is done, with the tremendous field we have to work in, the splendid selling policy of the Edison Co., and the wonderful product we are marketing, we are bound to have only happy results. I urge, therefore, genuine cooperation on the part of all, and hope our Convention will help to that end."

Should Edison Dealers Advertise and How?

Mr. Geo. C. Silzer, of Harger & Blish, Des Moines, Iowa was invited to address the delegates on the above subject. He very clearly convinced his audience that "advertising is not any magical, mystical science at all - "It's only just the plain, hum-drum, every day job of doing things, doing them consistently, persistently, never quitting, once a course of action is laid out," said he. "The first essential to advertising is something to advertise and the better the product the more justifiable the advertising effort and campaign.” Being "agreed that the Edison has all the superior qualifications" the next all important question is "How to advertise?"

"The instrument itself," he considered "the most important advertisement for Edison dealers," and in the words of Mr. Edison he counselled the dealers to "let the people hear and decide." His advice was "to demonstrate, in season and out of season, to use every legitimate pretext for the instrument having its opportunity to be heard, in your store, in churches, lodges, at all social functions, above all in the home.

"Do the thing. Keep on doing it. Never stop doing it. Let others come to believe that your bulldog tenacity will never let go of that determination to do, do, do!"

Ways of Increasing Business

Mr. Wm. Phillips, music dealer of London, was on the programme for a talk on this subject. "The first and most important requisite in stimulating sales is to have the necessary stock and variety of models. Next it is necessary to have a suitable place for display and a capable selling staff, (although the latter, we all realize, is difficult to get just now because of the enlistments for the army.)"

Mr. Phillips emphasized the importance of training the salesmen. In his own store they meet once a month in the evening for practical instruction and to be. drilled in the firm's methods.

Advertising was the next point touched upon by the speaker, who stated that his firm used two newspapers daily. Next to newspaper advertising the speaker's experience was that good circularizing paid well. "We prepare a list of persons whom we have learned to be in the market for a phonograph and circularize them every two weeks. We send out invitations to a selected list to come and visit us. We classify these, that is, at one time we will confine the invitations to doctors, at another to lawyers, again to builders, etc. When these people come in they meet acquaintances and they feel more at home."

In conclusion, he emphasized the importance of getting good payments. His own house advertised and featured high priced models.

Record Approval Problems and Their Solution

"The greatest evil in this business is the approval plan of records," was the conviction of Mr. J.D. Ford, manager of the R.S. Williams & Sons Co. phonograph department. "You must positively have a regulation by which to work your approval system. Don't allow your clerks or yourself to say to a customer 'You can take some records for a few days, return them when you feel like it.’ Never give a customer the idea that you are going to give him that service. Acquaint him of the fact, as we do in our retail department, that we have an approval system, and if his credit is good, allow him to take some records on approval for 48 hours. We have to know and have a pretty good reason to take those records back after the 48 hours are up. And another thing - there are only two rules - one is that the records be returned within 48 hours and another is that the records must not all be brought back. We stipulate that the customer must keep not less than one-third of the records taken on approval. With these two stipulations you can always be positive that your approval system and your stock will always be right.

"Another solution of the approval evil is to have a salesman call at the customer's house with a bundle of new records. Have him play them over and sell the records right in the home. We are doing this in Toronto.

Voice of the Violin

Mr. F.A. Boddington explained the purpose and value of the film named "Voice of the Violin". The correct way to use this was demonstrated in a local theatre on the second day of the convention. The film is an advertising feature in which the name Edison is strongly featured. The phonograph being placed and played in the theatre introduces the instrument to a number of people who may never have heard it before. "You all know the value of recitals," said Mr. Boddington.

Work of Edison Demonstrators

Mr. John Shearman explained the field of the demonstrating department. He said, "Our method is to conduct recitals in churches, schools, clubs, fraternal organizations and public gatherings of all kinds. We must tell the person with whom we are making the arrangements that there is nothing commercial attached to the proposition - that we are not going to talk prices or try to sell instruments. You will readily understand the reason for this especially in connection with churches and commercial clubs. If we were to create the impression that we were going to use their club or church for advertising purposes there would not be a chance in the world to hold a recital there. When the time for the recital arrives we must live up to our agreement so we do not talk prices or mention the names of dealers during the course of the recital. We do, however, get in a selling talk that can in no way offend anyone present.

"From time to time during the demonstration the superiority of the New Edison is brought out by the remarks of the demonstrator, and when the recital is over everyone in the audience knows that the New Edison is the instrument he should buy. At the close of the recital an invitation is extended to any who desire to come up and examine the instrument and ask any question they wish. Usually a number of people will respond. Then when these have come up the demonstrator tries to obtain the names and addresses of those who are interested in purchasing a phonograph. Those names are turned over to the dealer and it is up to him to keep after the prospect until he has closed the sale.

"Now those who have heard the recital are bound to tell others about the wonderful re-creations they have heard, so that by the time the demonstrating work has finished in your town, there are very few people who have not either heard the instrument or been told about it by those who did hear it. Thus a most favourable impression has been created. It is up to you to take advantage of this. You must let people know that you sell the New Edison and thus do your part in the work that we have started.

"Now regarding the prospects that are turned over to you. Do you call on them? Do you keep in touch with them up until a sale has been closed? I am inclined to think that some of the dealers do not. Their interest in the matter seems to end with the work of the demonstrators in their town. This should not be. I can assure you that if such is the case you are missing a great opportunity for business and our work has been practically wasted.

"There is a most sure way to keep interest going and that is to conduct recitals both public and private whenever the opportunity offers. Do not wait for the opportunity to present itself, but go after it. Dig up chances for demonstrations. It will pay you. You may think that you haven't the time to devote to that sort of work, but let me tell you that it will be worth your while to find the time. There is no greater method of producing sales than to let people hear the New Edison. Hearing is believing."

Vote of Thanks

After an afternoon of open discussion of such topics as were of general interest, a unanimous vote of thanks was tendered the management of the R.S. Williams & Sons Co. for the opportunity offered the dealers of meeting together, exchanging experiences, listening to the valuable papers, etc. Mr. Leonard of the Edison Co. addressed the gathering briefly and told the dealers that the latch string at the factory at Orange is always out for them.

The Banquet

At the conclusion of the business of the convention the delegates, with their ladies, reassembled in the banquet hall of the Ontario Club where they were tendered a complimentary dinner by the R.S. Williams & Sons Co., Ltd. Between the courses of a select menu the banqueters joined in the choruses as per the song sheet at each plate. Mr. Duncan Cowan, a well known local vocalist led off the singing and afterwards contributed to the musical programme. Other artists were Miss Elizabeth Spencer, Miss Irene Symons and Mr. LeRoy Kenny.

There were no speeches and at 8:15 sharp the meeting broke up to again re-assemble in the Foresters’ Hall, where the Tone-Test Recital was given.

The Tone Test

While the dealers had all heard and read of the tone-tests but few of them had ever been present at one and the majority were hitherto probably more or less indifferent to the demonstration value of such a test.

Miss Elizabeth Spencer, an Edison vocalist and Mr. Walsh, violinist, also from the Edison laboratories, contributed an enjoyable recital. Miss Spencer sang in unison with her own voice as recorded and at intervals ceased to sing. At one stage in the programme the hall was darkened and when the lights were suddenly flashed on only the phonograph was on the platform where the artist had literally been singing a duet with herself.

The programme was well selected, the hall was filled and both from an entertainment standpoint and a commercial standpoint the evening was voted a great success.

Voice of the Violin

On the morning of the second day "His Majesty's Theatre", two doors from the Williams' building was open house to the delegates, who were entertained to the regular programme of moving pictures, including the film already referred to, the "Voice of the Violin". This is a pictorial presentation of a human interest drama which ends by the family concerned being happily united through the medium of the hero's violin playing as reproduced on the Edison Diamond Disc. The Edison factories are shown as well as the great inventor himself as he emerges from one of the buildings and walks briskly down the street.

At one-thirty the delegates were again the guests of the Williams' management. They were tendered a complimentary lunch at the Royal Cafe after which they were entertained to a drive about the city in automobiles. A pause was made en route to photograph the party on the steps of the Ontario Legislative Buildings. After further viewing the beauties of Toronto's residential section, High Park and the Lake Shore road the entire party was driven to the Exhibition grounds where a call was made at the Edison tent. This ended the First "Canadian Edison Dealers' Convention".