Ted Yee of T&N Games in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada) read Scott Thorne's column on this year's Magic: The Gathering Celebration (see "Rolling for Initiative--Two Outta Three Ain't Bad") and shares his store's experience.
Our experience with Magic Celebration this year was a little bit different.
First of all, unlike the last 2 years when sales were somewhat flat during the event, this year was excellent.  We put greater emphasis on pre-orders for the next set, Theros, and people were snapping up the latest Duel Deck, Heroes vs. Monsters, like hotcakes.  Having booster drafts after Celebration also helped things along.
Second, our players for the most part didn't complain.  They seemed fairly happy with the free stuff, especially the ones who opened valuable cards.  For those who aren't so appreciative, I remind them that it's free and tell them where the door is should they find the event "not worthy of their time."  The ones that don't get it, quickly get it and pipe down.
Third, I found the format to be awkward and messy.  Wizards Event Reporter doesn't handle 6-man pods at all so I plunked everyone in all at once.  Also, players can barely remember what they had for breakfast, let alone who is in their 6-man pod.  Structured or complete freestyle.  Not something in between please.
We got product to support fewer players than we had last year which gave me great cause for concern so I scaled back any promotion for this event to keep the numbers manageable but still had more than last year so we gave out a pile of boosters out of our own pockets.  Your product allocation should be based on previous year's attendance rather than tying the product you get based on core or advanced which would only be ok if it was your first year running this event.
I was very happy with some of the changes they made this year.  Not requiring a win to get more boosters was the best change.  Previously, new players had little chance of beating experienced players even if they opened high-powered cards in their packs.  A drag on the number of free boosters by using demo decks was also an excellent idea.  It may seem poor to some, since the cards are essentially pretty pieces of paper with the same production cost but it kept the number of "unfriendly" players showing up to a minimum and made things fun and casual.
All in all, it was still a pretty successful event.  People had a good time, some monster booster packs were opened and we didn't feel that running the event cannibalized our sales like in previous years.  It's been three years now for this event.  I would hope they've finally worked out all the kinks for this event and next year will be easy and smooth.
One suggestion would be to give away a preview card for the next set to all entrants.  It doesn't have to be in promo form, in fact it shouldn't be, or even anything particularly valuable.  A not-awful common card would be perfectly acceptable with no special markings so as to not give it any specific value beyond what it is.

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