This year was a year for change, and a lot of people dislike that. I can empathize with them, but I went in fully expecting chaos so nothing surprised me. I prefer convenience, so I park at the convention center's parking, which thankfully hasn't really increased in price from 2008 - but it is higher than it says online when I double checked.
The largest pain was that in order to get your badge, you had to go to the new building, and there was no accommodation for picking it up where AA actually would be, in the Arch. Convention center staff, not the Sakura Con staff, were also being rude, and forcing you to enter the building on the farthest side up the hill to get to registration, instead of letting people cut through the building. Vendors and regular attendees were mixed together into the same lanes, so your wait time could be stupid long. [Also, and this is a dig specifically at Sakura Con, they decided to make the badges out of plain paper that isn't waterproof, when it rains often during this con, and of course, it rained. And I say this as a dig at Sakura itself, because I have attended for over ten years, and I know they have the capacity to print on-demand actual plastic credit card type badges that hold up well.]
Thankfully I did not need to use the loading dock, but now that I know where hand-carry freight is, I'll be using it in the future. I was able to use my small rolling hand-truck and take it through the convention center both in and out. Going out was a pain with attendees present, and again, now that I know where the hand-carry freight is, I'll use it in the future.
I do not ever expect this convention to move the Artist Alley into the same building as the Exhibitors, for many reasons that staff have informed me on over the years. In short, we're in Seattle, with Nintendo of America and other big name companies breathing down your neck, and most of Artist Alley looks like bootlegs to their corporate eyes.
Considering they increased the size of AA this year, I'd actually say the layout was solid. I was accommodated to get a metal bar on the open side of my table so attendees would not come in and loiter, which I saw a few leaning against the bar and totally would've snuck in behind me given the chance. The Fern staff was very easy to talk to, even if getting the actual result took a bit of pestering them but I offered nothing but patience and just emphasized I needed something there, and I'd be willing to pay for it. The AA was able to upgrade everyone to having essentially a 10x10 space, with room behind you to make a mess and spread out without becoming a trip hazard. Every day our trash was emptied - very nice of them. And the Convention Center security staff was very nice to speak to when arriving very early in the morning.
If you were wanting to be anything like a regular attendee at this convention, I recommend hiring an assistant or bringing someone to help. The walk over to the other building is easily 20 minutes casually, so you might be gone a while. Leave your booth to someone you trust to be there for at least an hour or so.
Thankfully, because the convention is established, and the building AA was in was the old Exhibitors room, muscle memory for a lot of previous attendees just kicked in and they knew where we were and where to find us. If anything, because it's a year of change was the worse thing going against it. I would like to see Autographs moved into the Arch building with the AA, not necessarily in the same room, but to be something to draw some new attendee's knowledge that we're using that building still over to it. I do think sales were affected by the change of how many vendors to attendees ratio there is now. I still made profit, but not if I had been staying in a hotel. I was able to stay with a friend for free luckily.
I will say, if you were put in this back-end section of the alley, where traditionally a big name like the Nendoroid company was before, you were not going to see as much foot-traffic. That whole chunk of the alley was effectively "the back". I do think the alley has grown too large and should be cut down because the money is now being spread too thin. It was not a good idea to grow the AA by that much during the same year that a change in location would take effect. I am happy to be back in the larger exhibit hall after so many years of AA being banished from it, when it was in the same room as Exhibitors.
The most major issue with this con was the absolute lack of cell service. I had not attended the last year the con was around (2019) but I had heard that they had provided internet services to vendors. I really hope they bring that back as it was absolutely impossible to get a signal unless you ran down the hall toward the stairs (and then up the stairs as more and more people packed into the hall).
Otherwise, it was a good experience. The staff was very helpful and would watch your table or grab water for you if you needed it. As someone who was tabling on my own, it was greatly appreciated. If you table at this even, definitely bring a magstrip reader as back up to take offline payments.
However, this brings up the question of why it was moved here, in which I was lucky enough to hear inside info. Vendors complained that artist alley was 'stealing' too much money from them in potential sales and so they bitched enough to get them banished from the area everyone knows about. This was confirmed to me by a man named Jon Utz, a senior area planner or whatever dumb title they gave him. When we had an issue with our space not having room for a clothing rack and being very clearly given the wrong name for our table, he had told someone with in earshot of all of us that AA doesn't matter because they don't make the con money, and that it was better for his subordinate to distance themselves from our problems. When we confronted her later about what he had said, she told us he typically wasn't around other people.
What kind of convention has a man in a staff position like that? There's a good word to describe Sakuracon. It's greed. It's a dying con, willing to give in to corporate demands and fuck over everyone else. Stay far away, there's no doubt next year will be worse.
The convention center was in downtown Seattle, it was a great location. The con's layout was pretty good, the artist alley was location to the right of the main entrances, attendees could choose to go to artist alley as soon as they walked in. I had a great spot, second table to the left of the entrance. I had good traffic through out the entire weekend, even Friday was great.
In my opinion, people who attended this con was very willing to spend money. I made a few sales within 20 minutes after we opened on Friday, which was a first for me. I made my highest profit in this con (even though I haven't attend many). For a con this size, 100 artist alley table was not too competitive, and the table was relatively affordable.
Next year though I heard they will change their policy and location of artist alley, not sure what will be the process of choosing artists. But I will definitely go again.