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CEIR Index Reveals That the Exhibition Industry Has Bounced Back

Renee Diiulio
, Senior Editor
September 13, 2005
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By Renee Di Iulio, Senior Editor of News & Directories

Washington, DC — Finally, some official good news on trade show growth, based on facts not  spin. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research released its  2nd Annual Exhibition Industry Index on September 13, which found that 2004 was a year of recovery for the trade show industry. Overall exhibition industry performance surpassed the base line of 100.0 established in 2000,  ending the year at 103.6. Three of the four metrics showed dramatic improvement  over 2003:  net square feet of exhibit space (advancing seven index points), number of exhibiting companies (nearly six index points)  and attendance (more than six index points). Revenue has still not reached the 2000 baseline but this metric did  show improvement:  it advanced two index points from 2003 to 2004.

Some Specifics

Buoyed by performance in five of the 11 sectors studied, the overall performance metric rose 5.4% to 103.6 in 2004 from 98.3 in 2003. All four metrics increased — net square feet, exhibitors, attendees and revenue — with net square feet and attendance showing the most growth (6.8% each) and revenue the least (2%).

The five high-performing sectors include: food; government; building and construction; industrial; and medical and healthcare. These segments generally improved in all areas.

Sectors with slower growth but still on an upward curve include professional business service; sports, travel and entertainment; and transportation. Consumer and retail trade has not yet bounced back completely, but did improve in all four metrics. IT and raw materials/science are recovering even more slowly with performance still at or below 2000 levels and little growth in any of the metrics. 

At 97.2, revenue for the industry as a whole has still not reached the base performance of 2000, but with a 2% increase of 2004 figures over 2003 , improvement is still visible. Doug Ducate, President and CEO of CEIR, attributes the slower growth to the sluggish recovery of marketing budgets and the reluctance of  organizers and suppliers to raise prices despite cost increases.


What’s Ahead?

With continued economic growth, strong  corporate profits and further increases in marketing budgets, trade show organizers are optimistic about 2006  growth. Opportunities arising from the aging baby boomer population and the penchant for instant gratification of the baby boom echoes may provide further fuel for growth. However, fears about rising oil prices, the impact of Hurricane Katrina and continued consolidation, are keeping forecasts cautious.

Trade show forecasts are improved with tools such as the CEIR Index which was created to provide an objective measure of the exhibition industry’s annual performance. By enabling show organizers to submit actual performance statistics on a confidential basis rather than using statistics from press releases, true growth and regressions can be tracked.  Doug Ducate, CEIR President and CEO, offered the Index data as a contrast to the statement released by the Brookings Institution in January of this year that determined “the overall convention marketplace is declining…a recovery or turnaround is unlikely.”



To gather the most accurate data, CEIR worked with a number of companies to devise a methodology that takes into account factors such as inflation, biennial events and sector representation. The 2004 data was compiled using confidential information collected from the organizers of 248 events. Johnson Lambert & Company compiled the data and created the Index; The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc.  (the title sponsor of the event) provided the analysis of industry metrics (net square feet, exhibitors, attendance and revenue) by sector and oversaw preparation and design of the report; Trade Show Executive (the event's publishing sponsor) wrote the overview analysis for each industry sector and provided design services for the booklet and pictographs; handled advertising sales; and oversaw printing for the report.

Other sponsors include American Business Media (ABM), the Exhibition Industry Foundation, the International Association for Exhibition Management (IAEM), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Education Foundation and the Society for Independent Show Organizers (SISO).

Copies of the full report, featuring detailed information about the findings and methodology in booklet and  CD form, are available through Trade Show Executive for $195. Please contact Linda Braue, Regional Sales Manager, at (310) 792-6081 or

Reach Doug Ducate, President and CEO, CEIR, at (312) 673-4826 or; Tracy Schorle at (312) 673-5921 or

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