Optimism and Exhibit Space on Upswing as January Trade Shows Kick Off 2013
Oceanside, CA – January is arguably one of the most important months of the year for the trade show industry, and this year may be a turning point in the agonizingly slow recovery of the entire U.S. economy.
The 27 shows surveyed for the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics include flagship events in various key industries and can reflect, if not influence, the level of business confidence for the entire new year.
Trade Show Executive found some respectable improvement over 2012 in the hard numbers, and there were also some very encouraging intangibles in the form of buyer quality and the overall buzz on the show floors. “The buyer demographic at this show told us a story of economic upswing,” said Christian Falkenberg, senior vice president of GLM and show manager for the New York International Gift Fair. “Small retailers are demonstrating renewed optimism, and buyers are now travelling greater distances to shop the New York market.”
The sunny sentiment was echoed in Detroit where the North American International Auto Show drew nearly 800,000 ticketed attendees. “This was a true celebration of the automobile, and a demonstration of the strength and resiliency of the auto business," said Jim Seavitt, chairman of the show. “The Detroit show is a true reflection of a strong, vibrant and more confident industry.”
The upbeat atmosphere at the shows surveyed for the Dashboard did not exactly translate to gangbuster numbers for the critical categories of exhibit space, number of exhibitors and attendance. But the metrics for exhibitor and exhibit space were definitely headed in the right direction.
The adjusted totals for January revealed a 2.1% increase in exhibit space and 2.4% growth in the number of exhibitors. Attendance, however, was down (1.6)% from January 2012. Last January produced a (0.5)% slip in attendance over 2011, but exhibit space started off 2012 with a 3.1% gain and the exhibitor count was 3.7% higher than 2011. For the full year, the metrics came in at a 2.4% growth in exhibit space and 1.5% increase in exhibitors. Attendance, which tends to lag during tough times, was up 2.9%.
Meanwhile, the exhibition industry led off 2013 by sending some of its heaviest hitters to the plate. Of the 27 shows surveyed, 21 reported 100,000 net square feet (nsf) or more of exhibit space and 17 were large enough to be included on the latest TSE Gold 100 lineup of largest U.S. trade shows. Two of the shows were on the TSE Fastest 50.
A dozen of the Dashboard shows held steady or saw increases in all three metrics; only two were down in all three categories.
Broken Record: CES Outdoes Itself Again
The new year began as it usually does, with huge crowds and an exhibit floor that seems to stretch to the horizon at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
It was another record year for CES, which made plenty of headlines in the mainstream and trade media and also set new marks for exhibit space and number of exhibiting companies. Exhibit space stepped closer to the 2 million nsf mark with a 3.4% increase to 1,924,892 nsf. Exhibitors increased 2.4% to 3,316, but attendance dropped (2.7)% to 152,000.
The world’s hearty appetite for new gadgets was one of the bright spots in the global economy of recent years, and CES has been an important focal point for the introduction of the devices destined to become standard equipment in schools, homes and offices worldwide. “Some 20,000 new products were launched at the 2013 International CES,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. “Every major technology company spanning the globe participated in this year’s CES to showcase their innovations.”
- AG CONNECT Expo & Summit was not included in the adjusted Dashboard totals because it is a biennial event, but it delivered record numbers in its debut with the co-located American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. The co-location contributed to an 88.5% increase in attendance and a 45.2% jump in exhibit space to 222,755 nsf. The show, held this year in the farming hub of Kansas City, enjoyed a high presence of big-time agribusiness growers, which appealed to exhibitors. “These are industry professionals who specifically wanted to take advantage of all that AG CONNECT had to offer,” said show manager Sara Mooney.
- International Production & Processing Expo was also left off of the adjusted Dashboard totals because it was the first time it consisted of trade shows from three major food groups: The American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. The combination went together like steak and eggs and produced a 43.8% boost in exhibit space to 422,390 nsf compared to previous years when the show was limited to the poultry and egg producers.
- The ASI Show Orlando kicked off a five-city tour of events for the Advertising Specialty Institute in fine fashion. Attendance was off (5.2)% but floor space spiked 13.6% to 125,450 nsf and exhibitors grew 2.8% to 809. “There’s no better way to kick off a new year and a new show season than with the best education in the industry, a bigger, better show floor and superior networking events,” said Lorenz Hassenstein, general manager and vice president of The ASI Show, who noted a number of companies that also chose the Orlando show as a venue for staff sales meetings.
The Weekdays Beckon
The PGA Merchandise Show marked its 60th anniversary and its last weekend schedule. Reed Exhibitions is moving the show to weekdays next year.
The show experienced across-the-board growth this year with 348,000 nsf of exhibit space. So why take mulligan when things are going so well? Ed Several, senior vice president of Reed’s Worldwide Golf Exhibitions, said extensive customer research indicated attendees and exhibitors preferred a Wednesday to Friday schedule.
“The new weekday dates allow PGA professionals to return to their facilities as needed and our attending industry members to return home for the weekend to spend time with family,” said Several.
Trade shows got the year off on the right foot in Las Vegas. The Strip hosted four Gold 100 shows totaling 3,226,308. Along with the International CES, the SHOT Show, PPAI Expo and the International Builders Show brought a total of 282,593 visitors to the city’s hotels and tables. Of the four events, however, all but CES reported declines in exhibit space.
The Florida RV SuperShow covered 867,934 nsf and made Tampa the No. 2 host city on the Dashboard. Atlanta placed third with two Gold 100 events: the International Production & Processing Expo and the Atlanta International Gift & Home Market – January.
If there were such a thing as the dog days of Winter, February would be it with its travel challenges and inhospitable weather in all but the southernmost cities. But a lot was accomplished inside the cozy confines of conventions centers around the U.S.
The International Toy Fair dodged a blizzard in New York City while the Chicago Midyear Dental Meeting braved the Windy City’s notoriously blustery weather.
MAGIC Marketplace – February took place in more-temperate Las Vegas, and Orlando provided a mid-Winter break for attendees at Graphics of the Americas and Global Pet Expo.
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