DALLAS – The U.S. B2B industry continues to rebound, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).
Statistics for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022 show continued improvement from the previous 11 quarters. The cancellation rate for physical in-person events dropped to 1.3%, a huge improvement from 97.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and 14.8% in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“The results of Q4 B2B exhibition performance shows movement in the right direction. Some shows have fully recovered while others are still down in exhibitors and attendance. The outlook is positive — the CEIR Index forecast anticipates a full recovery in 2024,” CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM, said.
A relatively low cancellation rate and continued improvement in metrics for completed events boosted the 2022 Q4 Index result. As expected, the CEIR Total Index — a measure of overall exhibition performance — continues to recover, surging 40.6% from a year ago. Compared to the Q4 of 2019, it was still 21.4% lower but is still a vast improvement compared to the past two years, which included declines of 97.8% from 2019 in Q4 2020 and 44.1% from 2019 in Q4 2021.
Q4 2022 results speak to a continuing but choppy recovery. Still, the direction is positive, with the overall Index and specific metrics improving for the past seven quarters. Among completed events, 23.6% have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels of the CEIR Total Index.
Some organizers launched new shows, expanded existing shows to new locations or held them at a different time of the year. When looking at results excluding cancellations, performance of events that happened in Q4 2022 documents continued improvement — it is down only 18% compared to 2019, much better than the decline of 54.9% registered in Q1 2021 compared to 2019.
Related. CEIR Q3 Index Shows B2B Event Industry is Still in Recovery Mode
Among the four metrics, attendees has recovered the least, still 19.7% below results registered in Q4 2019; followed by exhibitors with a decline of 18.9%. Real revenue is 16.6% below Q4 2019. Net square feet in Q4 was the metric that contracted the least at 16.5% from Q4 2019.
There was some concerning news in the report provided by the organization. The team predicts a probability of a shallow recession in 2023 stood at about 50% and now is slightly higher at 55% since the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank of New York. Businesses that anticipate a recession ahead are cutting back their expenses and head counts. However, if there is recession, it likely will be shallow because household debt service payments as a percent of disposable income remains low even though it has inched up recently, there is a pent-up consumer demand for services such as travel and tourism, most large corporations still are flush with cash and there is a race to adopt new technologies such as AI.
Business erring on the side of caution can be a challenge but not enough to prevent a continued rebound. “The positive momentum of participation in face-to-face trade shows will continue. The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should remain extremely low, and the performance of completed events will continue to improve,” CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw, Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, said. “A full recovery for the industry is expected in 2024.”
Among 14 industry sectors that CEIR monitors, Government and Discretionary Consumer Goods and Services sectors are expected to perform better, whereas IT and Building and Construction sectors will lag behind the overall exhibition industry.
“Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022, CEIR research has documented an intent to return to face-to-face engagement at B2B exhibitions, and CEIR Index quarterly results continue to document the recovery is in progress,” Breden said. “Each quarter, the Index is showing that more business professionals and exhibitors are coming back to the B2B exhibitions channel to meet their marketing, sales and business information needs.”
CEIR expects to release the 2023 CEIR Index Report in late May, which analyzes the 2022 exhibition industry performance and provides an economic and exhibition industry outlook for the next three years.
Reach Cathy Breden at email@example.com and Dr. Allen W. Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org