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CEIR Predict Conference Reveals Exhibition Industry is Growing at Same Pace as GDP


New York, NY – About 120 trade show executives, economists, M&A and financial professionals, and supplier sponsors gathered for the 2nd Annual Center for Exhibition Industry (CEIR) Predict conference, held September 13 at the Time Warner Center in New York. The one-day event provided analysis and a three-year forecast for the exhibition industry and the economy.

Overall,CEIR said the exhibition industry was on pace with the U.S. economy in the first half of 2012.  U.S. GDP grew 2.4%, compared to the 2.3% growth of the exhibition industry in the first half of 2012. Attendance grew 3.8%, followed by a 3.0% growth in real revenue, 1.9% in net square feet and 0.6% in number of exhibiting companies.

“The average growth of 2% to 3% doesn’t tell the whole picture,” said John Walker, chairman and chief economist, Oxford Economics. “Many sectors are growing rapidly, but others are seeing negative growth. It’s been a feeble recovery.”

CEIR is forecasting that all 14 exhibition industry sectors will post growth in 2012. The Transportation sector posted the strongest gains in the first half of 2012, increasing 11.8% year-over-year. The Education and Not-for-Profit sector posted the largest decline in the first half of 2012, decreasing (3.9)% year-over-year.

Just like last year, many of the speakers expressed cautious optimism about the future. “The U.S. economy isn’t really doing that badly,” said Walker. “The U.S. economy is growing at a faster pace than many countries, and I think it will do well no matter who wins the election.” As evidence, he cited the fact that durable goods are strong, U.S. banks are in a better place to support growth following recent regulations, and the housing crisis is essentially over.

Despite the optimism, there are still a number of major risks that could send the U.S. and global economies into a tailspin. “Many people think the Eurozone will not survive, and that would devastate the U.S. economy,” said Walker. “But we don’t think the Eurozone will break up.” Oxford Economics predicts there is only a 35% chance for a breakup of the Eurozone.

In addition, austerity measures by governments worldwide may temper growth. Oil prices are also a big risk. “If oil prices top $200 a barrel, U.S. GDP growth would decline considerably from the forecasted growth,” said Walker. “There’s also a huge potential for U.S. fiscal tightening in 2013,” he said. Several key government measures – such as spending cuts, the payroll tax holiday, and Bush-era tax rates – are currently set to take effect in 2013.

Forecast by Sector

The Building, Construction, Home and Repair sector continued to struggle in 2011, posting a (5.0)% decline for the year. In 2012, the sector is expected to post a slight increase of 0.8%. CEIR is predicting a modest increase (under 3%) for this sector in 2013 and 2014. Housing starts have increased from 500,000 in 2009 to 800,000 in 2012, but it’s a long way off from the 2 million housing starts in 2005. “We are moving in the right direction,” said Frank Anton, vice chairman, Hanley Wood, LLC. “Up is better than down.” Anton said Hanley Wood’s World of Concrete is up 5% in 2012, and the company’s revenues are up 10% for the year after falling (35)% when the housing market collapsed.

The Transportation sector grew 6.0% in 2011, led by a 9% increase in attendance. CEIR is predicting the sector will grow 3.5% in 2012, followed by a 3% to 5% growth in 2013 and 2014. “We own and manage 26 events in the construction and trucking industries, and many have recorded double-digit growth from 2011 to 2012,” said Mike Reilly, chairman and CEO, Randall-Reilly Business Media & Information. “We are budgeting for double-digit growth in 2013 as well.”

The Government sector grew 7.0% in 2011, led by an increase of 9.0% in nsf and 8.0% in revenue.CEIRexpects this sector to grow at a much slower pace of 2.5% in 2012, followed by modest growth (under 3%) in 2013 and 2014. “We are seeing exhibitors take smaller booths overall,” said Neal Vitale, president and CEO, 1105 Media, Inc., which produces the FOSE Conference & Exposition. “But we are seeing the same revenue because we are producing more custom events for some of these exhibiting companies.”

The Medical and Healthcare sector posted no growth in 2011 over 2010. CEIR expects this sector to post a slight increase of 0.8% for the year, and modest growth (under 3%) in 2013 and 2014. “Over the last 50 years, the medical and healthcare industry has seen massive expansion, from 5% of U.S. GDP to 17.5%,” said Matthew Holt, co-chairman, Health 2.0. “During the last 15 years, there’s been huge growth in pharmaceutical and imaging.” But uncertainty about healthcare reforms, increased regulations, and the decrease in new drug launches has tempered growth for some shows in this sector.

The Sporting Goods, Travel and Amusement sector posted a (1.0)% decline in 2011 compared to 2010. CEIR predicts the sector will increase 1.3% overall in 2012, followed by modest growth (under 3%) in 2013 and 2014. “Sporting goods has been outperforming general retail,” said David Loechner, president, Nielsen Expositions, which produces the Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer Markets, as well as shows in 12 other industries. “The word of the day for us: Uncertainty. Exhibitors have scaled back according to their level of fear.”

The Industrial/Heavy Machinery and Finished Outputs sector posted increases in all metrics – nsf, attendance, exhibitors and revenue – from 2010 to 2011, ending the year with 11% growth. CEIR is expecting an 8.0% increase for this sector in 2012, followed by continued rapid growth (over 5%) in 2013 and 2014. “U.S. manufacturing is seeing a renaissance,” said William Carteaux, president and CEO, SPI, The Plastics Industry Trade Association. “Manufacturing costs continue to go up in Asia. By 2015, the U.S. will level the playing field with China in terms of costs.”

The Raw Materials and Science sector posted an increase in attendance, nsf and revenue in 2011, compared to 2010, while the number of exhibitors posted declines. Overall, the sector grew 3% in 2011. CEIR is predicting 2.9% growth for this sector in 2012, followed by moderate growth (3% to 5%) in 2013 and 2014. “Emerging markets and their rising middle classes are driving growth,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO, National Mining Association (NMA). MINExpo International, sponsored by NMA, increased exhibit space from 595,000 nsf in 2008 to 857,000 nsf in 2012 – a 44% jump.

The Communications and Information Technology sector posted gains in all key metrics – attendance, nsf, exhibitors and revenue – from 2010 to 2011, ending the year with 8% growth overall. CEIR is predicting 7.9% growth for this sector in 2012, followed by rapid growth (more than 5%) in 2013 and 2014. “The projections for this sector seem overly optimistic,” said Sandra Toms LaPedis, vice president/general manager, RSA Conferences. She noted, however, that RSA outpaced the growth of the CEIR average for the last few years.

The Consumer Goods and Retail Trade sector posted gains in all four metrics in 2011 compared with 2010, ending the year with 3% growth overall. CEIR is expecting a slight increase of 1.6% for this sector in 2012, followed by modest growth (under 3%) in 2013 and 2014. “Our events for consumer goods have seen double-digit increases for the last two years,” said Joe Loggia, president and CEO, Advanstar Communications, Inc.  “More companies are participating, but they are not taking more space.”

Reach John Walker at +44 0 1865 268900 or; Frank Anton at (202) 452-0800 or; Mike Reilly at (205) 248-1365 or; Neal Vitale at (818) 814-5200 or; David Loechner at (949) 226-5777 or; Matthew Holt at (650) 218-4002 or; William Carteaux at (202) 974-5200 or; Hal Quinn at (202) 463-2600 or; Sandra Toms LaPedis at (408) 326-4553 or; Joe Loggia at (310) 857-7500 or; Nancy Walsh at (203) 840-5499 or; Doug Emslie at +44 (0) 20 8846 2700 or; Andy Salter at (212) 284-1900 or

5 Key Takeaways from CEIR Predict

1.    Exhibiting companies are still flush with cash. Globally, companies have a lot of cash to spend, but they are spending cautiously because they lack confidence. Cash holdings of non-financial U.S. corporations have continued to rise, topping 12% of GDP in 2011, according to Oxford Economics.

2.    Monitor the Eurozone crisis closely. The Eurozone represents a key global market, and its demise would have devastating effects on the global economy. “If the Eurozone breaks up, we need to have a backup plan,” said Nancy Walsh, executive vice president, Reed Exhibitions.

3.    Revenues aren’t growing as quickly as attendance volume. Attendance gains are outpacing revenue growth. In the first half of 2012, attendance grew 3.8%, while real revenues grew 3.0%. In 2011, attendance grew 3.4%, while real revenues grew 2.3%. “It’s impacting margins,” said Doug Emslie, group managing director, Tarsus Group plc.

4.    Diversify your portfolio. As print has declined, organizations are focusing on diversifying their revenue mix with increased trade show, conference, marketing services and digital revenues. Data could provide increased revenue potential going forward. “Rich data is what we have,” said Andy Salter, senior vice president, Oaktree Capital Management, one of the private equity firms that invested in Hanley Wood in January. “We have to monetize the data.”

5.    Invest in emerging markets. “Emerging markets increasingly drive global growth,” said Walker. The global middle class continues to rise, and that should bode well for exhibitions. Despite some slowdowns, China, India, and Brazil continue to grow at a faster pace than the U.S.

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