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CEIR Reports Trade Show Growth for Q4 2019


DALLAS – The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reported the exhibition industry posted a 2.1% year-over-year gain during the fourth quarter of 2019, on pace with real GDP, which increased at an annual rate of 2.1% in Q4 2019.

The CEIR Total Index, a measure of exhibition industry performance, revealed that all exhibition metrics in Q4 2019 posted positive year-over-year gains, after three consecutive quarters of deceleration.

Real revenues (nominal revenues adjusted for inflation) increased 4.1%, followed by attendance at 2.5%. Net square footage (NSF) rose 1.2%, and exhibitors gained 0.6%.

“The performance during the fourth quarter shows the resilience of the exhibition industry despite uncertainties surrounding trade negotiations with China and slowing world economy,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc.

For the full year of 2019, the Total Index increased by 1.2%, which underperformed against the overall U.S. economy. Real GDP in the U.S. increased 2.3% in 2019, compared with an increase of 2.9% in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. “The B2B exhibition industry typically lags GDP,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden.

To benchmark the exhibition industry, CEIR looks at leading indicators for the economy overall, including stock market, consumer sentiment, Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), durable goods orders, building permits, and yield curve (10-year bond yield minus 3-month Treasury Bill). “We also monitor the coincidental indicators of 14 industry sectors that we cover, including non-farm payroll, wage growth, industrial production and retail sales,” she said.

In Q4 2019, several of the 14 industry sectors that the CEIR Index measures — including Discretionary Consumer Goods and Services; Industrial/Heavy Machinery and Finished Business Inputs; and Business Services  — posted year-over-year gains. In contrast, Consumer Goods and Retail Trade, and Raw Materials and Science posted year-over-year declines.

“The performance through the fourth quarter indicates that the exhibition industry has achieved a ninth consecutive year of growth, albeit slowing growth as was forecasted by our economists in the 2019 CEIR Index Report,” said Breden. “The healthy economy bodes well for the exhibition industry in 2020, but coronavirus is a wild card that we need to deal with.”

Are there any surprises in the data? “Third-quarter results for the last several years have been below expectations,” Breden said. “For instance, year-over-year percentage change for Q3 2019 was flat, Q3 2018 declined 0.3% and Q3 2017 growth was 0.2. We are not sure what is driving lower third-quarter performance.”

In terms of forecasting for 2020, Breden told TSE: “Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, we do not have an updated forecast. Prior to COVID-19, the preliminary forecast was for 1.1% growth in 2020. CEIR has historically published the CEIR Index Report at the end of March each year. Given the current situation, we are postponing this year’s report to May to give more time to ascertain the extent of the outbreak and measure its impact on the economy and the Q1 2020 exhibition performance.”

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Reach Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or

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