Weather Still Frightening, but the Shows Go On

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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New York, NY – The U.S. trade show calendar remained largely intact as a series of winter storms, including a February 1 behemoth labeled a “storm of the century” stretched across the Midwest and East Coast.

Air travel was disrupted nationwide and road travel virtually anywhere east of the Mississippi River was a hazardous proposition. By the end of the day February 1, at least 6,000 flights had been cancelled nationwide, including scores of connections at hubs such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago’s O’Hare.

The calendars at convention centers in the path of the storm were relatively light. Most venues were either dark or were hosting small local events rather than national trade shows.

The most significant show taking place amid the turmoil was the New York International Gift Fair –January (NYIGF), which moved in just ahead of one storm and would catch the tail-end of another on February 3, the day the show closed.

“Since we knew about the snow far enough in advance, we were able to prepare and get as much done in advance as we could,” said Dorothy Belshaw, senior vice president for GLM and show director. The January edition of the NYIGF ran January 29-February 3 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It was No. 22 on the Trade Show Executive Gold 100 rankings of largest U.S. trade shows at 577,039 net square feet (nsf) in 2009. The 2010 show was 521,642 nsf and drew 50,896 attendees.

Belshaw said the late-January storm moved through the New York region during the night, which helped avoid major disruptions of trucking on the streets. “It did not impact our normal move-in schedule and we only heard from a handful of exhibitors who said they would be arriving later than expected,” she said. “The city and Javits did a great job cleaning the area quickly and efficiently.”

Freeman used a plowing service to clear out the truck marshaling yard promptly as well, Belshaw said, which helped keep things moving on the loading docks at Javits Center. “Buyers were continuing to register today and our exhibitors were conducting business,” Belshaw told TSE on February 1. “Of course, we will be carefully monitoring the situation and making amendments as necessary.

Belshaw said some attendees anticipated travel snarls at the close of the show and had extended their stay in the show’s hotel room block.

Advance planning was the name of the game in Boston, where Freeman staged equipment near the Massachusetts Convention & Exhibition Center ahead of the storms. “We have had to put up key personnel in hotel rooms to ensure they would make it to show site,” said John White, assistant general manager for Freeman in Boston. “At the warehouse we have had to hire additional labor to dig out our tractors and trailers. But up to this point, no shows have been negatively impacted.”

Twitter was used in Philadelphia to announce a $5 “snow rate” at selected parking lots for customers attending the January 29 to February 6 Philadelphia International Auto Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Yankee Dental Congress in Boston, an event with a sizable pool of regional attendees, urged attendees via its website to book a room if they were concerned about driving home at night. “We did reserve a block of rooms, and some attendees did use them to avoid traveling in the storm,” said Scott Davis, chief communications officer of the Massachusetts Dental Society, the organizer of the congress.

The Yankee Dental Congress took place as scheduled January 26-30 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center with about 125,000 nsf of exhibit space and 437 exhibitors.  Attendees were notified thorough social media that their day passes on Thursday to the exhibit hall would be honored on Friday and Saturday in case they had not been able to get through due to the snow.

Reach Dorothy Belshaw at (914) 421-3345 or dorothy_belshaw@glmshows.com; John White at (781) 380-7550 or john.white@freemanco.com; Scott Davis at (800) 342-8747 or sdavis@massdental.org; Michael Gempp, auto show director, Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, at (610) 279-5229 or mike@phillyautoshow.com