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Exhibit Space Grows 1.2%, but Attendance Falters at March Trade Shows, TSE Dashboard Reveals

Carol Andrews
, Editor-at-Large
May 16, 2016
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Oceanside, CA – March pretty much reflected the usual pattern of growth for trade shows in recent years, including a 1.2% increase in exhibit space and a modest 0.4% bump in exhibitors, according to Trade Show Executive’s latest Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics.

But what really stood out when the dust settled was the attendance count, which took a (2.7)% drop compared to the same month last year.

The drop in attendance in March contrasted with a very encouraging February where attendance jumped 4.1% over 2015. And attendance growth in March 2015 was 1.5% over the previous year.

Organizers of CORROSION chalked up their (19.5)% drop in attendance to conditions within the petroleum industry where low oil prices forced some companies to cut costs, including their travel and exhibiting budgets. At the same time, however, an encouraging 75% of exhibitors signed up for 2017 during the show.

The March Dashboard included 37 shows, of which 13 grew in all three metric categories; another seven shows were down in all three.  Of the 37 March shows, 14 were larger than 100,000 net square feet (nsf). There were nine shows that were ranked on the most recent TSE Fastest 50 rankings of fastest-growing exhibitions. Seven shows were large enough to make the TSE Gold 100.

There were numerous outliers in March and those shows were not included in the growth calculations. For example, one major show experienced a loss of more than (25.0)% in attendance.  On the other hand, three shows grew rapidly -- more than 25.0% in attendance -- which was excluded from the growth analysis.

After calibrating the totals to remove outliers and shows on a non-annual schedule, the Dashboard revealed adjusted totals of 4,694,527 nsf of exhibit space, 17,795 exhibitors and 404,808 attendees. Those totals worked out to a per-show average of 146,704 nsf of exhibit space, 539 exhibitors and 13,494 attendees.

Housewares Show Tops 800,000 NSF

The International Home + Housewares Show led the March growth parade. The sold-out event in Rosemont experienced a solid 3.6% increase in exhibit space that pushed the total to 812,644 nsf. The exhibitor count jumped 5.6% to 2,242, but attendance slid (4.8)% to 59,000, down 3,000 from last year.

Show organizers, however, said the crowd decline wasn’t particularly alarming since last year’s crowd of 62,000 had set a show record. “We are very pleased with U.S. and international buyer attendance,” said Phil Brandl, President & CEO of the International Housewares Association. “This is very positive given the recent retraction in the retail sector and the strong dollar, which makes exporting more difficult.”

The Housewares Show sported a new look this year. The new “It’s SmART” branding campaign overhauled the show’s graphics theme, and the Discover Design Expo portion was moved to the North Building at the Donald L. Stephens Convention Center. “Exhibitors and buyers alike expressed their satisfaction with these enhancements to the show,” Brandl said.

Growth Leaders

A number of shows leapfrogged over other March shows with strong growth:

* Channel Partners Conference & Expo, produced by Informa Exhibitions,  scored a coup by welcoming Microsoft to its exhibitor ranks. In fact, the show added 40 new exhibitors, which helped increase exhibit space at the show by 40.5% to 35,400 nsf despite an overall loss of nine exhibiting companies. Attendance jumped from 2,698 last year to more than 5,100 at the Venetian & Sands Expo.

*Boutique Design West looks like a good bet for yet another appearance on the Fastest 50.  The show grew a whopping 30.9% in nsf; 28.7% in number of exhibiting companies; and 80.4% in attendance. Hospitality Media Group, the show organizer, was very diligent about bringing international visitors to Los Angeles.

*World of Asphalt Show & Conference experienced record attendance and a sold-out exhibit floor of 111,515 nsf. The crowd of more than 9,000 was 18.9% over last year and was 38% larger than the 2013 show. The exhibitor roster featured more than 500 companies, including150 first-time exhibitors. “The exhibitors commented favorably on the booth traffic and the quality of the attendees,” said Show Manager Rich Prausa of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “The attendees were also very positive about the educational offerings and the wide array of products and companies.”

New Hope for New Products

A steady influx of new exhibitors over the years has stoked the growth engine at Natural Products Expo West/Engredea in Anaheim. New Hope Network this year signed up more than 600 new companies that were seeking to catch the wave in the evolving grocery industry. Along with 5.8% more exhibitors last year, the show also posted an 8.5% increase in attendance to go along with 478,264 nsf of exhibit space.

Carlotta Mast, Executive Director of Content and Insights for New Hope, said “evolving shopper tastes” created a dynamic environment for Natural Products Expo. “It serves as a launching pad for innovation from both entrepreneurial brands and the more established companies looking to keep up with shifts in consumer demand,” she said.

Top Cities

The Gold 100 Housewares Show took place in suburban Rosemont, but its 812,644 nsf of exhibit space placed Chicago on top of the leader board among host cities in March.

Las Vegas hosted GlobalShop (honored as a TSE Gold 100 show) plus six other events for a second-place total of 627,589 nsf. GlobalShop alone covered 203,000 nsf. Orlando was the No. 3 city in March with two shows totaling 572,200 nsf.

Next Month

Summer officially begins with a trio of key shows in the Apparel, Beauty, Shoes & Textile sector. The schedule includes two Fastest 50 shows: AMC, Inc.’s June Atlanta Apparel kicks off the month at the AmericasMart Atlanta while Questex brings the International Beauty Show Las Vegas at the end of the month. Premiere Orlando covered nearly 320,000 nsf last year and drew some 52,000 attendees. As always, this year’s show is heavy on education on the latest coiffures and new exhibitors introducing an endless array of hair products destined for a salon near you.

The National Football League’s players’ union is bringing a new exhibitor zone to UBM Americas’ Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. The exhibits include plenty of interactive digital opportunities as well as actual former NFL stars who will connect with attendees seeking the league’s imprimatur for their products.

Another Gold 100 show in Las Vegas is Reed’s venerable JCK Las Vegas. This year’s show features a larger footprint for its pre-show Luxury event. Luxury is by invitation only and highlights upscale brands in an intimate setting prior to the opening of the full JCK show.

And finally, the largest show of the month could take place in Calgary, where dmg::events holds the Global Petroleum Show. The show at BMO Centre likely will top 700,000 nsf despite the current uncertainty in the oil industry. Show managers have created four new zones to help bolster the crowd, including ones for global logistics and fracking.

For the full report, go to www.tradeshowexecutive.com and click on the latest issue, featuring American Society for Microbiology’s Kirsten Olean on the 

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