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Headwinds Pick Up in October;
Attendance and Exhibit Space Backtrack

Darlene Gudea
, President

Carol Andrews
, Editor-at-Large

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
December 1, 2013

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Oceanside, CA – The results of this year’s October trade show calendar were virtually a rerun of October 2012 with a rather flat and mushy performance in all three categories of the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics. The number of exhibitors increased slightly while at the same time, attendance and exhibit space drifted lower in a fairly confounding performance for a roster of shows that included many “Gold-chip” shows including the return of the large non-annuals ICUEE and International Baking Industry Exposition.

For the 23 shows surveyed for the Dashboard, net square feet of exhibit space declined (0.9)% in October in a same show comparison to last year. The number of exhibitors improved a modest 0.5%, but attendance slipped (2.8)%. The tallies continued a streak in which growth has been stuck in first gear or falling under water. However, the September Dashboard metrics (published in the November issue of TSE) were one of the most positive of recent months, with increases of 3% or more for exhibit space and attendance.

Growth Sputters Despite High Volume

October was a busy month, with roughly twice the exhibit space than the 26 shows surveyed in September. The October totals included 6,681,723 net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space, 13,802 exhibitors and 382,737 attendees. The numbers boiled down to a per-show average of 245,503 nsf, 599 exhibitors and 17,873 attendees.

Fourteen of the 23 shows were 100,000 nsf or larger, and 13 were large enough to make the TSE Gold 100 rankings of largest U.S. trade shows. Four were part of the TSE Fastest 50 list of shows that have been growing by leaps and bounds.

Eight shows bounded upwards with size increases in all three metrics. Five shows headed in the opposite direction, reporting declines across the board.

Right on ICUEE

The October numbers received a timely boost from ICUEE, The International Construction & Utility Exposition.

The biennial construction equipment show returned to Louisville with larger crowds and an exhibit area that covered a record 1,173,957 nsf, making it the largest show in the Dashboard. The show grew in all three metrics: exhibit space increased 2.7% over the 1,142,858 nsf calculated for 2011; exhibitor count grew 7.6% to 862 and attendance grew 5.7% to 17,505, thanks to a solid showing by international visitors.

The growth was deemed encouraging by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers not only for their benefit to the show’s bottom line, but also as a sign that things were continuing to improve for the construction sector. “We hope the great turnout this year points to more sustainable and broader industry growth,” said Show Director Sara Truesdale Mooney. “There were numerous product introductions and we heard many favorable comments from both attendees and exhibitors,” Mooney added.

The lively exhibit area was complemented by an enhanced educational program. Mooney said ticket sales to the sessions were 40% above 2011.

Growth Leaders

  • The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) hit 400,000 nsf, a 14.0% increase over exhibit space in 2010, the last year the triennial event for the commercial baking industry took place. The number of exhibitors also grew 14.0% and the attendance of 21,000 was pegged 8.6% higher than 2010. SmithBucklin and its association partners made a concerted effort to recruit international attendees, and it paid off with 26% of the total attendance coming from Canada, Mexico, Asia and Europe.
  • ABC Kids Expo returned to Las Vegas and saw its attendance shoot up 40.0% to 14,123. The number of exhibitors increased a whopping 38.0% and the exhibit floor grew 17.1% to 351,000. All Baby & Child, Inc. tied its show record for countries represented on the exhibit floor with 66. Show managers paved the way during the Summer with online webinars for overseas exhibitors that dealt with the nuts and bolts of moving in as well as strategies for connecting with prospective U.S. buyers and following-up on promising leads.
  • Academy 2013, produced by the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and held in Seattle, featured a 34,000 nsf exhibit floor, but that was 13.3% larger than last year. The show created a comprehensive agenda of research and held its opening session and luncheons in the exhibit hall to ensure the eye specialists all got an up-close look at the newest products in their specialty.

Landings and Landscaping

The National Business Aviation Association’s NBAA2013 landed in Las Vegas with the latest in corporate planes and helicopters. The show, which was on both the latest TSE Gold 100 and Fastest 50, split its exhibit space between the Las Vegas Convention Center, where a dozen aircraft were on display, and the Henderson Executive Airport on the outskirts of town where another 83 birds were parked in a sold-out static display area. The total exhibit space actually slipped (5.6)% from last year’s show in Orlando, but still totaled a hefty 978,200 nsf.

Attendance and exhibitor count enjoyed some modest gains, prompting Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, to conclude, “Any way you look at it, this year’s show was a success.”

The exhibit space for Sellers Expositions’ Gold 100 ranked GIE+Expo in Louisville was also split between indoor and outdoor areas, and reached the high-six figures. Exhibit space ticked up 3.0% to 726,947 nsf. The exhibitor numbers were up 5.0% and attendance among landscaping professionals increased 6.1% to 18,449.

While the Kentucky Exposition Center has space to spare, Sellers Expositions didn’t confine the attendees to the exhibit halls and scheduled three free concerts for attendees at an outside venue and recruited a number of restaurants and local attractions that offered discounts to customers wearing the show name badge.

Top Cities

October was indeed a heady month for Louisville, which hosted GIE+EXPO and ICUEE. The two shows combined for 1,900,904 nsf and some good times along the city’s Bourbon Trail. Las Vegas generally tops the site rankings.

Las Vegas hosted four Dashboard shows totaling 1,808,700 nsf. The World Dairy Expo covered 558,512 nsf and brought Madison, WI to the podium in third place.

Looking Ahead

A crowded field of major shows was featured in November as the exhibition industry raced to the finish line for 2013. The events crowded into the weeks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday break included a solid representation from the Gold 100.

FABTECH returned to Chicago with expectations of a record crowd with about 600,000 nsf of exhibit space. “Just by counting the record number of companies exhibiting at FABTECH shows you that the U.S. manufacturing sector is experiencing growth and optimism,” said show co-manager John Catalano.

IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando moved into the largest exhibit floor it has enjoyed in some 10 years covering approximately 522,000 nsf. The show was bolstered by 110 first-time exhibitors. “Wear your comfortable shoes,” IAAPA President and CEO Paul Noland advised before the show. “There are many business-building ideas to cover in the nine miles of aisles.”

Orlando also played host to POWER-GEN International, which predicted a record crowd of more than 22,000 attendees representing 92 nations. ISSA/Interclean swept into Las Vegas with unique features including a school Janitor of the Year contest and the opportunity for attendees to do their best lip-synching to a Bon Jovi song.

And the winter auto show season kicked-off in Los Angeles with the LA Auto Show. The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo took over the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

Together, they have a significant impact on Fourth Quarter trade show performance and will be reported on next month.