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Exhibit Space Perks Up 4.4% in November; Space Sales at the SEMA Show Jump an Astounding 60,000 NSF

Darlene Gudea
, President

Carol Andrews
, Editor-at-Large

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
January 1, 2014



Oceanside, CA – The holiday spirit was building in November for trade show organizers who reported a 4.4% spike in exhibit space compared to 2012, along with solid increases in attendance and the number of exhibitors who set-up shop in convention centers around the U.S.

Exhibitor totals were 2.8% higher than the previous November and attendance grew 2.3%, reversing a gloomier October where the exhibitor count grew a paltry 0.5% and attendance and exhibit space metrics ended up in the red.

The 23 shows included in the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics received a solid boost from the SEMA Show, which was not only the largest show of the month at 1,060,000 net square feet (nsf), but also posted an impressive 6.0% increase in exhibit space from the even 1,000,000 nsf reported in 2012.

The adjusted totals for the month, which exclude outliers that saw changes of 25% or more in at least one metric, grew to 4,247,821 nsf of exhibit space. The exhibitor total reached15,188 and attendance totaled 513,700. That boiled down to an average of 202,277 nsf, 690 exhibitors and 25,685 attendees.

There were a number of large shows that took place in November. A dozen of the 23 events were 100,000 nsf or larger and eight were on the TSE Gold 100 roster of largest U.S. trade shows. One show, the ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX), was on the TSE Fastest 50, but the brisk growth the show enjoyed last year cooled off and the show actually declined in its attendance and exhibit space metrics. The number of exhibitors was up 8.8% at ABX, but exhibitors took less space. Only three Dashboard shows reported declines in all three metrics while nine shows moved up in all three.

Car Crazy in Vegas

Cars were the talk of Las Vegas in November, and the topic was not the traffic on The Strip. A new marketing strategy in the city declared the first full week of the month to be Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. It turned the spotlight on two concurrent shows that week that were among the must-attend events for the auto industry aftermarket.

The SEMA Show and the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) drew a combined 276,587 attendees and gobbled up more than 1.5 million nsf of exhibit space. Both of the Gold 100 shows reported gains in all three metrics, most of which were higher than the Dashboard averages for the month.

“Trade shows reflect the industries they serve and the unprecedented participation levels we saw this year indicate that the industry is moving into a growth mode,” said Chris Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). “This was a record-breaking year for us and we saw companies that were ready and eager to do business.”

The SEMA Show results included a 6.0% increase in exhibit space and 5.8% more exhibitors. The unaudited attendance count grew 1.5% to a record 137,000, which included a brisk walk-up registration business during the show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“We saw more exhibitors taking part in programs such as the New Products Showcase,” Kersting said, adding that the Showcase received more than 2,000 entries.

The aisles at AAPEX were also busy. William T. Glasgow, Inc. increased its exhibit space sales at the Sands Expo Convention Center by 4.0% to 521,000 nsf. The number of exhibitors was up 3.0% to 2,394. Attendance increased 4.4% to 139,587. Glasgow helped drive its international attendance by scheduling special Global Market Update sessions that provided a close-up look at the auto aftermarket industry in Colombia, India and Australia.

Growth Leaders

  • FABTECH returned to Chicago and the industrial heartland of the U.S., and saw a huge increase in attendance and exhibitor participation. Attendance jumped 57% and exhibit space soared 40.7% to 632,256 nsf. The increases were so large that they were considered outliers and thus excluded from the Dashboard adjusted totals. But the Society of Manufacturing Engineers said the show was a resounding success in ways other than the metrics. “While breaking our own records was impressive, the most important thing was the reports we received from attendees and exhibitors,” said show co-manager John Catalano. “Attendees were impressed with the scope of the shows and new products on display. Exhibitors reported sales activity was brisk and leads were plentiful.”
  • Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching is a Texas-based event that this year saw sizable increases when it moved to Houston from the smaller 2012 venue of Corpus Christi. Attendance was up 85.8% to 7,700 and a 13.3% jump in exhibit space to 41,000 nsf generated record gross earnings for the Science Teachers Association of Texas.
  • The Greater New York Dental Meeting is consistently one of the largest medical meetings in the U.S., and continues to be more of a national and international event than the show name implies. More than 130 nations and all 50 U.S. states were represented. The number of exhibitors was up 13.2% to 731 and the exhibit space increased 11.8% to 156,615 nsf. The educational program was expanded this year to include full and half-day seminars and workshops.

More Records Fall

Meanwhile, two other Gold 100 shows broke previous records for their metrics in November.

  • The Private Label Trade Show saw active pre-registration in the months leading up to its run in Rosemont. There was also keen interest in space in the Pet Pavilion, which launched last year for store-label chow and other pet products. The result was a 10.6% increase in exhibit space to a record 253,400 nsf and a 20.3% increase in the number of exhibitors.
  • The IAAPA Attractions Expo set a 10-year high for exhibit space with 528,578 nsf, an increase of 6.8% from last year. The indoor space in Orlando was sold out and the outdoor exhibit area was the largest in show history despite a (5.9)% drop in the number of exhibitors. Attendance was up 9.4% with 29,000 visitors, of which 18,200 were classified as buyers. “Business was booming,” said Paul Noland, president and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). “The week was filled with big project announcements and contracts being signed.”

Top Cities

Las Vegas was back on top in terms of hosting the most exhibit space for the month. Along with AAPEX and the SEMA Show, Las Vegas hosted ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America for a total of 1,873,200 nsf. Orlando was in second place with 1,026,278 nsf, thanks to IAAPA, POWER-GEN International and the DEMA Show. FABTECH took Chicago into the third spot with 632,256 nsf.

Next Month

The holidays usually put a crimp in the December show calendar, but the last month of the year gets a boost in 2013 from RSNA, the medical meeting in Chicago formally known as the Radiological Society of North America 99th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting. RSNA is usually held in the final days of November; however the late Thanksgiving this year pushed the Gold 100 event into December.

The Running Event, a leader in the Fastest 50 rankings, drew another good crowd to Austin and chalked up another sizable increase in exhibit space. Texas was also the site of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Annual Meeting and Expo! Expo!. More than 2,000 attendees covering the gamut of the trade show industry took over Houston for nearly a week of education, networking and exhibits. “This year’s Expo! Expo! is being touted as one of the best meetings we’ve held yet,” said IAEE President and CEO David DuBois. Next month’s Dashboard will provide the details of how well Expo! Expo! and other shows did in closing out 2013.