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Lackluster Performance for Shows in March

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
May 1, 2014



Oceanside, CA – More exhibitors participated in trade shows in the U.S. in March 2014, reflecting gains of 2.2% over the same period last year, according to the latest Trade Show Executive Monthly Dashboard of Trade Show Metrics. However, net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space and attendance grew at a slower pace: Exhibit space was up only 0.7% compared to the previous March and attendance grew 0.8%. The blended performance of 1.2% for all three metrics reflected a less-than-spectacular end to the final month of the First Quarter.

There were however, many standouts in the month of March, starting with CONEXPO-CON/AGG, which at more than 2.3 million net square feet, will go down in the books as the largest exhibition of the year. The big Las Vegas construction extravaganza sprawled a record 2,313,404 nsf, but since the show is a triennial, its huge crowd and seven-figure exhibit area were not factored into the overall growth statistics for the TSE Dashboard.

The adjusted March totals, which excluded non-annual shows and outliers, came to 5,784,372 net square feet of exhibit space, 20,425 exhibitors and 539,800 attendees. That worked out to a per-show average of 186,593 net square feet, 659 exhibitors and 17,993 attendees.

The Dashboard included 31 shows, 21 of which featured 100,000 nsf or more of exhibit space. A dozen shows were part of the TSE Gold 100 roster of largest U.S. trade shows, and nine were part of the TSE Fastest 50, which is made up of the shows that broke away from the pack last year, achieving huge gains in any or all of the three metrics of growth.

Global Attraction

More than 1,000 new products and services were unveiled at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, and the buyers were keenly interested. “The enthusiasm and traffic on the show floor was just incredible,” said Megan Tanel, vice president of ex-hibitions and events for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the show organizer. “Exhibitors cited the high quality of attendees. They told us these were serious buyers and that sales were robust.”

The brisk sales were likely due to the makeup of the crowd. About 75% of attendees held managerial positions, and 36% were from the ownership and chief executive ranks.

There was also a 9% surge in international attendance. More than 31,000 attendees flew into Las Vegas from 170 nations, compared to 159 countries in 2011. The turnout translated to about one quarter of the attendees being from overseas, equal to the 2011 show.

Growth Leaders

Growth percentages for March would have been higher if not for the exclusion of the three top growth leaders for the month, all of which were outliers:

  • The Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show. National Business Media (NBM) enjoyed the best kind of success as new exhibitors poured into Indianapolis and the exhibit floor ballooned 36.4% to 30,000 nsf. The spike in exhibit space and a 52% jump in the number of exhibitors were both considered outliers since they were well over the 25% limit used in the Dashboard adjusted totals. Adding a component for truck restorers and after-market customizers last year seemed to help fuel the 16-year-old show’s growth spurt. The event will return to Indy in 2015 under the new name: The Shop Show.
  • The NBM Show was already guaranteed a spot on next year’s Fastest 50 when it steamed into Arlington, TX and saw its attendance jump 28.9% to 4,900. Exhibit space grew 21.1% to 19,000 nsf, and exhibitors increased 13.8%. And National Business Media still has three more shots at bolstering the show’s overall numbers. The NBM Show is actually a series of five annual events and will roll into Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Charlotte later this year.
  • IFPE 2014 is another triennial that is co-located with CONEXPO-CON/AGG. Although not part of the adjusted Dashboard totals, the National Fluid Power Association and Association of Equipment Manufacturers considered IFPE 2014 a huge success. Exhibit space totaled 161,550 nsf, which was virtually a corner of the entire CONEXPO-CON/AGG expanse. But it was also a 15.3% increase over the 2011 show. Attendee registrations were up 9.1% at 129,300. “CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE 2014 reflected the feeling of momentum building in the (construction) industry,” said IFPE Show Director Melissa Magestro. “We are industry-run shows and industry needs are put first. These show numbers are a testament to the value attendees, exhibitors, and other stakeholders derive from their participation.”

Fast and Faster

March featured nine Fastest 50 shows, including five that were also on the latest Gold 100. Most of the Fastest 50 events posted record gains in one or two metrics. In fact two events — the American College of Medical Genetics & Genomics Meeting and Global Pet Expo — racked up impressive gains in all three metrics. However, seven Fastest 50 shows gave back some of their gains, experiencing a humbling decline in at least one metric over the previous year. But when the ups and downs are averaged over two or three years, the shows still grab the spotlight for record achievements.

Global Pet Expo was one of the largest Fastest 50/Gold 100 shows held in March that was a growth leader from every perspective. The Orlando show’s 289,600 nsf was a healthy 7.8% larger than the previous year, and attendance was up 7.9% at 13,946. Exhibitor count was up 2.2%. “Over the past several years hosting the show in Orlando, our numbers have consistently grown at an impressive rate,” said Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association. “We produced record-breaking numbers across the board. It was the perfect time to announce that Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center will be the official home of our show through 2019.”

The American College of Clinical Genetics’ Annual Clinical Genetics Meeting in Nashville, a Fastest 50 honoree, reported a 10.4% increase in exhibit space to 20,100 nsf.

The Exhibitor Show, another Fastest 50 honoree, grew 11.5% in attendance to nearly 6,000 attendees after record-breaking growth last year.

Top Cities

Las Vegas was a busy place in March and was the top-ranked city in terms of total exhibit space with Dashboard shows spanning 3,840,885 nsf. Along with CONEXPO-CON/AGG, there were nine other Dashboard shows, including three Gold 100 events along the Strip. Chicago was second with two shows — PITTCON and the International Home + Housewares Show — totaling 1,083,200 nsf. The Mid-America Trucking show hauled Louisville to the top ranks with 826,730 nsf. 

Next Month

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles has added a competition for college students aiming to make their marks as video-game developers. Among the new features at JCK Las Vegas is a matchmaking service and wider aisles on the show floor aimed at creating a more relaxed and efficient experience for attendees. The high-profile American Society of Clinical Oncology holds its 50th annual meeting at McCormick Place in Chicago.

InfoComm International, June 14-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, offers numerous pavilions and special exhibits on and off the show floor including audio demo rooms, digital signage presentation stage, a rigging safety demo, and technologies for worship.

The Summer International Fancy Food & Confection Show in New York will ride a wave of record sales in the food industry. Some 2,400 exhibitors from 80 countries and regions will showcase an estimated180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.

Overall, forecasters are predicting little chance of June gloom at the average trade show next month.