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Strength in Trade Show Metrics Continues

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
December 1, 2014



Oceanside, CA – A welcome rebound by numerous shows in October solidified another month of growth for the trade show industry. Net square footage for the average trade show in October climbed a strong 4.3%, according to the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics.  The number of exhibiting companies jumped 3.3% and attendance rose 3.2%, reversing a two-month lull over October 2013.

October 2014 contrasted sharply with a mushy 2013 in which two of the three October metrics were in the red and the third, the number of exhibitors, was up a mere 0.5%. In 2013, even the NBAA show faced some challenges, sliding (5.8)% in exhibit space from 2012. What a difference a year makes.

October was the second consecutive month of healthy increases in the Dashboard metrics. September was led by a 5.0% jump in exhibit space, and a 3.3% increase in exhibitors. Attendance, however, was up only a modest 0.9%.

The October Dashboard included 21 shows this year with a combined adjusted total of 4,160,030 net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space. Attendance totaled an adjusted 251,829, and exhibitors reached 10,581.

The adjusted totals worked out to a per-show average of 231,113 nsf of exhibit space, 557 exhibitors, and 14,813 attendees. Of the 21 shows surveyed, nine saw increases in all three metrics, and in rare news, none reported declines in all three.

More than 60% of the shows in this report — 13 of the 21 — spanned more than 100,000 nsf of exhibit space, including eight from the TSE Gold 100 roster of largest U.S. trade shows. There were also three show from the TSE Fastest 50 in October.

Smooth Landing for NBAA

The National Business Aviation Association rotated back through Orlando this Fall, and the results were uplifting for the largest show of October.

Exhibit space jumped sharply by 11.9% and topped the seven-figure threshold with 1,094,700 nsf. Attendance also perked up 4.5%, and the number of exhibitors grew 0.8% to 1,109.

“This year’s show was an enormous success with numerous announcements and product introductions,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “There was a lot of activity on the exhibit floor and at the aircraft displays, and the educational sessions were informative and well attended.”

The education sessions included some timely topics including unmanned drones and the risk the Ebola virus could pose to business flyers. Both sessions were packed with attendees and were held in the Innovation Zone portion of the exhibit hall.

Other Growth Leaders

  • The American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) shifted into second gear in its second year with double-digit jumps in all three metrics. The increases were enough to exclude the show from the Dashboard adjusted totals, but will likely mean an appearance for AIMExpo on the next TSE Fastest 50. Exhibit space jumped 32.5% and reached 181,650. Exhibitor numbers were up 27.8% and attendance grew 37.3%. Marketplace Events scaled this year’s show back to a tidy four days after a five-day run in 2013.
  • IMEX America looked like it has reserved a spot on the next Fastest 50 as well. Exhibit space grew 29.4% over last year with 148,922 nsf. The number of exhibitors increased 25.0% and attendance was up 10.5% at 10,697. IMEX America leans on hosted-buyer meetings, but there was also increased interest from curious folks without appointments. The number of attendees who did not take part in the hosted-buyer program grew 4% to 1,919.
  • Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit came up roses when it returned to Anaheim after two years in other cities. Attendance grew 23.7% to 22,405 and exhibit space grew 5.9% to 267,000 nsf, which set a show record. The Southern California venue drew increased attendance from the state’s agribusiness as well as the region’s fresh-flower industry.


This GIE+Expo landscaping show grew its exhibit space by a modest 0.8% this year, but that equated to a huge 739,730 nsf – and the key ingredients of exhibitor and attendance growth were highly encouraging for the near-term future.

Attendance was up 3.6% at 19,118 and the number of exhibitors increased 4.6% to 676. Sellers Expositions said the larger crowd coincided with a surge in attendance at the many training seminars held at the show. Attendance at the advanced courses grew 14%, but participation in the basic skills courses more than doubled.

The exhibit area included 181 first-time exhibitors, and the number of total booths inside the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville grew 6% to 675.The outdoor exhibits rebounded from an early cold snap last year. “We can already see that we will sell out in the demo area next year,” said Show Director Warren Sellers.

Top Cities

The NBAA Business Aviation & Convention helped push Orlando to the top of the leader board in terms of exhibit space. Orlando, which also was site of the AIMExpo, had a total of 1,276,350 nsf for the month.

Las Vegas was the venue for five Dashboard shows, including three from the Gold 100, and totaled 1,070,972 nsf. Louisville placed third by virtue of the GIE+Expo.

Next Month

The New Year starts off with its traditionally crowded show calendar. Sporting goods, gifts, and home furnishings are well represented, and the North American International Auto Show highlights the Winter car show season.

The International CES, the largest trade show in the Gold 100 class of 2013 at more than 2 million nsf, kicks things off in its usual high-profile fashion.

The Florida RV Super Show, which ranked No. 8 on the Gold 100, pulls into Tampa for five days, four of which are open to the public.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City will now be led by Marisa Nicholson, who took the helm from Kenji Haroutunian when he stepped down from Emerald Expositions this Fall.

Another Emerald Expositions show, NY Now, takes place under newly appointed show directors Randi Moore and Scott Kramer. More than 400 new exhibitors will be on the floor. “The newcomers represent both first-time participants, as well as companies returning to NY NOW after a hiatus from the New York Market,” said Mohr. “We also have a number of long-time exhibitors who are expanding their profiles with larger exhibit space this winter.”

Also under new management is Firehouse World, which takes place in San Diego as the smoke clears from the November sale of the show by Cygnus Media to SouthComm.  Scheduling twists include Spanish-language sessions and the closing of the exhibit hall on the final day of the show to give attendees more time to take in a few more seminars.

Elsewhere, Surf Expo looks to continue the wave that landed it on the most-recent Fastest 50. Reed Exhibitions will host about 1,000 exhibitors in Orlando at the PGA Merchandise Show, and the SHOT Show takes aim at bettering the record attendance mark of 67,000 set last year in Las Vegas.