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No Hibernation as November Exhibit Space Grows 1.5%

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
December 23, 2014



Oceanside, CA – Trade shows slipped back into the familiar slow-growth mode in November, although the presence of plenty of large events resulted in solid raw numbers for exhibit space, exhibitor counts and attendance.

November is something of a three-week month due to the Thanksgiving holiday and its twin distractions of family get-togethers and so many amateur travelers clogging the airports. But the exhibition industry made the most of the tight schedule by welcoming more than a half-million attendees and carpeting more than 4.5 million net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space for the 20 shows surveyed for the Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics.

Overall exhibit space ticked up 1.5% higher. Attendance growth was a more-modest 0.8% and the number of exhibitors backtracked slightly by (0.3)%

After calibrating the totals to exclude outliers and those shows on a non-annual schedule, the adjusted totals reached 4,547,735 nsf of exhibit space, 14,028 exhibitors and 502,937 attendees. That boiled down to an average of 239,354 nsf per show along with 738 exhibitors and 27,941 attendees. Of significant note was the fact that PACK EXPO International, the largest show of the month with more than 1.1 million nsf, was not included in the adjusted totals due to its biennial schedule.

Of the 20 shows that took place this November, 11 were 100,000 nsf in size or larger. Eight shows were featured on the TSE Gold 100 roster of largest U.S. exhibitions, and four were included on the TSE Fastest 50 list of fastest-growing shows.

The Dashboard’s performance was largely mixed: Only five of the 20 shows reported growth in all three metrics. Another three events experienced declines in all three categories.

PACKing Them In

Adding a new co-located show geared to the pharmaceutical industry proved to be just what the doctor ordered for the organizers of PACK EXPO International.

The launch of Pharma EXPO alongside PACK EXPO International at McCormick Place contributed to a 19.7% surge in the number of exhibiting companies specializing in putting things in boxes, bags, bottles and whatever else is needed to get products on the store shelves. PACK EXPO also reported a 9.4% increase in attendance, and exhibit space jumped 6.7% to 1,206,970 nsf, when compared to its 2012 show.

The continuing growth of the world economy has given biennial shows some robust metrics in recent years, but Pharma EXPO appeared to be particularly enticing to exhibitors and attendees alike. PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, said twice as many 2014 attendees had listed their primary and secondary markets as “pharmaceuticals” than was the case in 2012.

“The success of the inaugural Pharma EXPO proved the strength of the PACK EXPO brand across all vertical markets and reinforced the industry’s view of PACK EXPO as the pre-eminent packaging and processing show in North America,” said Jim Pittas, senior vice president of PMMI.

Pittas said the nonpharmaceutical exhibitors were also reporting good crowds and brisk business. “Exhibitors sold machines right off the floor and collected leads from a steady flow of attendees,” he said.

PMMI won’t have to wait until 2016 for another crack at the thriving packaging industry. PACK EXPO East launches in February in Philadelphia, the hub of the major Pennsylvania-New Jersey pharmaceutical industry.

Growth Leaders

  • Boutique Design New York is co-located with the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show and enjoyed a 20.5% jump in exhibit space this year. The show, which caters to hotel designers, took up 66,750 nsf and has a good shot at an encore appearance on the next TSE Fastest 50. Attendance was up 22.8% and the number of exhibitors grew 14.8% to 410.
  • The DEMA Show in Las Vegas also made a case for the Fastest 50 with a 16.4% increase in exhibit space to 144,890 nsf. The number of exhibitors and attendees from the diving industry also grew, but by less than 2.0%. National Trade productions and the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association said that of the 9,308 attendees, 8,300 were qualified buyers.
  • The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota Annual Convention & Product Exposition urged its attendees to allow extra driving time to the Twin Cities due to the looming likelihood of pre-Thanksgiving snow. And the roads must have been clear since attendance was unchanged from last year at 1,900. The increases, however, were seen on the exhibitor side. The number of exhibitors and the size of the exhibit floor both grew 16% to 232 and 23,200 nsf respectively.

Fabulous FABTECH

FABTECH made its even-year trek out of Chicago and saw some precipitous drops in the metrics from last year that were not unexpected.

There were double-digit drops across the board at the perennial Gold 100 show, including a (24.2)% plummet in attendance from the 2013 show in Chicago. But the five associations that organize FABTECH consider Chicago to be the big event and are used to wild swings in the metrics. The 2013 show at McCormick Place, for example, covered 632,256 nsf, which was up 40.7% from the previous year in Las Vegas.

Exhibit space at the 2014 show in Atlanta was off (12.4)% but still covered an impressive 553,800 nsf and had show managers upbeat. “Attendees said they were impressed with the size and scope of the show and by the large number of new products and technologies on display,” said John Catalano, co-manager. “Our exhibitors also told us they collected high-quality leads and sold machines right off the show floor.”

Catalano and his teammates were already looking forward to November 2015 back in the friendly confines of Chicago. FABTECH is forecasted to span more than 500,000 nsf and draw 40,000 attendees this year.

Top Cities

The car crowd hit The Strip in November and helped drive Las Vegas to the top position among Dashboard host cities. Las Vegas hosted a trio of shows, including the huge SEMA Show, AAPEX Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo and the DEMA Show, for a total of 1,802,590 nsf. The SEMA Show grew 6.5% this year and hit 1,129,000 nsf.

Chicago took second position with 1,638,470 nsf. The Windy City was led by PACK EXPO International and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Scientific Assembly & Annual Meeting.

And Orlando hosted three Dashboard shows totaling 985,795 nsf.

Next Month

Two major Gold 100 shows will open their doors in February under new ownership.

Advanstar Communications hosts the Winter edition of its massive MAGIC Market in Las Vegas for the first time since the company was acquired in the Fall by UBM. The management team that pushed MAGIC into the top 10 of the Gold 100 remained intact; the sprawling Las Vegas apparel event should again push 990,000 nsf.

Las Vegas will also host the largest World of Concrete in the past six years. Hanley Wood Exhibitions said more than 630,000 nsf of exhibit space was booked by 1,300 exhibitors before the New Year was rung in. Hanley Wood was acquired in late 2014 by Britain’s Informa plc.

It’s never too early to think about holiday shopping, and the American International Toy Fair brings retailers and manufacturers to New York City each February to determine what will be under the tree in 2015. The exhibit floor at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was sold out before Christmas 2014 with more than 419,000 nsf booked.

Other Gold 100 events on the calendar for February include Medical Design & Manufacturing West in Anaheim, The Rental Show in New Orleans, and the NADA/ATD Convention & Expo in San Francisco, organized by the National Automobile Dealers Association and the American Truck Dealers.