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Fast Start for 2015 Loses Some Steam on Modest March Growth

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
May 1, 2015



Oceanside, CA – Growth in the key trade show metrics cooled off a tad in March, but only in comparison to the torrid pace of the previous two months of 2015, according to the latest Trade Show Executive (TSE) Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics.

March produced modest growth in exhibit space, exhibitor count and attendance. The percentages were all under 3.0% and in line with the slow, steady growth logged in the past few years by the TSE Dashboard.  Exhibit space led the month with a 2.8% increase. Attendance followed with a 1.5% increase while the number of exhibitors ticked 0.3% higher.

The numbers looked slightly better than the March 2014 metrics, but paled in comparison to the first two months of 2015. January exhibit space this year jumped 4.5% with attendance up 2.5% and exhibitors up 1.9%. February was even better with exhibit space up a whopping 5.8% and attendance 5.1% higher. Even the exhibitor category came on strong with a 3.0% increase.

A closer look at March found some of the bigger players on the schedule with metrics or scheduling dates that sidelined them from the Dashboard adjusted totals. The most conspicuous absence was NPE – The International Plastics Showcase (NPE2015). The Orlando show was the largest event of the month with nearly 1.2 million net square feet (nsf) and thousands of exhibitors and attendees, but it had to be excluded from the adjusted totals due to its triennial schedule.

Another TSE Gold 100 show, ProMat, with 334,912 nsf, was also excluded because it was biennial.  "ProMat 2015 was the largest in the event’s 30-year history," said George Prest, CEO of the Material Handling Institute.

Gold Galore

There were 32 shows surveyed for the March Dashboard;14 of these came from the ranks of the TSE Gold 100, which is made up of the largest trade shows in the U.S.  There were also five shows that appeared on the most-recent TSE Fastest 50 roster of fastest-growing U.S. exhibitions.

After calibrating the totals to exclude outliers and those shows with non-annual schedules, the adjusted March Dashboard totals showed 6,047,358 nsf of exhibit space, 20,121 exhibitors and 571,042 attendees. The per-show average worked out to 232,591 nsf, 719 exhibitors and a crowd of 22,842.

Most shows reported increases in their metrics. There were 14 events that grew in all three categories and only three that declined in all three.

Growth Leaders:  Fantastic Plastic

March is one of those months in which one of the largest non-annual trade shows makes an appearance. Last year, it was CONEXPO-CON/AGG, which sprawled across more than 2.3 million nsf in Las Vegas. This year marked the return of another triennial, NPE2015, which posted some impressive gains over the 2012 show.

“What made NPE2015 a milestone in the 69-year history of the show was not only its size and international diversity, but also the richness of its offerings to attendees,” said William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.

The show was indeed a whirl of working machinery and the latest technologies for turning recycled plastic into new finished products. A total of 650 educational sessions were held along with several co-located sessions. “The wealth of content surpassed our previous shows and provided us with a guideline for making future NPEs even more attractive,” Carteaux said.

The final metrics proved the success of SPI’s planning process. Show records were set for the number of exhibitors and exhibit space. The exhibit floor covered 1,128,023 nsf, up 20.1% from 2012. The exhibitor count was 2,023, up 4.7%. Attendance jumped 19.1% from the 2012 totals to 65,910. International attendance was also a show record with 26% of attendees and 44% of exhibiting companies hailing from outside the U.S. China and Latin America were particularly well represented.

Other growth leaders:

  • International Limousine, Charter and Tour (LCT) Show. The business of driving folks from one place to another appears to be thriving. The proof lies in a sold-out exhibit floor in Las Vegas that covered 70,475 nsf, a 34.5% jump over last year. Bobbit Media said the number of exhibitors grew 7.5% to 129 while attendance was unchanged at 2,800.
  • Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo moved to Nashville, a hotbed of barbecue culture, and produced some savory metrics. Attendance alone was up 54% at 8,145 while exhibit space was up 21.5% at 128,100 nsf. The new products area was particularly popular, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, which attributed some of the show gains to enthusiasm over the improving housing industry.

Medical Month

March was a busy month for medical associations and healthcare meeting planners. There were 10 shows in the medical arena held in March, making medical the most-active industry sector of the month, followed by plastics and automotive.

The largest medical meeting featured in the Dashboard was International Vision Expo East in New York, which grew 3.5% to 271,463 nsf, but saw attendance slip (7.4)%. The show featured a reconfigured floor layout and a new educational focus on marketing and retailing for the up-and-coming generation. “The millennial population learns, communicates and operates in new ways, and businesses need to consider that,” said Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President Tom Loughran.

International Vision Expo East wasn’t the only medical show to see some red ink in some of its metrics. Seven of the 10 shows surveyed reported a decline in at least one category.

Top Cities

Orlando had a big month with NPE and two other Gold 100 shows: Global Pet Expo and HAI HELI-EXPO. The trio totaled 1,752,423 nsf, making Orlando  the Dashboard host city with the most exhibit space.

Las Vegas was close behind with 1,616,026 nsf after hosting eight Dashboard shows, including four from the Gold 100. Chicago rounded out the top three with Gold 100 shows ProMat and the International Home + Housewares Show covering a combined 1,119,021 nsf.

Next Month

Licensing Expo carries its new UBM Advanstar brand into the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in June. Show managers look to top 218,000 nsf. The Gold 100 event has expanded its lineup of sports exhibitors and will debut its Digital Media Licensing Summit component.

InfoComm in Orlando will again be one of the largest shows held in June as will be the Summer Fancy Food Show, a Gold 100 and Fastest 50 event that last year saw its exhibitor numbers increase 12.0% and exhibit space grow 1.8% to 361,000 nsf.

Questex Media moves its Sensors Expo & Conference to Long Beach to be closer to its target audience in the high-tech and aerospace industries. The Fastest 50 show was already gaining momentum last year in Rosemont when attendance increased 12.7% to 5,221.

And the organizers of E3 – Electronic Entertainment Expo,  are expecting around 50,000 attendees in Los Angeles. The Gold 100 gamer show continued to grow last year with 395,651 nsf, a 3.4% gain over 2013.