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Recession triggers historic decline in exhibit industry


The “Index” data for the fourth quarter of 2009 conveys declines in all four metrics of measurement.

The current recession has taken a historic toll on the U.S. exhibition industry according to a study just released by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). The decline experienced in 2009 is four times greater than the largest previous loss, which was 3.1 percent in 2008. All 11 industry sectors experienced declines in 2009.

Established 30 years ago, the CEIR promotes the image, value and growth of exhibitions through research studies that prove the effectiveness and efficiency of exhibitions as a marketing medium. For more information on CEIR, go to

“Data collected specifically from the fourth quarter of 2009 reveals that the industry experienced an overall decline of 8.9 percent when compared to the same quarter of 2008,” stated the report released March 22. “Together, these figures mark the seventh consecutive quarter and second consecutive year of negative numbers due to the great recession.”

Although the report draws a grim picture for the past year, it paints a rosier picture for 2010.

“Anecdotal information from events held the first two months of 2010 is encouraging,” the report stated. “Since the exhibitions and events industry for the most part is a trailing indicator, it will take time and a genuine economic recovery before the industry experiences sustained growth. Once a genuine economic recovery occurs, if the industry follows past patterns, the recovery will be swift.”

The study also notes the industry’s previous decline ended with the second quarter of 2003. By the end of 2004, the exhibitions and events industry performance had returned to pre-2000 levels. A swift bound, however, may not be the case this time around.

The “Index” data for the fourth quarter of 2009 conveys declines in all four metrics of measurement, although the fourth quarter was an improvement over the first three.

The fourth quarter 2009 metrics are:

Net Square Feet – 12.3 percent

Revenue – 13.2 percent

Professional Attendance – 4.1 percent

Number of Exhibiting Companies – 5.8 percent

“The forecast for growth beginning in the second quarter of 2010 was made at the end of 2008,” said Douglas L. Ducate, CEM, CMP, president and CEO of CEIR. “That forecast appears unlikely to be correct. In order for there to be real growth, we must have credit easing, a robust building and construction industry and shrinking unemployment. Despite the stimulation packages and other efforts, we have not achieved that in the first quarter of 2010. And while we have heard some positive anecdotal information about the exhibition business, we will wait and see what the first quarter numbers reveal. It is historically our best quarter.”

As an objective measure of the annual performance of the exhibitions and events industry, “The CEIR Index” measures year-over-year changes in four key metrics to determine overall performance. “The CEIR Index” provides analysis of industry performance across 11 key industry sectors including professional business services, consumer and retail trade, sports and entertainment, food, government, building and construction, industrial and manufacturing, communications and information technology, medical and health care, raw materials and science and transportation. The complete “CEIR Index for 2009” will be released at the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Conference in early April.

Ducate added that as the GDP and economy strengthens so will the will the exhibition business: “2010 will probably shift to stop loss flat performance. After the last two years that will be good news.”

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