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Tradeshow records are being broken in 2012

In February, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), reported that the exhibition industry outperformed the overall U.S. economy for 2011. CEIR also reported that the fourth quarter of 2011 saw show increases in net square feet (4.2 percent), revenue (5.1 percent), professional attendance (3.6 percent) and number of exhibitors (2.4 percent).

“The positive momentum of the exhibition industry, which has experienced six consecutive quarters of growth, gives strong reassurance that the industry has emerged from the economic downturn and is making progress toward recovery,” said Allen Shaw, Ph.D., CEIR’s economist and chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates Inc.

This upward trend has continued into 2012, as the amount of shows reporting bigger and better numbers appears to grow with each passing week.


The 2012 CES drew a record of more than 153,000 attendees.

The increase in attendees, exhibitors and net square feet started back in January with the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It was the largest in the event’s 44 year history, with a record number of more than 3,100 exhibitors across the largest show floor in CES history – 1.861 million net square feet. By comparison, the 2011 CES featured 2,865 exhibitors over 1.65 million net square feet.

“The 2012 CES was the most phenomenal show in our history, generating more energy and excitement across every major industry touching technology than ever before,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA, which owns and produces the International CES.

The 2012 CES also drew a record number of more than 153,000 attendees, including more than 34,000 international attendees.

The 7th Annual Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show held at the Long Beach Convention Center, also set records in January with close to 26,000 attendees, making it the largest travel event in the United States.

“We were expecting a great event, but even we were amazed at the massive number of well traveled enthusiasts who came through the doors,” said John Golicz CEO of Unicomm, organizers of the show.

The success of the 2012 show has already spilled over to next year.

“This show generated the highest re-sign percentage of any event we have done,” said Jeff Oh, executive vice president of sales for Unicomm. “Many exhibitors are already in discussions to increase their presence with more space and added sponsorship elements next year.”

As the calendar flipped to February, strong numbers continued to be the norm for conventions.

The 109th American International Toy Fair opened its doors on February 12 to huge crowds as nearly 27,000 industry professionals from more than 100 countries converged in New York City to attend the event.

Toy Fair 2012 welcomed increased attendance across nearly all categories, including a 3 percent increase in buyers, a 5 percent increase in international participants and a 23 percent surge in entertainment executives.

Nearly 1,100 exhibitors from 24 countries covered more than 366,000 net square feet of exhibit space, the largest exhibit area since 2000.

“This year’s show was far and away the best we’ve had in our 26 years of exhibiting,” said Charlotte Fixler, communications manager of ThinkFun. “The booth traffic was incredible.”

In March, the tradeshow industry continued to set records at conventions that have had a long and successful history.

From March 9-11, Natural Products Expo West, the premier show in the natural and organic industry, took over the Anaheim Convention Center. The 32nd year brought with it a record-breaking attendance of more than 60,000 visitors.

The 2012 event also featured more than 2,000 exhibiting companies who filled more than one million square feet of space at the convention center.

“Doing business in Anaheim is easy, and it is great to be back here for another successful tradeshow,” said Fred Linder, president of New Hope Natural Media, producers of the show. “Natural Products Expo West is the largest show we produce, and this year’s record breaking attendance is historical and a positive sign our economy is recovering.”

Another tradeshow with 30 plus years under its belt also set records in March. This time it was IWA & OutdoorClassics 2012, which is held at the Nuremberg Exhibition Center in Germany.

The show closed its doors on March 12 after a record number of exhibitors (over 1,200) and a record number of visitors (over 36,000) attended the show. In its 39th year, OutdoorClassics hosted visitors from 109 countries and grew its show floor to almost 800,000 square feet.

“We are pleased to bring together guests from all continents here in the exhibition center every year,” said Thomas Preutenborbeck, exhibition manager of IWA & OutdoorClassics at NürnbergMesse. “It’s nice to see people with totally different cultural backgrounds meeting here to establish contact with each other. This not only leads to business relationships across all frontiers, but to friendships too.”

To continue the positive trend for the industry, the first day of April saw a tradeshow increase its numbers after relocating to a new venue for the first time in its 40 year history

The NPE2012 international plastics exposition opened at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., with a 920,000-square-foot show floor. This represented a 20 percent increase from the last time the show was held in 2009.


“Moving from Chicago to Orlando was the first initiative in (show management’s) strategy of ‘breaking the mold’ by creating a broader-based and more exciting NPE with new benefits for exhibitors and visitors,” said William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, which produces the triennial event.

The show also attracted more than 1,900 exhibitors, which is greater than the numbers in 2006 and 2009.

“NPE2012 has attracted many new first-time exhibitors and visitors, not just from other countries but from manufacturing companies in the southeastern U.S.,” said Gene Sanders, senior vice president of trade shows and conferences for SPI. “At the same time, the economic advantages of Orlando, combined with recovery in the U.S. economy, have ensured the return of our longtime exhibitors and visitors.”

The increased numbers for attendees, exhibitors and square footage in the first quarter of 2012 are encouraging for the industry. And once again, CEIR helps explain why the face-to-face industry is doing so well.

Earlier this year, the industry think tank released an update to the 2009 report, The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit into the Overall Marketing Budget. The results provide insight into how marketing funds are allocated for business-to-business exhibitions.

Starting in 2010, executives increased their spending for B2B meetings to 40.2 percent of their total marketing budget. This is compared to just 33.9 percent in 2009. In 2011, this number decreased slightly, but stayed well above 2009 at 39.2 percent.

“Results point to the resiliency of the business-to-business exhibition industry,” said Nancy Drapeau, PRC, research director for CEIR. “It is a testament to the high value marketers place on participating in these events.”

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