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Tradeshows are vital to the industries they serve

Tight budgets and a need to prove return-on-investment for tradeshows has led many companies to decrease participation, but changing a marketing program to exclude or reduce exhibiting would be out of the question for other businesses.

An exit survey conducted by buyers at the second edition of IMEX America at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas revealed that hosted buyers expected to place $3.3 billion of business as a result of the show. For the exhibitors that took a piece of this $3.3 billion pie, IMEX America proved its worth.

“This is a firm endorsement of the high quality of buyers we attracted this year and proof, if any were needed, that the show delivers real business value and produces positive results for many months afterwards,” said Ray Bloom, chairman, IMEX Group.


Crowds gather at the 2013 NAIAS.

The meetings industry isn’t the only group that places a high level of importance on its tradeshows. Automakers turn to exhibitions to make nearly all of their new cars known to the world, and the 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is no exception. The show saw 59 vehicle debuts, with the majority being worldwide unveilings.

“This show is a reflection of the positive changes that are occurring in our industry,” said Jim Seavitt, chairman, 2013 NAIAS. “Automakers from around the world continue to place NAIAS at the top of their global auto show strategies.”

NAIAS is not only important for new vehicles, it serves as a yearly pep rally for the industry.

“You walk onto the show floor, and immediately sense a renewed feeling of confidence in the automotive industry,” said Seavitt. “It’s clear that the industry is back and the global manufacturers have saved their best for Detroit.”

Outdoor retailers also view the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) as vital to their business. At the 2013 SHOT Show, more than 1,600 exhibitors filled booth space covering 630,000 net square feet, equivalent to the area covered by the New Orleans Superdome or the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

“For the 24 years we’ve been going, the SHOT Show is the most important show we do each year,” said John Anthon, president, GATCO Sharpeners/Timberline Knives. “It is the largest venue globally and the most important. Every important customer comes to the show for that reason.”

Exhibitors at the SHOT Show also use the event for product unveilings that figure heavily into their bottom line for the year.

“The SHOT Show is the springboard for every new product that we introduce each year,” said Frank Devlin of Otis Technology. “It gives the industry the opportunity to see our new products and allows us to get feedback from them to know that we are heading in the right direction.”

Another tradeshow that is heavily relied on by the industry it serves is the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo. The PPAI Expo is the industry’s largest and longest-running tradeshow.

“By all indications, the 2013 PPAI Expo was a huge success,” said Darel Cook, director of expositions and meetings, PPAI. “The general consensus from exhibitors was not only were there more distributors, the distributors also came to do business. The Expo continues to showcase the biggest, the most, and by far the best the industry has to offer. The Expo is indeed the show of the industry.”

PPAI Expo brought together about 3,300 companies from every facet of the promotional products field.

“This one is the show,” said Shurli Allinott, president of Langley, a British Columbia-based supplier. “Actually, if we had to choose one show, it would be this show. The quality of the customer is amazing. So many people come; Canada comes, the U.S. comes. It’s just an all-around great show.”

Tradeshows are also looked at as a crystal ball, predicting successful years for an industry and exciting companies for future growth.

The 60th PGA Merchandise Show, held in Orlando, celebrated its six-decade history while launching what many believed to be the most vibrant PGA Show in recent history, and one that will lead to a strong 2013 for the golf industry.

“It’s gratifying to see such enthusiasm at the PGA Merchandise Show,” said Ted Bishop, president, PGA of America. “The activity on the PGA Show floor and at surrounding events is a great start to the 2013 golf season. This is the biggest the PGA Show has been since 2008, and that’s a great signal that golf is vibrant again.”

The PGA show covered 1 million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center, including 465,000 square feet of branded exhibits.

“This is my 33rd show and our 20th year as an exhibitor,” said Harris MacNeill, president, Champ and MacNeill Engineering Worldwide. “For us, the PGA Merchandise Show has helped us establish our brand and establish relationships with national and international customers. It’s the single most important thing we do all year.”

The 2013 PGA Merchandise Show brought together more than 1,000 companies and brands introducing new equipment to more than 43,000 attendees from 75 countries.

“The PGA Merchandise Show is fantastic this year,” said Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA TOUR. “Now, if we can transfer this positive energy to the year ahead, it promises to be another productive year. The industry is moving in a positive direction.”

Exhibiting budgets may be under the microscope in today’s economy, but for many companies, the tradeshow has become a living and breathing thing that their industries couldn’t survive without.


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