Summer is great for golf. Not so much for trade shows.
If there was an exhibit and event thermometer measuring the hot and cold temperature of the industry, it would go from subzero to boiling hot several times a year.
Now before you think this is just my opinion, let me qualify it. I have talked with dozens of distributors and custom houses over the past six to eight weeks, and they all agree. Through May, life was not just good, it was pretty great. We had record months along the way. Sales figures were as good as or better than 2012. I have also spoken with our vendor partners (by vendor partners, I mean wholesalers who do not sell direct). The same thing was true. January to May — WOW!! Then came June and the sound of crickets was deafening.
Let’s look at some potential reasons/excuses for the June debacle.
- Many distributors said that they do not have a pipeline of work coming because the pace over the first five months kept them from prospecting. They filled orders, but did not have time to find new clients. That pace required some deep breathing in June. The upside is July, and the pipeline will fill quickly with fall projects and shows.
- Cuts in defense spending. Some larger summer shows, such as Inter-Solar, are scaled back. One of our partners said, “We had 13 different projects there last year but only two this year.” You don’t need to be a math major to see the impact.
- The harsh reality is that golf is still the fastest growing sport in the world by over 50% and is being played by record numbers of people every day.
Of those three statements only two are true. You can decide which one isn’t. But suffice to say, if you haven’t figured out how to diversify and offer different products or services to your standard customer base or repackage your standard products to other industries or tangent markets, it’s not too late. It is late, but not too late.
Now that the gloom and doom is over, here is the bright side (yes, there is a bright side).
We are ALREADY seeing exhibitors planning for the fall show season. Our Design Department requests were up 72% in June over LY. Budgets are freeing up, and businesses are finally realizing that the most important time to market is during “Less than perfect economic times.” Again, don’t just take my word for it. After speaking with various industry vendors from graphics to labor, flooring to furniture, and other exhibit manufacturers, we all think this fall will be very strong.
There is a return to the islands. We are seeing healthier, more realistic budgets for bigger projects, expecting “Wow Factor” design. And if you can deliver, there is success to be had. Nothing is more thrilling to a trade show exhibit salesperson, manufacturer, or other industry vendor than to know that design matters more than ever and that price has finally become the third factor after design and service. One labor company told me they are up 11% in overall business, but 19% in island installs. This may be the best fall ever. And I have lived through some incredible fall seasons.
Even our budget-priced kits (Magellan, Sacagewea, and Perfect 10) are seeing people pushing the design envelope so they perform beyond the norm. That’s refreshing.
Here is a little tidbit in talking with my good pal Mike Sandler at Atlantic Exhibits about the start of the fall season. The topic of technology in shows came up. Not the kind of technology that requires compressed air, but technology to deliver a bigger, faster, stronger more eye-inspiring message than a flat static graphic. Here is the statistic that Mike gave me: “Reid, we walked a small show one day last week. Out of 105 booths 103 had technology in some form to deliver their message.” That is what makes Classic’s solutions so attractive is the ability to incorporate technology at every turn. From iPad kiosks to cell phone charging stations to 70 inch monitors.
Sooo . . . it is mid-July. The summer doldrums are just about over. Get one more round of golf in before it all breaks loose. It is going to happen fast. It always does.
Let’s make it the best fall ever.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.