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May 27, 2009

Research shows worrying trends in US trade show market

The average exhibitor in the US will exhibit at 12 shows this year, down from 14 in 2008, according to research by Skyline Exhibits and Tradeshow Week, which polled 173 exhibitors in February 2009. With the UK facing the same economic pressures, with perhaps a short time lag, it is likely exhibition organisers in Britain could suffer a similar fate.

Particularly worrying for the US exhibition industry was that the white paper, ‘What’s Working in Exhibiting’, that summed up the findings also reported that more companies are choosiong to save money by pulling out of shows rather than opting for smaller stands.

About half (47%) said they would go to fewer shows and maintain their stand sizes, while only about a third (32%) said they would stick with the same number of shows, but shrink their stands. A significant minority (21%) said they would go to fewer shows and reduce their stand size.

Falling budgets
The study also revealed that almost 45% of respondents reported a decrease in their trade show marketing budgets this year, with the average cut being 25%. Only 11% expected to have more to spend on exhibitions. Overall, budgets will fall by 9% for 2009, with the main reductions focused on travel and entertainment spending for stand personnel.

The way in which companies in the US have been rationalising their live marketing strategy was also brought to light by the report, with 29% of respondents saying they now “exhibit at only the right shows”, and 12% saying they have smaller teams manning their stands.

Measuring return
With respect to the effectiveness of events for connecting companies with their target audiences, 39% said they have the most success at smaller regional shows, while 37% cited big national shows.

When assessing the success of exhibiting, 59% of exhibitors measure leads, 44% track the sales revenue generated from the event, while 40% each cited return on investment, client contacts and booth traffic as key indicators.

On the subject of booth design, the report revealed that companies were opting for more open space, less clutter, more entry points and a greater focus on specific products.

Declining revenues
The latest CEIR Index results, published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, seemed to reflect the findings of the research, with trade organiser show revenues falling 19.6% compared to the first quarter of 2008.

Net square footage of exhibit space was also down 14.8% in the first quarter, while the number of exhibiting companies fell by 10.4%. However, attendance levels held up well, dropping by only 1.5%.

Further declines are expected in the second quarter, but the report was optimistic that the predicted economic recovery in the US in the second half of 2009 would see and upturn in fortunes.

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