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Tradeshows: They’re Back, Baby

(March 2012) posted on Tue Mar 06, 2012

Insight gained from attending the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.

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By Craig Miller

I recently spent four days walking the 15 football fields or so that comprised the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, aka CES. Of course, I wasn’t alone. A record number of attendees –153,000 registrants – were poking around the 3100 company exhibits.

What did I learn? First, and most encouragingly, after years of cautionary tales, the tradeshow industry is back! I’m basing this not only on my CES floor-walking experience, but also on my own company’s tradeshow-related numbers: Our 2012 sales were up for CES and also for Surfaces (floor coverings), the Shot Show (shooting, hunting, outdoor), and World of Concrete. And our pre-orders are up significantly for the Magic (fashion) and Licensing events in Las Vegas as well as Intermat Expo (building construction) in Paris and the 2013 Bauma (construction) show in Munich. If that doesn’t convince, you consider these numbers from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR): Approximately 9000 business-to-business exhibitions take place each year in the US; those exhibitions, the group reports, result in 1.5 million exhibiting companies and about 60 million attendees.

Second, there is an unimaginable quantity of wide-format digital printing at these events and, so, a great opportunity for print providers. This year’s CES show was replete with tens of millions of dollars of digital graphics. Dozens of imposing tents, all with interior as well as exterior graphics, were set up in the main parking lot. Many of these tents had balloons tethered to them, all emblazoned with company logos. There was a continuous queue of 40-foot busses, all with fully wrapped sponsor graphics.

The Las Vegas Convention Center itself, clad in steel, allowed for tens of thousands of square feet of digitally printed magnet sheeting that created huge CES murals enveloping the front of the building. The windows, too, were covered in graphics; banners and freestanding advertisements occupied every empty patch of concrete and column. New Ford vehicles – each with their own mini-booth – were evenly spaced at the center’s multiple entry doors. All this printed beauty was on display before attendees ever set foot into the exhibit hall.