trade shows

The Best Shrinking Show on Earth

Anyone go to Sweets and Snacks? 6,000 did. Amazing. But there were only 450 booths. I bet 3,000 of those attendees were desperate service providers sucking wind. I’ve been to this show twice before, and they had at least twice that number typically.

But here’s an accurate empirical comparison: Expo East. Let’s look at some numbers to see the damage done by the pandemic to the trade show sector, especially to trade shows that wildly oversold their importance and value (beyond providing a national sales party location). 

Expo East 2019
# booths sold (2019) = ~1,504
Price for Standard Inline 10’1 by 10’ booth = $7,670
Crude Booth Revenue = $11,520,640

Expo East 2021
# booths sold = ~1,072
Price for Standard Inline 10’ by 10’ booth= $5,925
Crude Booth Revenue = $6,351,600

That’s a 50% decline in booth sales and company attendance. It’s also a 50% decline in crude booth revenue. Not sure anyone is grabbing a tissue, though. I’m amazed it wasn’t more of a shrinkage given how oversold the entire concept of it. 

What’s more revealing is that if you look for the nine-figure premium brands that used to show up ceremonially, most aren’t coming (e.g., Kind, Chobani, Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s). I never understood why they did before. Oh yeah, the party thing. 

One irony may be that, if buyers show, it could be more functional than in the past when these shows were simply overcrowded. Or not, if 3,000 desperate service providers show up to press the flesh…

The mystery for me is: are buyers going to show up? Will their legal departments allow them to take the risk if they don’t know if they’re vaccinated? Will retailers require buyers to show proof of vaccination before attending these shows? How will sales work when everyone has to mask up? 

I will NOT be at this or other shows for many reasons beyond mask requirements. If you want my opinion on the future of trade shows, I issued it last year on my podcast – Startup Confidential. 

Dr. James Richardson

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